Children's Theatre

For the love of a royal butterfly, lost

Goggas

QUEEN of the hive: The Queen Bee (Maryanne van Eyssen) (centre), being served and celebrated by a host of bugs. From left Lady Caroline the butterfly (Carla Classen); Anthony the antic-ridden ant (Jaques de Silva); the bee with honey allergies (Katlego Nche); and soldier bees (Thokozani Jiyane and Alyssa Harrison). Photograph courtesy National Children’s Theatre.

YOU MAY THINK of them as the creepy crawlies that make you scream when you see them by chance, the six-legged insects that populate the underbelly of our world but Gillian Katz has given life and love to a bunch of ‘goggas’ with their hard carapaces, their noisy or beautiful wings and their various idiosyncrasies, brought to lovable and innovative life with costumes by Sarah Roberts. It’s a love story, told with the difficult values of immigration tucked into its heart, and resplendent with lovely choreography, some delicious characterisations and a love affair between the species, it will keep your child amused.

But the work is not, however, flawless. When it comes to singing and repartee, the cast seem under-directed and while Carla Classen as Lady Caroline, the British butterfly, is demure and sweet, her singing voice is often not strong enough to carry her lyrics, particularly in the solo numbers. The ensemble works very well together, but you do find yourself wishing that the work didn’t need to stoop to using political repartee and jokes uttered under the helm of SARS to popularise it and be friendly for the grownups: that “protect me from yourself” quip is instantly lost on the little ones in the audience, and doesn’t serve the earnest values of the play, well. Similarly with popular songs that are interjected into the work: the rhythms evoked by Jaques de Silva as Antic, the ant get the children bopping to the new and unknown beats more than commercially released songs which might be reaching over their heads and timeframes.

While the team has fabulous credentials, and they work hard at making the story sing, there’s something missing in the work’s magic. You don’t emerge from this play in warm tears of celebration; even though de Silva is a delightful quirky little ant, and the funny ironies of the bee who’s allergic to honey (Katlego Nche), the mommy worries of Lola the Ladybird (Alyssa Harrison) and a queen bee played by Maryanne van Eyssen, in a cameo rivals no less than Miranda Richardson’s Red Queen from the 1999 film of Alice in Wonderland, are not lost, to say nothing of the hilarious yarn explaining how this pretty British butterfly landed up in sunny South Africa.

On the whole, the work has all the components of a very fine work, but lack the spark of child-friendly savvy, delicate touch and refinement for which you may remember this theatre.

  • Goggas! is written by Gillian Katz, adapted for stage by Francois Theron and directed by Jade Bowers. It features design by Dale Scheepers (musical direction), Jaques de Silva (choreography), Sarah Roberts (costumes), Stan Knight (set), Jane Gosnell (lighting) and is stage managed by Willie van Staden. Performed by Carla Classen, Jaques de Silva, Louise Duhain, Alyssa Harrison, Thokozani Jiyane, Katlego Nche and Maryanne van Eyssen until December 23 at the National Children’s Theatre, Parktown. Call 011-484-1584
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