Once again, it’s panto season, which means Christmas and the silly season are upon us … the most wonderful time of the year! And for the 29th time, Janice Honeyman presents us with her year-end pantomime. This year, it’s a brand new offering … Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood. Partnering once again with producer Bernard Jay, this is a bit of a mash-up of stories, all merged together to create an absolutely delightful couple of hours where audiences can immerse themselves in sheer fantasy and fun!
Izak Davel (currently playing hunky Bradley Haines on our small screens in Isidingo) makes his panto debut as the well-meaning Robin Hood. He hangs out in the forest with his band of Merry Men (they’re ‘butch’!), and doesn’t seem to realise that pretty Maid Marian, played by the beautiful Carmen Pretorius (also Bradley’s love interest, Tiffany in Isidingo) is trying to catch his eye. She’s not too phased though, she’s far from a damsel in distress, until the evil Sheriff of Rottingham, errrm, sorry, Nottingham, decides to claim her as his latest conquest! Gasp! Renowned stage and screen actor, Graham Hopkins throws himself into the role with gusto … and hilarious results.
Meanwhile the Sheriff’s evil sister-in-law, played with true panto elegance and style by LJ Urbani, is plotting to do away with her down-trodden husband’s two kids, Tokkel and Tina (actually Hansel and Gretel, but this is Mzansi you know!). And while Robin Hood and crew are foraging the forest looking for people to rob (only rich people, so they can give to the poor, you understand, and no weapons allowed), they come across Much the Miller’s son, enthusiastically portrayed by Candida Mosoma, who so impresses the butch boys with his ability to defend himself (and his donkey) that they invite him to join their merry little band.
Keeping the storyline together is the marvellous Kate Normington as Silly Sylviana, the Spirit of the Forest. Amusing, clumsy, kind, caring and just a little bit bossy when she needs to be, Sylviana lets us know what’s what, who’s who, and pretty much makes sure that everything in her Forest is running according to plan. If that plan fails, she has a firm Plan B as part of a girl band with Pretorius and Mosoma – they’re a helluva of a team, and boy, can they belt out a tune!
This panto doesn’t let up for a minute, moving along at a cracking pace. It’s vibrant, it’s glitzy, it’s dynamic and it’s 100% on trend politically and musically, with a nod being given to most of the current fads doing the rounds – as one has come to expect. Honeyman and Jay once again prove they’re a formidable team and watching their cast being put through their paces only goes to show that they don’t make their choices lightly. Davel has all that’s required of a panto leading man: his almost effortless delivery, paired with a slightly quirky, comical manner, not to mention the voice and the moves to go with it all ensure he’ll be a hit as Robin. Desmond Dube, Phumi Mncayi and Bongi Mthombeni are all pure gold in their roles, elevating the level of humour here to something of an entirely superior nature.
The ensemble of this production is a troupe of seasoned performers, and it shows. They’re polished and peppy; smart and sassy. The energy flows easily, and one can’t help but get caught up in the rhythm of it all.
Mention must be made of Musical Director, Rowan Bakker – you’ll notice (because of course, you’re going to see the show) that there are a lot more musical numbers in this panto than in previous ones. So it goes without saying that the musical director had a hand in all the extra arrangements, and is a lot busier than he’d usually be! He’s done a sterling job. The band’s contribution to the superb nature of this show is unquestionable.
I also need to comment on the incredible sets and the absolutely magical use of lighting. The sets themselves are spectacular, but Graham McLusky has created pure enchantment in some of the scenes, which transport the audience into a true fairy-tale land. It’s quite captivating.
I highly recommend this year’s Pantomime. It’s first-rate entertainment and escapism. Book your tickets, go along and just lose yourself in it for a little while. That’s what it’s all about. They don’t call it magic for nothing!
PLEASE NOTE: All photo’s were taken during a rehearsal, and not during an actual performance. Please always be considerate to the cast and your fellow theatre-goers. DO NOT take photo’s, recordings or video’s during the show.
Culinary ambassador Abigail Mendoza to visit Gauteng and Cape Town
Abigail Mendoza is recognised globally as an authority on traditional Mexican cuisine and is so highly regarded in her own country that she has been appointed as culinary ambassador by the Mexican Government in recognition of her role in promoting Mexican culinary culture throughout the world.
Abigail Mendoza – who will be visiting South Africa from November 16 to 23 – is an ethnic Zapotec from Oaxaca, one of the cradles of Mexican cuisine. She will be sharing her knowledge of a cuisine which is recognised as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
She started her food journey as a five-year-old watching her mother grind nixtamal, a traditional preparation of corn that enhances its nutritional value and allows for its cooking as dough. Her mother Doña Clara taught her to grind the home-prepared nixtamal, pat the tortilla dough into perfect thin rounds and bake them on the wood-fired griddle.
Aside from travelling the world promoting her cuisine, Abigail Mendoza runs the restaurant Tlamanalli in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, with her sisters Rufina and Marcelina. In her restaurant, Abigail melds her family’s ethnic heritage into artful Zapotecan fare. Abigail’s cooking is known by her amazing mastery of ingredients such as maize, squash, pumpkin seeds, black beans, chilies, tomatoes, chocolate, zapote, cacti, and mezcal, all of which are native to Mexico.
Oaxaca in southwestern Mexico is considered one of the culinary capitals of Mexico. The mountainous state is home to one of the largest indigenous populations in Mexico, which have created a rich and diverse cuisine. Oaxacan food has made its mark on the global food map and attracts culinary tourists from around the world.
Abigail Mendoza has also written the book Dishdaa’w (Zapotec meaning “the word woven into the infinite meal”) and says: “Food itself has a soul; the soul is transmitted in food’s preparation and its enjoyment. We are all part of the whole, and the whole is part of each of us.”
Abigail Mendoza is being brought to South Africa by the Mexican Embassy under the auspices of the Mexican flagship initiative “Ven a Comer”, which stands for “Savour Mexico: come and enjoy our cuisine”, as a gesture of friendship towards South Africa and an opportunity for a meaningful intercultural dialogue.
The Ambassador of Mexico, Mauricio Escanero, says, “Both Mexico and South Africa are nations rich in history cultural diversity. We are delighted that Abigail will to be able to share her knowledge of traditional Mexican cuisine and meet with South Africans who promote and cherish South African food heritage.”