It’s preview week for Panto 2017! Janice Honeyman’s 30th Pantomime, Pinocchio officially opens over the weekend but this coming week sees the first audiences filling the Joburg Theatre to see what this year’s festive season pantomime has in store. Mostly these previews will be made up of schoolchildren, some of whom have never even set foot inside a theatre before, so this experience will be brand new for them.
Audiences will be thrilled to see favourites like Tobie Cronje (a firm panto favourite), André Schwartz and Garth Collins (Granite of TV’s Gladiators fame) in the cast. But this is will also be a brand new experience for the 3 Panto stars that I chatted to recently, who I christened my ‘Panto Virgins’. Although they’re each highly skilled industry professionals with years of experience under their belts, they’ve never participated in a Janice Honeyman pantomime before so for all of them, this has all been very new and different.
Ilse Klink is no stranger to South African followers of stage and TV, one of her most notable roles being in Isidingo, for which she received an Avanti award in 2000. She’s appeared in a number of TV series, and stage shows, far too numerous to mention, and she’s a much sought after performer due to her versatility and genuine warmth. In fact, Ilse had been about to accept a role in a different project, when the offer to play Bella Bouboulina, The Blue Fairy in Pinocchio, was extended to her! She explains, “I didn’t hesitate in choosing the panto role because of the sheer history of the Janice Honeyman Pantomime!” She had worked briefly with Janice back in 2006, and ever since then she’s wanted what she describes as ‘the full experience’.
For Grant Towers, this year’s Dame, this is a dream role. In his opinion, despite what many may think about open minds and progressive advances having been made, both within the theatre industry and universally, the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community is still frowned upon. He laughs, “But every year, people still pay to come and see a man dressed up as the dame, and they all love her and want photo’s with her!” Yes, it’s theatrical irony at its sardonic best. Grant describes the dame this year as an ‘insane, menopausal, Italian woman’ and says that he intends to do that description justice!
And what would Pinocchio be without his alter ego, Jiminy Cricket? Mark Tatham takes on the high energy role of Pinocchio’s conscience, and tells me that he loves the combination of physicality and wisdom that his character manages to encompass. We’re lucky to have Mark with the panto cast as directly from here, he moves on to play Ed the Hyena in the touring company of The Lion King! It’s a 3-year stint where he’ll also understudy Timon and Zazu! An incredible opportunity for this amazingly talented and amiable actor.
So, as we’re chatting, the actors taking advantage of the brief break in their busy rehearsal schedule, one thing becomes distinctly apparent – the magic of the pantomime is safe and sound in the most capable and loving hands of one very unique, special person:
- Janice Honeyman is an extremely highly revered director, not only because of her obvious years of experience which give her gravitas in her field, but as Grant clarifies, “Janice is to be admired for her directness because she gives you a sense of accomplishment in yourself … and she’s not mean!”
- Mark goes on to say, “I love that Janice is so open to any suggestions that the cast offer.”
- Ilse concludes by adding, “You get permission to be a performer with panto, especially with Janice at the helm. Every year you drive past that billboard and you hope, ‘one day, one day’… and then, that call comes and it’s THAT day!”
The excitement that these three performers feel at their upcoming appearance is obvious! They talk about concepts such as vision, belief and putting your dreams out to the universe in order to manifest them into reality, and that’s surely something they’ve all put into practice. Don’t think they’re sitting back after completing their Panto sting. As we’ve already said, Mark’s off to join The Lion King. Grant will be appearing as Brian in Avenue Q from April, and Ilse has not 1, but 2 movies that she’ll be filming, the first on the Orange River from March, and then straight after that another one in Cape Town.
But for now, they can’t wait for that vibrancy that only interaction with a live audience can bring, especially when that audience is made up of such a high percentage of children, who truly allow the enchantment and delight of the onstage wonder to captivate them.
Do yourself a favour: regardless of your age, take a walk away from the ordinary, suspend belief just for a little while and immerse yourself in the fairy-tale world of the Pantomime this festive season!
It’s just a step away … the Blue Fairy, the Dame and Jiminy Cricket await.
Pinocchio opens on The Mandela stage of Joburg Theatre on November 12th and runs until December 30th.
Pinocchio is written and directed by Janice Honeyman, with musical direction by Coenraad Rall and choreography by Nicol Sheraton. Timothy Le Roux is resident director and Dale Scheepers is band leader. The pantomime is produced by Joburg Theatre and Bernard Jay, in association with MNet, Jacaranda FM and Your Family Magazine.
Tickets for Pinocchio are on sale from R185: telephone 0861 670 670, go online at www.joburgtheatre.com, or book in person at the Joburg Theatre box office. Patrons can also book and pay via the Nedbank app or walk-in at selected Pick ‘n Pay stores (a full list is available at www.webtickets.co.za/pnpoutlets.aspx) – or book on-line and then pay at any Pick ‘n Pay store.
Every Thursday evening at 19h30, since the end of August, the charismatic Sharon Spiegel Wagner has had South Africans glued to their TV’s watching SABC3’s BEDFORD WIVES, as the local comedy-drama unfolds with her character, the feisty Despina Giannopolous, taking centre stage.
Set in the lavish but seedy Johannesburg east suburb of Bedfordview, Bedford Wives follows the lives of four women and a somewhat sordid community of Bedfordview criminals who, on the surface, live pristine and perfect lives but, behind closed doors, have skeletons in their closets and secrets aplenty.
When her charming restaurateur husband, Marco Giannopoulos, is found dead under a side of lamb and dripping in gourmet olive oil, Bedfordview housewife and Mrs South Africa entrant, Despina, vows to keep the family businesses going – but then learns the real family business is crime…
Nothing is at it seems…
I’m not ashamed to say I’m completely hooked, and won’t miss an episode! It’s completely addictive, and ticks all the boxes for unmissable TV!
I recently sat down for coffee and a chat with Sharon to find out what life’s been like for her since Bedford Wives hit our TV screens – and if you haven’t caught on yet (we’re already 9 episodes in with just 5 left), you can catch up on YouTube where you’ll find all past episodes.
And indeed, nothing is as it seems, because Sharon is quite delightful; modest and unassuming and not at all like her onscreen persona, Despina, who is very much the typical ‘Bedford Wife’ and wouldn’t be caught outside of the house (or probably inside, for that matter) without her full armour of make up, designer clothing and killer heels!
Although Sharon’s first love is definitely musical theatre, her experience on Bedford Wives has been so positive that it’s quite encouraged her to explore the possibility of further TV roles in the future. She wasn’t initially asked to audition for the role of Despina, and in fact, was the very last person to audition for the part. Just an hour later, she got a call from her agent to say she’d got the job. Sharon describes her complete shock at hearing the news, but once she realised that it was actually true, she was (I quote) “sublimely excited”. And it’s proved to be a dream from beginning to end with the entire cast and crew being not only amazing to work with, but also completely understanding and flexible around Sharon’s other role: that of being mom to her 2 young daughters, one of who was just a few months old at the time of filming the series.
It was this that made Sharon realise that she might quite like to pursue more TV work in the future as it’s more adaptable to family life. She loves the art of acting and has grown enough within it to know what’s right for her and what isn’t. When she knows a role’s not for her, she’s excited to see who will play it. This is the mark of a true professional, or as Sharon so aptly describes it: “There’s an actor that loves the art, and there’s the actor that loves himself in the art.” That individual who purely loves himself in the role, and who cannot bring himself to rejoice in the success of a colleague is not quite there yet, regardless of whatever talents may have been bestowed on them.
When asked if she’d be happy for her kids to work in a similar or related industry to the one she’s currently in, knowing what she knows about all of the demands and drawbacks as well as the constant struggles and one-upmanship that the business is notorious for, Sharon’s immediate reaction is “Preferably not!”
But then … on reflection … she reconsiders. She feels that no matter what career they decide to follow (even if they want to become actors), there has to be understanding, appreciation and love for what one does, and they need to feel a true purpose for what they’re doing. When it comes to sensitivity they need to know how the business works. She reiterates, “… especially this business.”
For now, Sharon is taking a break, spending time with her kids and thoroughly enjoying watching them grow. She’d love to do more TV work, and is thrilled that Bedford Wives has opened up new horizons for her. We shared our strong views on how absolutely crucial it is for women to support each other and encourage each other. So often though, you find the opposite happening – we tear each other apart, instead of building each other up! Here once again, Sharon returns to the Bedford Wives set, speaking admiringly of her female director who allowed her the freedom to add her own interpretation into her role of Despina, or as she describes it, “a bit of quirk,” and who put her at complete ease with some scenes that she might otherwise have felt quite uncomfortable performing.
So, what’s next after this break? “Something BIG … I hope,” laughs Sharon, explaining that this is usually the work pattern that she follows. Whether it’s back on stage, where she feels most at home, or on our TV screens playing another feisty, go-getting, glitzy leading lady, Sharon puts heart and soul into everything she does, so whatever it is, we know it’s going to be fabulously fantastic!!
(But … no pressure, or anything!)
The Full Morty : The Fringe @ Joburg Theatre – 8:00pm, Friday, 31 March 2017
Live Jukebox : The Fringe @ Joburg Theatre – 8:00pm, Saturday, 1 April 2017
THE FULL MORTY and LIVE JUKEBOX have both previously enjoyed highly successful seasons, and Ginger Cube Productions have listened to audience demand are are bringing back this double dose of fun over one weekend, re-staging BOTH shows – for one night only – on Friday 31 March (The Full Morty) and Saturday 1 April (Live Jukebox) at The Fringe Theatre, Joburg Theatre. Both shows are at 8pm.
THE FULL MORTY
Tickets : R120
Critically acclaimed actor, madly talented vocalist and professional k*k talker Mortimer Williams navigates that unchartered territory which fascinates us all (especially females)… the mind of the South African male.
It’s a mash-up of stand-up comedy and cabaret in this hilarious show as Morty takes us through stories and songs while attempting to demonstrate just what it is that makes the SA male tick… with a few surprises along the way!
Morty is the perfect combination; a triple threat of talent, charisma and devilish naughtiness which all combines for a perfect evening of entertainment for guys and girls of all ages (as long as they’re over 16).
The Full Morty first opened in April 2015 and has exploded onto the SA theatre scene, playing two successful seasons at the Joburg Theatre and two sell-out National Arts Festivals in Grahamstown (2015/2016).
Discounted tickets for groups of ten or more, scholars, students and pensioners are at R100 each and available only by calling Joburg Theatre directly on (011) 877 6853/6815.
Tickets : R120
It’s the only live musical game show in the country! And it’s back for another kick-ass evening of musical mayhem!
Live Jukebox is the brainchild of Ginger Cube Productions. It made its debut at the 2016 National Arts Festival and has been performing to raucous crowds ever since.
Seasoned entertainer Mortimer Williams (of Skeem Saam fame) and theatre personality Kristy Suttner collaborate in this musical rollercoaster that gets audiences tapping their feet and bopping in the aisles. They’re supported by a 4-piece live band, lead by musical genius Saranti Reeders.
So how does it work?
Remember the TV game shows Liriekeraai and Noot vir Noot? What about Don’t Forget the Lyrics or Whose Line is it Anyway?
Live Jukebox is a musical gameshow where the audience calls the shots. In the safe hands of the on-stage team, contestants are led through various games from music trivia to lipsync battles; guess the note and more, with the audience selecting the genre for each game, such as pop, rock, local and decades 60’s through 90’s.
Whether you’re into quietly tapping your foot to your favourite Parlotones classic or unleashing your inner Diva on stage with a Whitney Houston impersonation, Live Jukebox has something for everyone.
As that jukebox is played, the audience decides the content of the show and how their night will turn out, ensuring that no two shows are the same.
Book your seat for Joburg’s sensational musical comedy gameshow and experience a night out at the theatre that will leave you begging for more!
Discounted tickets for groups of ten or more, scholars, students and pensioners are at R100 each and available only by calling Joburg Theatre directly on (011) 877 6853/6815.
The duration of the show is 1 hour 30 minutes including an interval with no age restriction.
You can also purchase tickets to see BOTH shows for a R150 package deal.
How likely is it that a Brownish girl from the Cape Flats (her words), would meet and fall in love with a boy from the close-knit Northern suburbs Jewish community of Johannesburg … while she’s in Turkey, nogal! … and then marry him? Pretty likely actually, because that’s what happened to Chantal Stanfield, and if you head on down to the Auto & General Theatre on the Square in Sandton she’ll tell you all about it in her 1-woman play, ‘From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach’.
With refreshing, boundless energy, Chantal endears herself to her audience as she regales them with her entertaining description of those first star-crossed Tweets exchanged between Turkey and South Africa. And as the time draws closer towards her homecoming, she bravely wonders what on earth she’s gotten herself into.
And with that same zesty enthusiasm, she delights with her description of her introduction to Shabbos dinners, Jewish gastronomy, long-standing family disagreements (I’ll leave it to her to describe those to you), the circumcision ceremony (or ‘bris’), meeting her first Rabbi, and of course, what one wears to all of these occasions when you haven’t grown up ‘just knowing’.
Throughout this narrative, we hear the ongoing advice she assumes she’d receive from her mom (“JJJyyyyy!!!!”) and her CGBF – Coloured Gay Best Friend – and I’m not even going to try and translate that advice!
Director Megan Furniss has kept things tight with virtually no props to clutter things up, just a comfy lounger, and a bleached wooden chair and table, all moved around by Chantal herself, as she jives along happily to an upbeat, buoyant soundtrack.
There is a brief, serious moment when the ugly head of racism is reared, because there are always going to be those who, for whatever reason, can’t share in the happiness of others, or are just insidiously ignorant … or who just like to blatantly gossip! But for the most part things are kept on the light side.
Will you understand it if you’re not from either the Jewish or Coloured communities. You might miss some of the innuendo; you might not fully ‘get’ some of the ‘lingo’ but ultimately this is actually a love story that will make you feel quite warm and fuzzy, and that’s something you’ll relate to, no matter where you come from!
Hopefully it will also make people a little more open to having conversations about diversity, difference, ‘otherness’, tolerance and acceptance.
Koe’siestes: Soft, sticky Cape Malay doughnuts, lightly spiced with aniseed and cinnamon, dipped in syrup and covered with desiccated coconut.
Kneidlach: Jewish soup dumplings made of matzah meal, eggs, water and fat, traditionally served in chicken soup and a staple on Passover. Also known as matzah balls.
Co-produced by Daphne Kuhn and Kizara Kreative.
“From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach” runs from 28th February to 18th March, 2017 at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square, Sandton, with performances from Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm and extra Saturday show at 6pm. Tickets are R140 and can be booked by calling the theatre on 011 883 8606, firstname.lastname@example.org or through computicket.com. Enquire about dinner-show specials and group discounts directly with the theatre on 011 883 8606.
SO … WHAT IS PLAY CLUB?
IT’S A GRASSROOTS POP-UP THEATRE INITIATIVE TO BUILD COMMUNITY IN AND AROUND THE ARTS INDUSTRY.
aka: Our Story
Who doesn’t love a good story? It moves us. It challenges us. It drives us. It gives us hope. It inspires us. And theatre-people can tell a GREAT story.
Play Club was founded in Cape Town in 2012 by American-born producer and director, Drew Bakker. To say that Drew is passionate about theatre, music and all it encompasses would be an understatement, but even more so, his enthusiasm for sharing his love of the industry with others is infectious. Hence his creation of a community that comes together to interact and inspire, creating vision and inspiration amongst like-minded people both within the theatre industry, and with those who share common interests.
Since Play Club’s beginnings, we’ve gone on to bring together over 1,000 (and counting) top actors from stage and screen, directors, producers, coaches, professors, drama students, reviewers, bloggers, theatre-lovers and general creative people, birthing a varsity group, live podcasting world-wide, CONNECT Stage+Screen Magazine (and its’ current incarnation: PROMPT Magazine), two peer theatre awards, hosting 40 industry play readings (and counting!), most making their South African debuts, an All-Star Charity reading of STEEL MAGNOLIAS as well as three All-Star Readings of THE AUDIENCE, introducing our newest city, Durban, to join Johannesburg and Cape Town, all creating our very own version of Inside The Actor’s Studio. We’ve been interviewed and featured in the Cape Times, BroadwayWorld South Africa, Fine Music Radio, Glitter Toast Blog amongst others.
Our pop-up venues have appeared across the Mother City at Alexander Bar, Sanders South Africa (in a gorgeous living room showroom big enough for the 100+ that attended) and in numerous living rooms across Joburg and Cape Town. We have been in residence at Miao in the heart of the de Waterkant and are currently home at Redhill School in Sandton and ACT Cape Town in the heart of the CBD.
From a monthly Play Club, we saw the birth of bi-weekly Play Club (a mainstage title followed by an indie title) and the bi-weekly Film Club with an all-star international panel. We also brought in the monthly New York piano-bar cabaret, featuring stars from the stage in an informal concert, Parlo(u)r Songs. A highlight was Drew’s Barely Legal Showtunes, showcasing 13 of the best up-and-coming musical theatre actors 25 and under, quickly selling out and adding a second performance to meet the standing-room only demand.
All of this was with a simple drive: inspire community.
Our story of inclusiveness, hope, opening dialogue and breaking down walls continues now in our fifth year, a home for artists, waiting with a spot just for YOU. Many have likened us to “church”, a recharge with other creative folks and a place to fall back in love with what you fell in love with to begin with.
“Inspiring community” isn’t just a catchy tag-line (if we say so ourselves). It’s the very core of why we do what we do: to inspire people to come together, but also to be a lighthouse of inspiration within that community.
Are you an actor looking to dive into cold-reading great new material and to play?
A drama student wanting to learn how leaders of the industry approach a script for the first time?
A theatre-lover that wants to have a completely new experience, seeing a play from the ground up?
There’s a place waiting for you! Come and play. Leave the driving to us: enjoy the ride.
Our celebrity Play Club reading of THE AUDIENCE is happening in Joburg and Cape Town on 30 January 2017, and in Durban on 29 January 2017 …
RECENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
– IS IT JUST FOR MEMBERS? Play Club is open to everyone and anyone that loves the arts. It’s a playground for actors, directors, designers, creative folks, book lovers, theatre lovers and everyone in between. If you join us regularly, join us and save R20 a Play Club!
– I HAVE A QUESTION. CAN I CALL SOMEONE? Of course! Our contact details are at the bottom of our website.
– IS THIS COMING TO (insert city here)? Each city will be essentially reading the same play and the structure of the evening will be the same, but, between the actors and the people that attend, each Play Club is completely different to the one before it. It makes it super special and super unique to where you attend. But to answer the question, it’s a very special one-night-only event!
– IS IT A PLAY? IS IT ON STAGE? Part of the magic of doing a show is the first time a cast gets together, sits around a table and tears apart the script you’re about to live for the next season of your career. Your English Lit class reading of OTHELLO this is definitely NOT. For this, you’re a fly-on-the-wall, reading along with some of South Africa’s finest actors and you get to see a brand new play as it would be approached from the “ground up”. If you’re a theatre-goer, it’s a completely different and wonderful experience to see a play deconstructed. And to anyone else, it’s a chance to watch artists get to play. Afterwards, we open the floor to a great talkback about the piece, the process and whatever else comes up.
– WHAT’S THIS ALL ABOUT?! For us, we are driven by community and inspiring dialogue amongst theatre-makers and theatre-goers, as well as creating a platform to inspire the arts community. The play is just a means of bringing us together. Come to network, come to meet other crazy creative folks or just come to experience a play that is unlikely to hit our shores anytime soon. There’s something for everyone!
– HOW MUCH IS IT? We’re a not-for-profit community initiative and work off suggested donations to cover our expenses. R50 is the suggested donation for general public, with Play Club Members, SAGA Members ad Students at a suggested R30. We’ll have someone at the door when you arrive. Cash is great. We also have SnapScan.
– CAN I UPDATE MY RSVP? Yep! Just re-enter your email details and it’ll pull up your existing reservation that you can update. Please let us know if anything changes, should someone on the waiting list be able to join us.