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Pinocchio – It’s a Real Panto!

Kanyi Nokwe (Pinocchio) 2The 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.

Pinocchio'17 (225)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 (Cricket) & Ilse Klink (Bella, Blues Fairy)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!

Andre Schwartz (Fox) & Chi Mhende (Cat)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).

Pinocchio'17 (21)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.

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PINOCCHIO – A Magical Pantomime Adventure For The Whole Family

PinnochioIt’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.

 

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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’.

 

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Photo Credit: Corne Du Plessis

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!

 

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Photo Credit: Corne Du Plessis

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.

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Photo Credit: Corne Du Plessis

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.

 

SA MUSIC ICON STEVE KEKANA LIVE IN CONCERT IN IPHUPHO THE DREAM

With Special Guests Joe Nina, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse and Ladysmith Black Mambazo

HOSTED BY IKUSASA (Ikusasa Arts Development Projects)

2 shows only : Saturday 29 April at 19h00 and Sunday 30 April at 13h00 on The Mandela Stage at Joburg Theatre

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This promises to be an unforgettable 2-hour show of pure nostalgia, with Kekana delivering all his hits from the start of his career back in 1978, to date.

Kekana lost his eye sight at the age of five, but has never let this stand in the way of fulfilling his dream. This concert aims to entertain and inspire those living with disabilities or who face challenges which may be regarded as stumbling blocks towards fulfilling their dreams.  This is the reason for show’s title: Iphupho the Dream.

Steve Kekana 3Kekana has over 20 albums to his credit and is one of the few artists who has managed to cross over varying genres, from Mbhaqanga, to Pop, Gospel and Soul. His decision to not confine himself to a single genre was frowned upon at the outset as it was believed that he would not be able to sustain a fan-base. But he proved his critics wrong and dispelled all myths about cross-genres, as to date he is amongst the most loved and respected local musicians of his time.

In the past, Kekana has also collaborated and featured on various songs with some of South Africa’s greatest musicians such as Joe Nina, PJ Powers, Soul Brothers, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the late Nana Coyote. His unique and high range tone have always made him stand out from the crowd.

Born in 1958 in Zebediela, Limpopo, Kekana lost his sight at the tender age of five, and attended a school for the blind in Pietersburg. During his school years, he nurtured his love for singing, and was a member of amateur groups.

In 1979 and 1980, Kekana won what was then known as the “SABC Black Music Award” for Best Male Vocalist. Further awards followed, with the singer taking the “Top Male Vocalist” award on Radio Zulu, and being the runner-up on the Tswana and Sotho Radio Stations.

Since 2001, he frequently collaborated with fellow vocalist Nana Coyote, and his links Steve Kekana 1with a younger generation were solidified through his association with singer / producer Joe Nina, who produced his most recent album “African Lady”. Kekana, Coyote and Nina regularly appeared on stage together, and recorded under the name “The Trio”.

Kekana holds a B Juris and LLB degrees, and has written on Intellectual Property from the perspective of a songwriter.

ABOUT THE PRODUCER
Simphiwe Majozi, an actor on the SABC 1 telenovela Uzalo, will be hosting and producing this first ever tribute concert to Steve Kekana.

Majozi, who plays the role of a ruthless criminal known to many as Sbu on Uzalo is also a director of Ikusasa Arts Development Projects (“Ikusasa”). The organisation focuses on developing and uncovering new talent, whilst celebrating artistic legends and icons in the music industry. He believes that young and old in the entertainment industry can have a mutually beneficial relationship, learning and growing from each other.

Tickets are R150 and can be purchased at www.joburgtheatre.com, via Webtickets or by calling Joburg Theatre’s Box Office on 0861 670 670.

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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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

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