Children's Theatre

How to know your worth


ANTS in discourse Johan ‘Swannie’ Swanevelder, master puppeteer brings ant magic and real values to the stage. Photograph courtesy Petrus Productions.

WHEN YOU’RE REALLY little, it seems as though everyone around you has stuff to do and responsibilities to uphold, and because you’re only little, you want to do what everyone else is doing, but you can’t. And you’re bored.  And you think you’re not good enough. Meet Manie the ant, a creation of veteran puppeteer ‘Swannie’ Swanevelder, whose story is put under the spotlight in a delightful specially-for-toddlers production.

Manie, a fine young chap with blue hair and shoes on four of his feet, is an ant. He hatches next to Minnette, a baby queen ant, who knows from the moment she emerges into the world that her job in it is to lay eggs. With all his little heart, Manie also wants to lay eggs because he likes the important ring to the concept, but can he? “Oh no!” shriek the children in the audience, also, like Manie, not armed with the savvy of what makes eggs happen.

And thus Manie sets out on his voyage of discovery, where he meets a bee, a caterpillar, a bunny and even a donkey, amongst other forest beasties. Each of them shows him their skills, but Manie realises that he’s tasked for none of this. It takes some more creatures and wise lessons before he discovers his own value to himself and the world.

In The Adventures of Manie Ant, your child will not only be exposed to delightful and fresh reflections of what it takes to be in the world, but he or she will also be privileged to be in Swannie’s audience. These beautifully made puppets which are larger than life, embodied with great flexibility and happy and plausible character, are a sheer delight to see in action. The work is unequivocally about the child in the audience. There are no dodgy  or nuanced asides to keep the grown ups in the audience entertained or be self-deprecating toward the puppeteer, and the story becomes real with the simplest of tricks. While there are a lot of “I can’t hear you”s, invoking the little ones to bellow their responses to the characters in full voice, even the shyest little person cringing next to their granny will crack a grin and want to dance with the Shrek puppet.

Swannie’s work is not regularly performed at the National Children’s Theatre – and there are a number of other venues and contexts in which it is seen, but when it happens, it’s a special event, not to be missed.

  • The Adventures of Manie Ant is written, directed and performed by Johann ‘Swannie’ Swanevelder and performed at the National Children’s Theatre in a one-off presentation on June 23. Call 011 484 1584 or visit Petrus Productions.

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