Theatre Review – Xmas kaleidoscope

When it comes to bling, bragging businessmen and pretentious public servants could learn a thing or two from Janice ­Honeyman. She is the empress of excess when it comes to the ­annual pantomime because more is, well, much more.

More ribald jokes, more exotic sets, more colourful costumes, more singing, more dancing and, above all, a whole wardrobe of mad panto dame dresses for Marc Lottering to flounce about in.

This year, there is a pirate ship on stage, a duo of fire-eaters, a smoking volcano and a pair of rats who channel Johnny Rotten.

This icon will only make sense to those who remember the punk era ­fondly, but then the broad appeal of the pantomime is what makes it the ultimate family outing.

In keeping with the all-things-to- all-folk ethos, the cast is headed by a trio of youngbloods who are ­given a run for their money by a threesome of old hands. Carlo ­McFarlane, Tanya van Graan and Kim Engelbrecht are the former; Michael Richard, Louise Saint Claire and Judy Page are the latter.

McFarlane is Robin Lottaluv, who sets off on the age-old quest to find the treasure and rescue the damsel in distress from a desert ­island. Along the way, he must fight off Jack Sparrow and his ­pirates, recruit a tribe of fearsome warriors to his cause and enter the lair of a monster.

In equal parts helping and hindering his progress through this hodgepodge of ­adventures are his mummy, Lolly Lottaluv (Lottering), and his sister, Bobin (Engelbrect). But Richard, as the archvillain, is the real spanner in the works of true love as he hightails it off with Primrose Petal (Van Graan) and her ­mother’s, the mayoress (Saint Claire), treasure chest.

Richard throws his substantial stage presence and impressive ­experience into wickedness and the audience loved it – booing and hissing him off the stage, while one tiny mite in the front row had to be rushed from the theatre in a flood of terrified tears when confronted with his baddie belly laugh and evilly starched moustache.

Saint Claire, another of theatre’s finest actors, hams it up as Zanilla Zillion – no prizes for guessing the opposition politician this character is based on.

Getting some of the best laughs of the night, she turns down a lovesick suitor who calls her his cockroach and dealt with an unexpected wardrobe ­malfunction with the aplomb borne of years of experience.

Page is Fairy Floradora Fynbos, a good fairy who is a little passed her prime but who still has the goods in her slightly tarnished wand.

Her finest moment is a ­glorious ode to her cabaret heyday in which she laments the fact that “no one loves a fairy when she’s 40 (plus)”.

She proves that performers just get better with age, though she did give the high kicks a swerve.

Lottering, who fills the ­substantial shoes of panto dame favourite Tobie Cronje on alternate years, is as camp and colourful as ever.

This role is manic, over the top and has to be performed in heels, pantaloons and a very big bonnet. Not to mention the ­toughest part of the job – getting the audience to loosen up and sing the annual panto song.

It’s this ­ridiculous song that, for me, ­signals the start of the silly ­season. Once I have stood up, ­bellowed the daft words ­tunelessly while bumping bums, it’s time to start coasting to Christmas.

» Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean ­Pirates runs at the Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein until January 2 2011

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