The perfect panto

2008-12-04 00:00

IT’S getting difficult to find superlatives for KickstArt — this year alone they have staged excellent productions of Oleanna, Shirley Valentine and The Wizard of Oz, and now, for the fifth year in succession, they have put on a classic family pantomime for the Christmas season.

Cinderella is a tour de force, with all the things panto should have: an enchanting heroine (Belinda Henwood); over-the-top dames as the Ugly Sisters (Darren King and Thomie Holtzhausen); a principal boy as the prince (Janna Ramos Violante); well-chosen music; enough wit to keep the adults happy; a visual feast of costumes, spectacular sets and magical moments; and all the other panto features, including audience participation.

The sets deserve a special mention. Sometimes reviewers will talk about sets because there is nothing else to be kind about, but that is certainly not the case here. Greg King has once again come up trumps with a series of sets that turn the Sneddon stage into woods, ballrooms, palaces and, best of all, Cinderella’s kitchen. I don’t want to give anything away, but there is a scene in the kitchen offering the kind of enchantment that creates lifelong theatre-goers. And that, of course, is the declared intention of King and Steven Stead, who directs the show.

The run of Cinderella is dedicated to the memory of John Moss, the former Napac director of drama who died earlier this year and was responsible for many pantomimes in the old Alhambra Theatre — his Cinderella there established a never-beaten attendance record for Napac. It was Moss who inspired both Stead and King to make their careers in theatre. With luck, their work will inspire another generation.

All the performances are excellent. Bryan Hiles is a lovable Buttons, pining after Cinderella and also being the channel through which the audience joins in, and Shelley MacLean is a properly glittery fairy godmother — her wand doubles as a backscratcher when the sequins tickle. Janine Bennewith’s choreography is slick, and the dance sequences are excellent and not long enough to bore the younger audience members. If you don’t have any children handy, borrow a few — or go along and enjoy it purely for yourself.

Margaret von Klemperer

HOW TO BOOK

Cinderella will run at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until January 4, with performances from Tuesday to Saturday at 2.30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 7 pm, and Sunday at 3 pm. (No performances on Christmas Day, Family Day or New Year’s Day.) Tickets are R90 (R70 for under 12s) from Computicket. There are discounted pensioners tickets (R70) from Computicket outlets only, on presentation of an ID, but not on the Internet or the telephone.

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