Hi-ho, hi-ho, and off to see the show

2011-11-26 00:00

TWO sets of all-singing, all-dancing puppets will be delighting audiences who head to the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre during the festive season to see KickstArt Theatre Company’s family pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The company’s executive director, Steven Stead, said he and artistic director Greg King opted to use puppets rather than children in this year’s show because it would intensify the magic for the audience.

“Children have the cute factor,” he added, “and I do love working with them, like I did in Peter Pan and Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood, but I didn’t want to use children this time because children are not dwarfs. For this show we wanted grey, whiskery, pixie-tufted little men …”

It’s the second time KickstArt has staged Snow White — the first time was in 2005 at the now-defunct Kwasuka Theatre.

“Snow White was the second panto we ever did and I was very proud of the script, which had a good mix of the Grimm fairy story, the Disney version and what I believe a panto needs to be,” Stead said. “As we now have a loyal and established audience and a bigger venue, I thought it was a good time to revisit Snow White.”

This year’s panto stars Georgina Mabbett in the title role; Lyle Buxton as handsome Prince Valiant; Peter Court, who dons outrageous wigs and outsize lashes to play Queen Malicia; and Bryan Hiles, Belinda Henwood and Rory Booth as the hilarious knockabout comedy team of Tom Trueshot, Polly Pumpkinseed and Zanzibar Jack.

Stead is thrilled that Court has agreed to don the queen’s gladrags. “The queen in Snow White is a dame with a difference. The dame is there to keep the humour going, which the queen does, but she’s also the villain of the piece. She needs to be villainous to really engage the audience,” he added.

And the actor-director should know. Back in 2005, he had to step into the shoes of Darren King when he had a serious accident. “When I was dressed as the pedlar woman and offered Snow White the apple the children went demented,” he recalls. “They were shouting so loud you could hardly hear the dialogue. Then when Snow White took the apple, bit into it and fell to the floor, one little boy shouted out: ‘I told you not to eat the apple’. Children really get into it … it’s why I love doing panto.”

Stead himself fell in love with the theatre when he watched pantomimes as a child, and believes that you need to remain true to its unique traditions. He added: “Panto is a patchwork of theatricality … it should have a bit of everything, music, drama, comedy, physical theatre …”

For this year’s production the KickstArt team has splashed out on new costumes, which are being put together by talented Durban seamstress Shanti Naidoo. “I bought about R7 000 worth of fabric and dumped it on her doorstep. She says her whole home is full of glitter,” Stead said, adding that the cast will don some 30 different costumes during the show.

Snow White will put the seal on a great year for KickstArt — the company staged the hugely successful musical Cabaret at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, which walked off with 12 awards at the Durban Theatre Awards on November  21. The show also impressed South African theatre impressario Pieter Torien, who will be staging it in Cape Town and Johannesburg next year.

Stead and King also put on the award-winning comedy God of Carnage, the first show which they have completely sold out in Durban, and the musical revue I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, which played to excellent houses in Durban and at The Witness Hilton Arts Festival.

Looking ahead to next year, Stead says they plan to stage the farce Don’t Dress For Dinner at the Sneddon and possibly the Hexagon Theatre in Pietermaritzburg, and Red, a new American play by John Logan about the master of 20th century abstract impressionism Mark Rothko.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at the University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal, Durban, from December 6 to January 9. Performances are Tuesday to Sunday at 2.30 pm and at 7 pm on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are R130 and R100 (pensioners and children under 12) at Computicket. No performances on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day.

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