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Reawakening the magic of an age-old fable

by David Simmons

Mark TathamI am always in awe of the Joburg theatre, especially how year after year, when the silly season snakes its way through the city, we are treated to another enchanting piece of Pantomime magic! The 2017 offering brings a nostalgic and somewhat meaningful story to life, where we get to experience a rollicking ride of make-believe magic, with the usual measures of uninhibited childlike pleasure. This delightful journey is brought to us by South Africa’s Queen of Pantomime, Janice Honeyman, and once again she has cleverly unwrapped a treasure trove of sparkles, adventure and sugar-coated fun. Over 3 decades of outlandish entertainment, together with scores of oddball characters to her name, Pinocchio is Honeymans 30th panto, which brings to life a tradition of silliness in one energy-filled offering! With Panto number 31 already in the pipeline for 2018, Joburg Theatre’s annual dose of merriment has become entrenched in our yearly theatrical calendar.

Joburg Theatre’s annual Pantomime has once again fulfilled its promise of entertainment, with a slick and well thought-through script, accompanying an eclectic cast who deliver each and every animated gesture in true high-spirited style. The tradition of Joburg’s yearly festive season has charmed audience members, both young and old for decades. It’s encouraging to witness crowds flock to the Mandela stage of the Joburg Theatre to get their fix of celebratory fun. You may be asking yourself why we as adults so enjoy that youthful and childlike feeling, even if it’s for a couple of hours witnessing something truly fairy-tale like on stage? The answer for me, is simple. We all need one, if not two spoons full of unobtrusive fun and humour in our lives, and laughter is the one medicine we don’t need a prescription for! As the late comedian Joan Rivers once said “Every time you make someone laugh you’ve given them a small vacation”. Pinocchio, with its outlandish costumes, cross-dressing tradition and an all-South African cast, you’ll be treated to that much needed vacay you’ve been waiting for!

Grant TowersThe age-old fable that we have all come to love, introduces us to the story of Gepetto’s son Pinocchio, a wooden puppet whose dream of becoming a real boy, eventually comes true. Pinocchio’s story is one of courage and discovery and together with Jiminy Cricket, played by the endearing Mark Tatham, they go on a roller-coaster adventure to Candyland and beyond. From a scenic Italian village to a faraway forest, all the way to the belly of a whopping big whale, we are taken on an uphill sing-a-long with the usual audience participation of Boo’s and Hisses!

We welcome back to the stage veteran stage and screen actor Tobie Cronje, who is no stranger to Honeyman’s Pantomimes. Cronje has become so ingrained in Panto history, that everyone always look forward to what character he will morph into. This time, there is no lipstick and beehive wigs as Cronje is decked out in true Gepetto style, with a toned-down woodcarver’s ensemble, together with moustache and glasses. He is almost unrecognisable except for that raspy voice full of warmth and impromptu comedic style.

Andre Schwartz and Chi MhendeIlse Klink as Bella Bouboulina, the Blues Fairy, captivates the audience with her selfie stick and huge amounts of charming wit. Dame Arletti Spaghetti is played by the enormously talented Grant Towers who was just as fabulous as his extravagant and vibrant costumes. In true Panto style and with a theatrical twist to the story, Pinocchio is perfectly portrayed in true girl power style by Kanyi Nokwe. She is all sing and dance and gives a brilliant and syrupy sweet performance of the far-from-wooden-puppet. We can’t forget Andre Schwartz, an enormous presence on stage playing Il Fortunato, the Fox and Chi Mhende, whose interpretation of Pussy Galore, the Cat, was oh so villainous. Both engaging and energising to watch, Schwartz and Mhende are one feisty duo!

The sets are gorgeous with scenic changes one after the next, introducing kids and adults alike to different worlds of make believe. The dialogue and banter between the characters are fun and frivolous, and it’s great to see the performers poking fun at current issues and events, with an uninterrupted prescription of hilarity. Although children may not understand a number of the jokes and musical numbers on offer, they will certainly appreciate the sights and sounds of live theatre. We are introduced to many musical hits, some old and some new which will have you tapping your feet and clapping along to some of your favourites. Praise must be given to the band who effortlessly brought this production to life.

With a touch of fairy dust and a whole lot of colourful fun, Pinocchio is that perfect Christmas gift waiting to be unwrapped!

Pinocchio will be running at the Joburg Theatre until the 30th of December 2017. Tickets are available at Webtickets or at the theatre


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