Meet the Men who Bring the Magic …

GETTING TO KNOW SOME OF THE CAST OF ROBIN HOOD AND THE BABES IN THE WOOD

Theatre is many things to many people: smoke and mirrors to some, a means of political and social rhetoric or commentary to others. But there’s no doubt that when it comes to Pantomime, it’s pure magic! There can be no doubt as to the intention of pantomime … it’s there to entertain the audience, whether young or old, and it needs to cater to a wide spectrum of fans. This is the 29th time that Janice Honeyman will be doing just that. She’s the unrivalled master at writing scripts that delight all who see her shows, incorporating just the right balance of slightly risqué fun for the adults, and good-natured humour for the kids. Together with Bernard Jay, this team has a sure-fire approach that ticks all the boxes for the ultimate in excellent entertainment.

And part of that approach is ensuring they have the right people for the job! This year’s pantomime is the all-new Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood, a mash-up of the old Robin Hood tale (he stole from the rich to give to the poor … I’m sure our brains are all in overdrive as to how this is being applied to current SA news stats!), and the story of Hansel and Gretel coming to visit the evil witch … errrrm, their not-so-nice uncle, the Sheriff of Nottingham. And who better to play the dashing, daring, darling Robin Hood than Izak Davel, currently better known as arrogant Bradley Haines in Isidingo? Every hero needs a sidekick, and in this case there’s a group of merry men led by the jolly Little John – Phumi Mncayi.

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l-r: Phumi, Desmond, Izak

I was interested to get to know the people behind the magic a little better, so I recently met with Izak and Phumi to find out who these guys really are, and what special sparkle they have that makes them perfect for their roles. I got a bit more than I bargained for as some extra laughs were thrown in by Desmond Dube (Friar Tuck), who was keen to join the action. I can honestly say I don’t remember the last time I spent such an enjoyable hour in the company of such down-to-earth authentic guys, who genuinely love what they do!

Izak tells me that he’s “just a laatjie who grew up in a dorpie in the Eastern Cape who just wants to enjoy life.” He’s happiest when he’s spending time with his wife, or walking his dogs. I’m openly incredulous, and beg him to tell me how on earth he landed up in the acting industry! Well, he initially wanted to be a rugby player, but due to damaged knees he took up ballet as a means to strengthen them. Realising his dreams of rugby-playing fame and fortune had been thwarted, he was thinking of becoming a physiotherapist or a biokineticist – you know, down to earth stuff! But he then went on to study musical theatre at TUT, and the universe, as they say, obviously had different plans for him!

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Izak in his Robin Hood regalia! Photo Credit: Mariola Bela

His first theatre role was in 2004, in a Pieter Toerien production of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’. He’s already recorded one studio album, and will be back in-studio in January to begin recording his second, signed under SNP (Snyman Musiek Produksies). He strongly believes that in the industry, at this point in time, you most definitely need to be a triple threat (i.e. you need to be able to sing, dance and act – usually all at once!), in addition to having some other sort of business interest on the back-burner to sustain you financially. He’s level-headed and under no illusions of glitz and glamour!

It’s inevitable that we chat about his role in Isidingo, which he hopes to continue into next year, and his participation in one of our local seasons of Celebrity Survivor where he became (in)famous for wearing nothing but a red speedo most of the time! I ask if it was a publicity stunt and he tells me it wasn’t. It all came about purely because he was being the perfect gentleman. Cindy Nel needed a pair of shorts so he gallantly gave her his! He jokes that his mom always taught him to have manners!

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Of course we chat about his participation in ‘Robin Hood’. It’s his first panto role and he’s thoroughly enjoying it, anticipating the interaction that the cast gets from an excited audience, especially the school-kids, many of whom have never seen live theatre before.

Phumi joins us, at which point Desmond chirps loudly from the table next to us that he’s most upset that I’m only chatting with the ‘pretty boys’! I tell him they may be pretty but he’s beautiful! Much laughter ensues before we continue. He’s actually busy with his own separate interview! I promise there’s no favouritism here!

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Yes! Izak is a photo-bomber!! 🙂

Having been part of the cast of Bernard Jay’s recent production of Saturday Night Fever, already having been cast in Jay’s 2017 production of The Color Purple, and having worked with many of the current cast before, Phumi feels very strongly about the loyalty that exists between directors, producers, and their cast members. “The people make the show,” he says. “The synergy between them is what makes it all come together. Without that, there’s nothing.”

Once again, as with Izak, I’m humbled by the complete lack of affectation this man has by the industry he works in. He’s an outgoing, fun family man who proudly tells me that his wife and small son are his prized possessions and motivators, his entire reason and purpose for being. He sums it up by saying “You can lose yourself in the illusion of what you do. People need to ground you.”

For a final laugh, I ask them both which Superhero they’d be, given the chance. Actually I don’t get the chance to ask Izak because he’s guessed the question before I’m even halfway through asking it and immediately assures me that he would be Wolverine! When asked why, he replies, “because he’s tough, funny, strong and he protects.” Clearly 4 traits he associates himself with!

Phumi, on the other hand thinks for a couple of minutes, and then tells me he’d like to be Ant Man!! After I’ve finished falling over myself laughing, I pull myself together enough to reply that I’ve never heard of him. They’re both amazed! (No, really!) Unsurprisingly (I suppose, after that reaction!), I then got an in-depth tutorial on Ant Man: who he is, what he does. Ant Man views the world from the bottom up, and that’s something Phumi would like to do!

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Phumi & Izak

As for what they would consider to be their ‘theme songs’. No surprises when Phumi decides on ‘People who need People’, and Izak takes ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’.

And finally it’s time to send them back to rehearsals, knowing undoubtedly that this year’s pantomime is going to be one whole bundle of fun if they have anything to do with it! And with all that laughter, it’s going to weave that magical spell as it always does, bringing delight and enjoyment to all who see it.

Make sure you’ve got your tickets booked. Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood opens this week at the Joburg Theatre and the fun continues until 30 December. Book through the Theatre at www.joburgtheatre.co.za or 0861 670 670, or you can book at Pick n Pay Stores and WebTickets.

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THE AWARD-WINNING EMPTY SHOP RETURNS TO SANDTON CITY THIS MONTH

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Gauteng residents urged to donate clothing and break a world record

It set a world record for the most clothing ever donated and it’s back in Sandton this year, looking to scale new heights and once again make the record books.

The award-winning Empty Shop – which returns for a third year to Sandton City from Saturday, October 29 until Sunday, November 20 – is a novel way to give to charity and make a difference as we head to the festive season.

The concept is simple: donate, style and empty. From the general public to fashion bloggers, stylists and celebrities, everyone is invited to contribute pre-loved clothing, which is then transformed daily on mannequins with show-stopping looks. The only prerequisite is that clothing should be clean and in wearable condition. Every evening the store will be emptied and ready to receive new donations the next day.

Taking place in the Checkers Court, The Empty Shop gives shoppers the opportunity to donate clothing, as well as accessories, children’s books, games and toys, in good condition to a worthy cause.

In previous years, local celebrities such as Rolene Strauss, Jen Su, Maps Maponyane, Azania Mosaka, Anele Mdoda, Lucas Radebe, Thando and Vanya Mangaliso and Jason Greer have all heeded the call to donate.

The Empty Shop in Sandton City, a partnership with McCann Johannesburg, has collected 8,3 tons of clothing to date and in 2014 set a world record (three tons) for the highest amount of clothing donated. Last year, more than five tons of clothing donations were received, setting a new world record.

In addition to setting records, The Empty Shop has also been winning awards. Last month Sandton City won the coveted Spectrum Award for The Empty Shop at the South African Council of Shopping Centres’ (SACSC) Footprint Marketing Awards.

Julie Hillary, General Manager: Sandton region ofJHI Retail, says the response from the public to The Empty Shop over the last two years has been outstanding. “We are delighted to host The Empty Shop once again and invite our shoppers to donate as many clothes, accessories, children’s books, games and toys as possible,” she says.

All proceeds will be donated to HospiceWits, which provides quality palliative care and support to communities in throughout Johannesburg and Soweto. Through HospiceWits patients are assured of the best quality of life, dignity and strength through programmes of home-based palliative care and two in-patient units.

“By partnering with initiatives such as The Empty Shop, HospiceWits is able to generate funds through the sales of donated items in our charity stores. Every item donated ensures that we never have to turn a patient away for financial reasons,” says Joy Ruwodo, Marketing & Fundraising Manager at HospiceWits.

The Empty Shop will be open during Sandton City’s trading hours from October 29: Monday to Saturday 09h00 – 20h00 and Sunday 09h00 – 18h00. The Empty Shop will close at 18h00 on Sunday, November 20.

CIRQUE ELOIZE iD – BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND TO ASTOUND AND ASTONISH!

NUMBERS SPEAK FOR EVERY CIRQUE ÉLOIZE MOVE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fhGzy1skZ8

Cirque Éloize iD makes its Cape Town debut at Artscape next month, opening on Wednesday, 16 November 2016 and after just fifteen performances, this high-energy production that blends breathtaking acrobatics and street dance, moves to Montecasino’s Teatro for a limited season opening on Wednesday, 30 November and ending on 24 December.  Tickets are on sale at Computicket.

Directed by Jeannot Painchaud and brought to South Africa by leading local promoter, Showtime Management, Cirque Éloize’s iD has been enjoyed over the past 7 years by more than 1 million spectators in over 1000 performances in almost 100 cities across the globe in 30 countries. On stage, there’s speed, powerful performances and a jaw-dropping spectacular trampoline-finale that is guaranteed to leave the audience in awe.  Behind the scenes there’s a story, a dream and a host of interesting facts and figures.

“iD” is one of eleven original productions under the Cirque Éloize banner. Positioned at the heart of the renewal of circus arts this Montreal-based company has been creating moving performances filled with magic for more than 23 years. Proudly boasting more than 4,000 performances in over 500 cities and 50 countries, the worldwide popularity of Cirque Éloize keeps growing. In addition to its touring shows, Cirque Éloize develops custom made concepts for international special events. To date, more than 1,400 events have taken place, seen by over 3 million spectators.

Last month “iD” played to full houses in London and received rave reviews.  ‘I have never seen anything like it,” was the buzz as the audience piled out into the West End night ….,” says Express.co.uk. The reviewshub.com gave the show 4,5 stars and stated that “iD’s greatest strength is that every aspect is individually at the top of its field, complementing each other and culminating in a really impactful and dynamic production.” Soon local audiences will be joining the thousands of worldwide fans enthralled by Cirque Éloize iD.

With iD, Cirque Éloize presents a show positively crackling with daring and modernity. Cirque Éloize’s iD is a blend of circus arts and urban dance: b-boying/b-girling, breakdance, hip-hop and more. The scene is set in the heart of a city, in a public space where people seek refuge and a chance to shed their anonymity; a place where identity is forged and individuality is expressed to a stimulating soundtrack created by composers Jean-Phi Goncalves (Beast) and Alex McMahon. The company is integrating multimedia for the first time in its 9th original creation, giving this show a unique feel. Fifteen performers from 14 disciplines help create iD’s entertaining and resolutely urban universe, in keeping with Cirque Éloize’s tradition of using multidisciplinary performers from around the world.

The response to the show’s first season at Montecasino some 3 years ago was phenomenal, resulting in a sold out shows and a high demand for tickets.  The volume of requests lead to this year’s return SA season which includes Cape Town for the first time.  Two cities, 44 performances by 15 artistes including acrobats, aerialists, a trial biker plus hip hop and break dancers in an intimate theatre setting creates an unrivalled entertainment experience for families and the young at heart.

The Reviewshub.com sums up the show in numerical terms. “Fourteen different disciplines are expertly combined in two hours, matched by the highest standards in design. Painchaud’s vision effortlessly creates a product that pushes boundaries and captivates its audience. Small wonder that it is at 1,000 shows and still going strong.”

The numbers speak volumes. Don’t miss it.  Book now at Computicket by calling 0861 915 8000, visit www.computicket.com or your nearest Computicket service centre.  For more information, visit www.showtime.co.za  stay current on the latest news through social media on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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REVIEW – ACCEPTANCE

Filicide – The deliberate act of a parent killing his or her child.

SMA – Spinal Muscular Atrophy

In April 2014, the media was in a frenzy over the case of a South-African born mother, residing in England who killed her three severely disabled children. We watched as the story unfolded, riveted, horrified, saddened and bewildered. We discussed, we pondered, we wondered … how does a parent, a mother no less, cut short the life of her own child? It’s unthinkable, surely? What frame of mind must she be in? What horrors must she have endured? What depths must she have plundered? What precipice must she eventually have reached?jerry-mofokeng-judge-francois-viljoen-nic-lea-vivier-sam_front-lisa-derryn-overy-jemma

Not once do I remember anyone considering the ridiculous notion that maybe, just maybe, given the choice, those children might have chosen to live. Despite their obvious challenges, the numerous obstacles they’d undoubtedly face throughout their lives, what if they actually possessed the strength of character to surprise us all and overcome all of these? Well it’s a moot point isn’t it, because that choice was stolen from them; their lives snuffed out by the very person who was meant to protect them above all else: their mother.

And this is where theatre becomes the perfect conduit for abstract narrative. Based on the events described above, Eva Mazza has created Acceptance, a piece that demands we listen to the voices of the child victims of filicide.

jerry-mofokeng-the-judge_4Legendary South African actor Jerry Mofokeng plays the judge, trying to get a decent night’s sleep after the ‘manslaughter’ case he’s just closed on a mother who’s killed her three ‘severely disabled children’ which is how they were referred to throughout the proceedings, and never identified by name, hence never individualised. He’s woken by a loud knock at the door and so begins his surreal journey into an alternative trial, where he’s forced to hear the opinions of three personalities who it seems he did not acknowledge in the trial he’s just concluded.

The use of a stalwart actor like Mofokeng together with three young talents works well in this raw and riveting drama. Lea Viver, Francois Viljoen and Lisa Derryn Overy each display the complex individuality of who their characters could have developed into, had they been given the opportunity to do so, without overplaying their roles. In doing so, they all equally excel at the right to life argument, despite the disabilities that may exist. Presenting the judge with a book of facts to accompany their emotional case, they cite genuine sources from the actual original case, and instances of SMA, where children diagnosed with the condition have lived into their 50’s. This is combined with the use of visual projection, which I felt could have been put to far better use and effect.

Although the objective here is to portray the child victims’ perspective, Lisa Derryn Overy lisa-derryn-overy-as-the-motherdoes briefly alternate in the role as the mother. While she re-enacts the reading of a (genuine) letter written to her husband during the actual killing of her children, imagined from opposing viewpoints, I thought it over-dramatic and completely over the top. But immediately realised that I had taken such a huge step back from this woman (as was the intention, when taking the children’s standpoint) that I was looking at her with a far too detached attitude! Of course she was being over-dramatic – she was hysterical, in the midst of such unimaginable horror! So well done to you Lisa, for shocking the audience back into the moment, and the realisation of the deplorable event that took place.

Make no mistake, this production will shock and disturb audiences on various levels. Ultimately though, the intention is to provoke discussion, and more profound reflection of what is generally considered a taboo topic: filicide, and indubitably this is exactly what it does.

Please do take a few minutes to look at the chilling photo gallery downstairs, either before or after the show. It really does add weight to the message that’s being conveyed here.

Acceptance is on at The Fringe at Joburg Theatre until 16 October. Tickets can be booked through Joburg Theatre, by calling 0861 670 670 or through WebTickets.

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ALL PHOTO CREDITS: MARIOLA BELA

ROBIN HOOD AND THE BABES IN THE WOOD

robin-hood-1A BRAND NEW PANTOMIME ADVENTURE

FROM JANICE HONEYMAN

 Riding through the royal forest of Sherwood on a glorious May morning, you don’t have a care in the world.  Then you hear a bird call, the faint rustling of trees, and suddenly a man armed with a longbow appears in your path.  He wears a feathered cap, or is that a hood?  You can’t see the man’s face clearly, but you don’t have to.  He is dressed in Lincoln green, the colour of Robin Hood – the most famous English outlaw of all time.

The earliest surviving Robin Hood ballad, Robin Hood and The Monk, dates from the 15th Century.  Subsequently, the legend has become one of the most popular movie and TV stories of all time: from Robin Hood and His Merry Men, a 1908 silent film; to British television’s long-running series The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-59); to 1973’s Walt Disney’s Robin Hood; to Mel Brooks’ hilarious Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993); and to the 2010 movie Robin Hood, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe.

And now comes Janice Honeyman’s brand new pantomime adventure, Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood, on the stage of The Mandela at Joburg Theatre from November 5th to December 30th 2016.  

The plot combines the babes-lost-in-the-forest story with the Robin Hood legend.  The young children, Hansel and Gretel, come to visit their uncle, the Sheriff of Nottingham, little suspecting that he is plotting their demise.  But never fear, help is at hand – in the shape of Robin and his Merry Men, plus Maid Marian and the Spirit of the Forest!

Playing the role of Robin in his first Joburg Theatre pantomime is Izak Davel, best known to TV viewers as Isidingo’s arrogant Bradley Haines, and whose hit recordings include Verlei MyIs Jy In Of Is Jy Uit and Vreesloos.

Much loved panto star Desmond Dube returns to Joburg Theatre to play the jovial Friar Tuck, Idols finalist Bongi Mthombeni features in his fifth Joburg Theatre pantomime as the dandy Will Scarlet and leading lady of South African musical theatre, Kate Normington, will surely be wildly comic as Silly Sylviana, the Spirit of the Forest!

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Also featured in Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood are Graham Hopkins as the villainous Norman the Nasty, Sheriff of Nottingham, L J Urbani as the ever-popular panto Dame Emmarentia Ugly, Phumi Mncayi as chief lieutenant of the Merry Men, Little John, award-winning actress Candida Mosoma as Much the Miller’s Son (written with an inevitable panto twist!), beautiful Carmen Pretorius as Robin’s love interest, Maid Marian, and Jaco Van Rensburg as the wandering minstrel, Alan-a-Dale.

Joining them in the all-South-African cast are, in alphabetical order, TeeKay Baloyi, Darius Engelbrecht, Clive Gilson, Nuritt Graff, Kyra Green, Dirk Joubert, Dolly Louw, Yamikani Mahaka-Phiri, Tsepho Ncokoane, Noni Nkonto, Dale Scheepers, Natasha Van Der Merwe and Maryanne Van Eyssen.

“It’s an exciting year for us when Janice Honeyman writes a brand new pantomime script,” says Bernard Jay, Executive Producer of the panto. “We don’t know exactly what to expect until the last minute, but we do know it will be full of her magical flair for story-telling, spectacular special effects, zany comedy and outrageous double entendres!”

Writer / director Janice Honeyman collaborates with producer Bernard Jay on their sixteenth Joburg Theatre pantomime together.  Rowan Bakker joins the team this year as musical director; Nicol Sheraton returns as choreographer; the eagerly anticipated, over-the-top, fabulous sets and costumes are once again supplied by Qdos in the UK; the lighting design is by Graham McLusky; sound design by Trevor Peters; and Timothy Le Roux is the resident director.  As with many past successful pantomime productions at Joburg Theatre, Claire Pacariz and Simon James serve as associate producers.

Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood has preview performances on The Mandela stage at Joburg Theatre on November 5th and 6th with tickets from R170.  Its official Opening Night is scheduled for Sunday November 6th and the season continues until December 30th, with tickets priced from R220.

Over 30,000 tickets have already been sold for this year’s panto, so best to hurry and get yours now for South Africa’s most popular family entertainment tradition.  Tickets are available by visiting www.joburgtheatre.com or calling 0861 670 670, as well as through Webtickets and at Pick ‘n’ Pay stores. For group bookings of 10 or more, contact the theatre directly on 011 877 6853/6815.

For details of the full schedule and performance times, visit www.joburgtheatre.com

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