The minute that invitation to the annual year-end pantomime hits your Inbox, your heart gives a little thump of joy … and not just because it signifies that the holidays are around the corner!
This is Janice Honeyman’s 30th pantomime, which is an achievement in itself. The fact that she continues to get it right, drawing in audiences, surprising and delighting the crowds every year, is a testament to her sheer talent and skill. She has a gift of knowing the perfect recipe to thrill her audiences, and Pinocchio, her offering this year is certainly no different. There’s just the right balance of innuendo, political lampooning and catchy tunes (both new and old) to hold the attention of all ages throughout the show. This combines with some truly eye-popping, phenomenal sets and an energetic cast who are all clearly fully immersed in the magical world they’re responsible for creating.
I’m positive that part of Janice’s ongoing ability to succeed at exciting her panto audiences year in and year out, is her own inclusive participation in the process. She’s not merely a writer and director who sits back and watches things happen statically as she’s penned it. When I interviewed some of the cast members during the rehearsal process, the common thread they all spoke about was Janice’s method of character development: allowing each actor to make the role their own and not merely something she’d put down on paper.
Returning to the age-old panto tradition of females taking on male lead roles, Pinocchio, the little wooden puppet who yearns to be a ‘real boy’, is played by Kanyi Nokwe who gives a stellar performance. Her endearing wonderment at the world around her/him is delightful, as is her excellent portrayal of a puppet, unable to move as fluidly as her human counterparts.
The much-loved Tobie Cronje returns to the panto stage as the bumbling Geppetto, who’s always longed for a son. He’s pursued by the hilarious Dame Arletti Spaghetti, played with uproarious aplomb by Grant Towers, in bright, brash, full-on technicolour! She happens to conveniently have a son available, the lazy Lampwick played with appropriate ‘too cool for school’ laid back, nonchalance by Ben Kgosimore. For some reason though, he’s not quite what Gepetto’s looking for in an offspring!
Mark Tatham bounces around the stage with boundless (actually, seemingly endless) vim and verve as a rather whimsical Jiminy Cricket, instructed by Bella Bouboulina, The Blues Fairy (you read that right – she’s a ‘Blues’ fairy with Southern flair) to be Pinocchio’s conscience. Ilse Klink, seasoned professional of SA stage and screen gives the role her own sprinkling of sparkling pizazz: she’s classy, funny, playful and just the right amount of bossy when she needs to be!
And panto always needs its villains doesn’t it? This year, we have André Schwartz as Il Fortunato the Fox who, although not quite as evil as his previous panto counterparts, is quite happy to ham it up as a foxy Phantom of the Opera – it’s inspired and the audience adored it! He’s accompanied by the brilliant Chi Mhende as Pussy Galore. Her claws are permanently out, and she’s wicked enough for the both of them!
The lighting and special effects are spectacular, all complemented by a tight, dynamic ensemble, complete with fresh-faced youngsters from Born to Perform (Stageworx School of Performing Arts).
Being panto, one does tend to slightly lose sight of the theme of the original story being told as it usually gets diluted in the inevitable tweaking of the plot. The actual background of Pinocchio is particularly pertinent to this time of year. It’s all about family values, listening to your conscience and doing the right thing despite all the pressure that’s thrown at you from all sides – and in this day and age it does seem that this happens literally from the day you’re born, as happens to Pinocchio, who candidly proclaims “I’m only one day old!” He still needs to muddle through the ups and downs of the challenges he’s faced with, as one does in life, learning who he can and can’t trust along the way, and having a whole bunch of entertaining and hair-raising adventures while doing so. And we, the audience, are lucky enough to join him on the journey.
Pinocchio, The Ultimate Pantomime Adventure is currently on the Mandela Stage of the Joburg Theatre until December 30th 2017.
To purchase tickets, visit www.joburgtheatre.com or call 0861 670 670. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Joburg Theatre box office or by booking and paying via the Nedbank app and at selected Pick n Pay stores.
HOP ON THE BUS TO FABULOUS!
From the minute the curtain goes up and the cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert launches into their enthusiastic, energetic opening number: It’s Raining Men – complete with 3 sparkly, shimmering Diva’s suspended above their heads – you know you’re in for a helluva ride! And that’s exactly what you get when you take your seat for this proudly South African production that takes you on the journey of a lifetime across the Australian outback.
In case you don’t know, this is the touching story of three drag queens who travel across Australia on a rather decrepit bus, which they fondly name Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. On their journey they discover the true meaning of friendship, love and unfortunately also meet up with the animosity that accompanies those who have no understanding of anyone or anything ‘different’. It’s a timeless tale of how strong bonds are formed, how hatred and derision continue to exist despite the advances that we think are being made, and how ultimately we all have the need to be accepted for who we are, regardless of our differences.
Daniel Buys is perfect in the role of Tick (Mitzi); delightfully up-beat, while seamlessly able to shift into a more restrained, reflective mood when his role requires it. And it’s certainly needed as he secretly has more than one reason to be schlepping around the
outback in a broken-down bus! He ropes in flighty Adam (Felicia) to join him on his mission, and Felicia has a goal of her very own. Apart from just wanting to have a good time, she’s always wanted to belt out a Kylie number on top of Ayers rock, because who doesn’t love the thought of ‘a cock in a frock on a rock’! Phillip Schnetler camps up the role with spot-on, screaming hilarity (and a touch of Jack from Will & Grace)! The trio is complete with dignified, slightly aging transsexual Bernadette who feels she’s possibly past her prime, but willing to go out with a bang (so to speak!). David Dennis plays the role with gracious grandeur, back-biting as wickedly as any self-respecting old queen would! And I just have to add here, out of these three, I just can’t decide who has the best pair of legs … they’re all to die for!!
Mentions must go to the all too fabulous, stupendously over-the-top Miss-Understanding, Tshepo Ncokoane; Candice van Litsenborgh who hams it up as the most hilarious mullet ever, complete with humungous boobs bouncing all over the stage (almost); Chantal Herman as a cheeky mail-order bride who’s sick and tired of being overlooked; and last but most definitely not least, veteran actor, James Borthwick who plays the simple, but simply adorable, big-hearted mechanic, who might just have more to him than meets the eye.
Ultimately though, producers Hazel Feldman and Tony Feldman of Showtime Management have put together a cracker of a team who have have masterfully overseen all the minutiae of this show, ensuring that they collaborate perfectly to make it the glitter and glitz extravaganza that it is. Director Anton Luitingh keeps things crisp, smart and snappy and technical director Alistair Kilbee oversees the constant ebb and flow of the pizazz that abounds throughout. Resident choreographer, Duane Alexander ensures (I have no clue how) that the 28-strong cast gets every step in synch, in heels nogal! Brian Schimmel, one of SA’s top music directors leads the 9-piece orchestra through numerous well-loved numbers (I Say a Little Prayer, Don’t Leave Me This Way, True Colours, I Will Survive … and many more) that will have audiences singing at the top of their lungs, not only during the show, but when they leave too!
And as for the costumes … the headdresses, the shoes … they’ll simply take your breath away! There’s so much colour, so much to look at … it’s a feast for the eyes and an extreme celebration of the imagination!
Best of all though is the utter enjoyment that shines from the face of each and every cast member. This is a show that begs for an audience, and has audiences begging for more
Priscilla Queen of the Desert is a must-see. It’s fabulous fun, thoroughly entertaining, and if you don’t walk out of that theatre with a huge smile on your face, then you lied and didn’t actually see the show!
It’s on at the Teatro, Montecasino until 18 June, 2017.
BOOKINGS: Computicket by calling 0861 915 8000, or visit www.computicket.com
This musical contains some strong language and adult themes, therefore parental guidance is recommended for children under the age of 12
Dance Umbrella 2017, a celebration of 29 years of South African contemporary Dance, proudly presented by Dance Forum, is funded by the Department of Arts and Culture and the Gauteng Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture, in partnership with the National Arts Council of South Africa, Institut Français d’Afrique du Sud (IFAS), the Goethe Institut and Pro Helvetia Swiss Arts Council.
The focus of the 2017 Dance Umbrella is ‘young’ featuring mostly up and coming choreographers who have been challenging the mainstream and are generating interest on all levels.
The Festival had its beginnings when two journalists, Marilyn Jenkins and Adrienne Sichel, both with a passionate interest in contemporary choreography and dance, approached the Vita Awards, requesting that they initiate a contemporary dance festival in South Africa; and the Vita Dance Umbrella, under the aegis of AA Life and Vita Promotions (under the directorship of Philip Stein) was launched in Johannesburg in 1989. Dance Umbrella, an annual festival, has become the platform for new South African work – and is considered to be the place to show and see work by both artists and
international programmers. It includes new commissioned work by South African companies/choreographers; invited international companies; young artists; a series of workshops and/or master classes and discussions and debates regarding the dance industry. Today the Festival, under the artistic directorship of Georgina Thomson, is widely acknowledged as the premier contemporary dance festival in Africa.
Announcing the 29th year of the Festival, Thomson said: “At the first Dance Umbrella only 16 choreographers presented works; at this year’s festival more than 50 new works will be presented and with our focus on predominantly young artists, Dance Umbrella 2017 is proud to present the rich, home-grown talents of these young choreographers.”
The full programme, with 13 commissioned works, 13 new works and six Johannesburg premieres, includes: Nhlanhla Mahlangu’s The Workers CHANT at the Workers Museum, Newtown Johannesburg on February 23 and 24 at 19:00 – the Workers CHANT celebrates those unsung heroes who built the city of Johannesburg with their bare hands; the black migrant workers who lived in compounds – the Workers’ Museum was a compound – and also the atrocities experienced by men, women and children during those times.
Moeketsi Koena and Gaby Saranouffi’s Corps at the Wits Downstairs Theatre on February 24
and 25 at 19:00 – Corps explores the transporting links that connect the real and the unreal through photography and dance and it creates a link between today’s world and the past through the ancestral history of South Africa, Madagascar and France. Production: Inzalo Dance and Theatre Company (South Africa), Vahinala Dance (Madagascar). Co-Production: Centre Chorégraphique National de Nantes (France), I’TRÔTRA International Dance Festival (Madagascar) Support and Partnerships: Institut Français d’Afrique du Sud (IFAS).
Jazzart Dance Theatre’s new work Space by the artistic director Sifiso Kweyama, at The Wits Theatre on February 24 and 25 at 20:00. This work highlights the choreographer’s connection to a space he once occupied. He longs for this unrestricted space…which allowed him to be free… to be himself.
Mamela Nyamza’s De-Apart-Hate – a potent weapon to make the oppressor understand that he/she is human and not superior over other human beings; the work is a discourse that starts with the struggles of South Africa as a nation without dwelling on race and ideology, at the Wits Amphitheatre on February 24 and 25 at 21:00. De-Apart-Hate was created in residency at the University of Maryland at The Clarice Performing Arts Centre, Washington USA.
The Fringe Programme on Sunday February 26 at 10:00 at the Wits Theatre will feature nearly 30 new works from young choreographers. The programme includes Julia Burnham (Vuyani Dance Company), Thembinkosi Puwane (Eastern Cape), Qiniso Zungu and Teresa Mojela and promises to be a discovery of new and exciting contemporary dance and performance.
The South African born choreographer Rudi van der Merwe’s installation work Trophée, on February 25 and 26 at 15:00 in a park in Johannesburg is an outdoor performance with a strong affinity to visual and land art and with a reference to the submission of women (trophy wife), of nature (hunting trophy) and the other by means of war throughout history. Produced by Skree Wolf; Co-Production: Festival Antigel (Geneva); Support: Republic and State of Geneva; Touring support: Pro Helvetia Johannesburg.
On Tuesday, February 28 and Wednesday, March 1 at the Wits Theatre at 19:00, a Triple bill, will feature Moving into Dance Mophatong’s Oscar Buthelezi and Sonny Boy Motau’s new works: Stuck Souls (Buthelezi) reflects on the world today as it becomes lost in waste and asks “How do we stop this?” and I am NoT… (Motau) speaks to self-discovery and venturing into new and unknown spaces within ourselves: both body and mind, and Vuyani Dance Theatre’s Lulu Mlangeni with the solo.
Also on February 28 and March 1, at the Wits Downstairs Theatre at 20:00, Songezo Mcilizeli will premiere Perspective. Perspective generates imagery framed within socio-political themes; it commits to exploring diverse culture and evolution and it investigates everyday life scenarios, constantly re-creating the imagery via the body; and at the Wits Amphitheatre at 21:00, Dawn by the Katlehong-based choreographer Lucky Kele, explores the relationship between cultures and how we observe the traditional practices in moving time and space. It was originally created at a cultural exchange in Abidjan, Ivory Coast where cultural conversation between Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and South Africa took place.
Fana Tshabalala collaborates with Constanza Macras/Dorky Park from Berlin, Germany with In The Heart of the Country at the Wits Amphitheatre on Thursday and Friday, March 2 and 3 at 19:00. A physical exploration inspired by the “impossible dialogue” between blacks and whites, in JM Coetzee’s literature and Njabulo Ndebele’s book, Rediscovery of the Ordinary. This work, created in residency in Germany and South Africa, is a co-production between Constanza Macras/Dorky Park and Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative at Ebhudwleni Arts Centre, Mpumalanga, with funding by the TURN Fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the Goethe Institut South Africa and Dance Umbrella.
LADY, LADY by Gaby Saranouffi, Desiré Davids and Edna Jaime at the Wits Theatre, Thursday March 2 and Friday March 3 at 20:00, presents an experience into a female universe, built up by the personal journeys of three female artists from different countries within the Southern Africa region (South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar). They share, search, explore and exchange their realities in order to give voice to various commonalities, challenges and images. Production by Centre Cultural Franco- Mozambican – CCFM (Maputo); VAHINALA Dance Company (Madagascar); Co- production: I’TRÔTRA International Dance Festival (Madagascar); The Floating Outfit Project South Africa – supported by the National Arts Council; Support and partnerships: Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia; Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation, Institut Francais and Institute Francis Afrique du Sud.
Also on March 2 and 3, at The Nunnery at 21:00 is Down to Earth by Kieron Jina and Marc Philipp Gabriel – this dance duet deals with constructed identities that are shaped by more and more complex constellations, than by merely geographical origins and social upbringing. Down to Earth is a co-production with Tanzfabrik Berlin (Germany) and University of Johannesburg Arts and Culture (Johannesburg), supported by the International Co-Production Fund of Goethe Institute (Germany) and Dance Umbrella Festival (Johannesburg).
Detritus for One by Alan Parker, a physical theatre solo work with design by Gavin Krastin, is at the Wits Downstairs Theatre on Friday and Saturday, March 3 and 4 at 18:00. The work explores the notion of “performing the archive” and the potential ways in which performance can be used to archive past dance works for an audience in the present. Detritus for One draws together dance, spoken word, puppetry and visual image. It is funded by the National Arts Council and Dance Umbrella 2017.
Cape Town choreographer Kirvan Fortuin, who has also worked in the Netherlands, will present When they Leave, a triple bill of works at The Wits Theatre on Saturday, March 4 at 19:00 and Sunday, March 5 at 14:30. When they Leave which is technical, high-pitched and creative in unusual ways, will take the audience on an entertaining and interactive journey through the world of the performers.
Tutu by Tamara Osso at The Nunnery on Saturday, March 4 at 21:00 and Sunday March 5 at 15:30 explores the choreographer’s white identity in relation to other identities or constructs (be they apparent or ephemeral). Starting as a ballet dancer, the artist learnt that within structure there is freedom. Collaborators: Osso, Laura Cameron, Counterspace, Rabbit Productions and Visual Frontier. Both performances are Sold Out.
Closing the festival on Sunday, March 5 is the Young Artists Programme where six young choreographers will present new works: Thami Tshabalala (K-Mad Dance Company); Douglas Sekete (Koketso Dance Project) and Khaya Ndlovu from 10:00 at the Wits Downstairs Theatre and Phumlani Nyanga (Vuyani Dance Theatre); Seodigeng Keaoleboga; Ashleigh Joubert, Bonwa Mbontsi and Tegan Peacock (ReRouted Dance Theatre) from 11.15 at the Wits Amphitheatre.
“In addition to the jam-packed programme the festival will also host, between February 27 and March 4, a series of Master Classes at the Hillbrow Theatre Dance Studio which will be facilitated by selected choreographers and there’ll also be the popular Face to Face conversations with choreographers”, says Thomson.
Dance Umbrella 2017 is funded by the Mzansi Golden Economy Fund, Department of Arts and Culture; the Gauteng Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture and the National Arts Council.
Tickets from R20.00 to R120.00 are available from Computicket 083 915 8000 or www.computicket.com or call 011 492 2033 to reserve tickets.
For block booking discounts and programme updates, please call 011 492 2033 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
To book a place for the Master Classes please call Lethabo at 011 492 2033.
For the Dance Umbrella 2017 programme, updates on the Master Classes and Face to Face interviews please visit www.danceforumsouthafrica.co.za