Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre opened its doors this week to the city’s traditional festive season pantomime.
Family audiences who get their yearly holiday fix from this popular genre of theatre can once again expect a show with all the conventions of the traditional panto in place, as the tale of Robin Hood and his merry men dovetails seamlessly with the popular Perrault fable of the Babes in the Woods.
Written and directed by Steven Stead, with comic-book sets by Greg King providing a riot of colour, the show unfurls with zest as it morphs back and forth from forest glades to a variety of quaint locales; including a goose market and several medieval castle interiors, each as picturesque as a children’s storybook illustration.
The high level of performance delivery by the cast makes it hard to pinpoint individual standouts, but special accolades must go to Darren King for his delicious panto dame, Nurse Nicely, and to the buffoons of the piece, Peter Court and Bryan Hiles, as the bungling robbers, Claude and Cecil, who cheerlead the youngsters in the audience on to raise the rafters with ear-splitting commitment.
Also very fine are rapper Iain “Ewok” Robinson as the comically debonair Sheriff of Nottingham; and the invidiously glamorous Liesl Coppin, whose glinting Morgan le Fey is the perfect foil to Farai Gwaze’s benign take on the ageing wizard, Merlin.
Lyle Buxton and Londiwe Dhlomo provide charismatic eye candy as Robin Hood and Maid Marian, and sing and dance with assurance.
Ditto Clinton Small, Marc Kay, Graeme Wicks and Ntando Mncube as the lusty bunch of Merry Men.
They are particularly hilarious as gawky school kids in an interpolated classroom scene, presided over by Nurse Nicely and the Sheriff, into which Claude and Cecil, improbably disguised, insinuate themselves in order to lure the babes into the woods.
Sharing the roles of Ned and Kate, the show’s juvenile siblings, are Andrew Sutton and Kiara Teunissen or Joshua Arnold and Lindsey Morris.
Arnold and Morris, who were on at the preview I saw, were a winsome pair of Babes.
Slick musical direction by Evan Roberts and Shelley MacLean, deft choreography by Janna Ramos-Violante, atmospheric lighting by Tina le Roux, crack sound design by Megan Levy and gorgeous costumes by Shanti Naidoo, with input from the State Theatre, all add to the handsome production values of this show, which certainly lives up to the slogan on the production company, KickstArt’s website: “Making the ordinary extraordinary”.
Just one quibble, though: a number of people around me flinched during climactic moments of aural overload from the Sneddon’s sound system during the preview performance I attended.
Could the decibels be brought down a notch or two?
This minor gripe aside, Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood deserves to defy our current economic doldrums and pull in the crowds as it runs until January 9.
»?Tickets are R130 (R100 for children under 12, pensioners and students). Book through