Secret lives of fleas

2010-12-09 00:00

A FASCINATION with what the Victorians­ got up to in their spare time was the catalyst for Clinton Marius’s new production — The Fantastical­ Flea Circus — which gets under way at the Catalina Theatre­ on Saturday.

“The Victorians were always interested in the bizarre­ and one of the things they created was flea circuses,” Marius explained during a break in rehearsals. “They used real fleas. They would fit collars on the fleas using a magnifying glass and then they would create tiny carriages and these poor fleas would be attached to them and have to drag them around.”

Traditional flea circuses (those which used real fleas) continued until the forties when they were replaced by shows which used sleight of hand and trickery to show fleas performing in miniature big tops.

For his show at the Catalina Theatre­ in Wilson’s Wharf, Durban, Marius — who grew up in Pietermaritzburg — turned to Durban-based Peter Gardiner to create the mechanical­ props for his Fantastical Flea Circus.

“Normally everything is on a tiny scale, but because we are putting it on stage, we have expanded it so that everyone in the theatre can see,” Marius explained.

Among the props created for the show are a diving board and pool, a trapeze act, a cannon and a strong-o-metre, which the cast and members of the audience use to test their strength.

Gardiner said that making the mechanicals had been a huge challenge, adding: “I didn’t have a design ­to work to and got given a picture­ the size of a matchbox … and then you have to remember that this is theatre of the imagination.”

The Fantastical Flea Circus, which is aimed at children (of all ages­) stars Shika Budhoo and Dhaveshan Govender, who have developed a huge fan base over the past 18 months, as the loveable Mrs Singh Song, and the comical muscle man Storm, on Lotus FM’s hit comedy­ soapie, Lollipop Lane, written­ by Marius and produced by Raeesa Mohamed.

They play the roles of the widely-respected fleaoligist, Dr Dhaveshan and his companion, the world-renowned singing sensation, the Duchess de Budhoo. Marius has nothing but praise for his two actors­, whom he describes as “loose cannons bouncing around the stage all the time”. • The Fantastical Flea Circus can be seen at the Catalina Theatre at Wilson’s Wharf in Durban from Saturday­ until January 9 at 11 am daily. Tickets are R45. Optional boat rides cost an extra R15. Book now at 031 305 6889.

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