Children's Books

Home truths and the crocodile on the roof

Ninja

I’LL take that, thank you! Tim, the boy (Taryn Bennett) with the surprise chocolate-cake-loving Ninja (James Cairns). Photograph by Phillip Kuhn.

ARE YOU — OR your children – simply bored with European fairy tales with all their pomp and circumstance, and men in Victorian-redolent powdered wigs and stockings with funny shoes, populating stories that have been told a million times and present platitudes at their most bland? Well, you need look no further than Daphne Kuhn’s Theatre on the Square which is currently hosting a totally delightful foray into the vagaries of lying, especially when the truth is too fantastic for your mom and dad to believe.

It’s a maverick take on Aesop’s fable ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ and with some smarts by Alex Latimer who wrote the book, and lots of innovation by the team on stage and behind the scenes, this work will have your four-to-eight year old laughing out loud as she’s given the chance to shout with happiness comingled with a sense of moral rectitude.

Featuring Taryn Bennett as the Boy in question, whose name is Tim, the work offers a foray into physical theatre that makes Tim feel like the kind of double-jointed, opinionated child you see illustrated in literature for the littlies. And then there’s the Mum and Dad (Toni Morkel and James Cairns) with the silly whimsy and one-dimensional beliefs that writers such as Roald Dahl have recognised grownups for having. But that’s not all. Populated with a cacophony of delightful puppets, this work has surprising characters that pop out of cupboards and the sea, the sky and the window, to play with Tim’s sense of veracity, behind the folks’ backs.

It’s almost a ‘look-behind-you!’ kind of narrative in which the sproglets in the audience will respond, but it’s not as simple or bland as that. Threading the narrative behind nursery rhymes into gossipy humdrum stories that features Humpty Dumpty and Tom, the Piper’s Son, amongst others, it’s a seriously funny script, dotting all the ‘i’s and crossing all the ‘t’s of innovative theatre for young people.

When you emerge from this with your happy factor ramped up all the way, you will wonder why this team of performers is not lauded as a full time, high earning repertory group for children’s theatre. Collocott, Bennett and Cairns under the collective umbrella of Contagious Theatre, have created such theatre magnificence as Making Mandela, Dirt, Sunday Morning, A Day in the Desert, The Snow Goose, The Old Man and the Sea, and more… They understand what works, what is funny, what is beautiful and what is poignant and they’re not afraid to have fun. With abandon. This is a ten out of ten show: a must-see!

  • The Boy Who Cried Ninja is written by Alex Latimer and adapted for stage and directed by Jenine Collocott and the cast. It features design by Duncan Gibbon, Alistair Findlay, Lien van der Linde and Nick Vermeulen (set), Sue Grealy (music), Andy Jones (puppets), Peter Cornell (sound effects), Jenine Collocott (props and lighting) and Taryn Bennett (costumes), is performed by Taryn Bennett, James Cairns and Toni Morkel at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square in Sandton until December 22. Call 011-883-8606.
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