Please note: This production makes extensive use of strobe lights.
FEE-FIE-FOE-FUM! YOU CAN smell the energy of a brand new pantomime, which reeks ‘event’ in glittery stuff and shiny things from the moment you enter the theatre. There are some very clear budget cuts in this year’s Joburg Theatre panto based on the traditional tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, but with the creative magic ramped up, none of these hurt the work which, premised on a tale of debt and state capture showcases a deliciously revolting dame (Germandt Geldenhuys), a chunk of fresh young talent, some quirky cameos and an interpretation of the 12 Days of Christmas that will have you weeping with mirth.
What does hurt the work, however, is a misthought giant, who, with the booming tones of Terence Bridgett has a touch of a presence in the first act, but disappoints in the second. It’s a disappointment you do recover from quickly, because there is so much to see and do and laugh at, besides silly old Giant Grumbleguts. From bonking clowns to ‘naaiing’ with the Afrikaans-speaking tannies, engaging with mixed metaphors and touching cultural magic with a collage of popular songs that reach from operatic tradition into the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, you certainly won’t be bored.
And of course the boy gets the girl and it all ends in a splendid wedding, where everyone, even the biggest baddy of them all, Hendrik Hideoso (Casper de Vries) gets tarted out in gold lame. But it’s not for the plot that you’re there for. You’re there for the shazzam, the guy who darts on stage in a trapeze, the sad little cow called Daizee and the hen that lays golden eggs. You’re there for de Vries’ completely hilarious portrayal of the giant’s wife Olga and a very funny troupe of dinosaurs. You’re there for the sheer joyous sense of celebration. And as such, the work is completely appropriate.
This year’s panto doesn’t feature a celebrity from outside the theatre industry. There are no special over-the-top bells and whistles, 3-d specs or spiders falling from the ceiling. Rather, it’s good clean and sometimes grubby fun, with bold sets, glorious costumes and completely satisfying choreography. While Lelo Ramasimong as Fairy Gugu-Go-Go-Gal is in fine voice, it is also the voice – and vocal range – of Mies Miemie Mosbolletjie-Melba, the dame (Geldenhuys) that fills up the auditorium with its sheer magnificence. If you thought Geldenhuys’s presence in Kanarie was astounding, he raises the bar, with as much grace as a panto dame can, here.
As with many large scale shows of this nature, however, you do often lose the lyrics, due to the sound design in the theatre, and a performer needs to have exceptionally strong vocal skills to reach beyond this problem, maintain audibility and intelligibility. And this doesn’t always happen. This is a great pity because those lyrics that are understandable and audible take corniness up to the hilt and sparkle with humour from a toilet variety to thick and fast alliterative rudeness and some really excellent political jibes. Everything from Nkandla to the #MeToo movement, women’s rights and their shopping pleasures comes under the loupe of this rollicking monster of a script, which is shameless in its poking fun at sacred cows as it is in its peppering of advertising slogans and outrageous in its double-entendres.
With the delectable young Zolani Shangase as the eponymous Jack and Dezlenne Ulster-Weale as his tough but vulnerable girl, Rasperry Rose, the production ticks all the boxes in terms of fun, pizzazz and magic, enfolded in quick and dirty metaphors, but not dwelling too much on things that would confuse the children in the audience. And, as always, as soon as the pantomime has been imbibed, the world feels like a happier place, more replete with holiday energy than it was before.
- Janice Honeyman’s Jack and the Beanstalk is written and directed by Janice Honeyman. It features design by Graham McLusky (lighting), Nicol Sheraton (choreography) and Dale-Ray Scheepers (musical direction), and is performed by Cameron Botha, Terence Bridgett, Ashleigh Butcher, Olivia Cloud, Casper de Vries, Gugu Dhlamini, Germandt Geldenhuys, Clive Gilson, Nolo Harmony, Zenzele Letsoela, James McPhail, Arno Meyer, Noni Mkhonto, Samkelo Mlandu, Neo Motaung, Sipho Mqotsha, Katlego Nche, Lwando Ncwasu, Brian Ngobese, Lelo Ramasimong, Zolani Shangase, Nicol Sheraton, Justin Swartz, Carmen Tromp, Dezlenne Ulster-Weale, accompanied by a live band under the leadership of Dale-Ray Scheepers, with Daniel Geddes (keyboards), Ryan Solomons (guitar), Viwe Mkizwana (bass) and Mike Ramasimong (drums), at the Nelson Mandela Theatre, Joburg theatre complex, Braamfontein, until December 22. Call 086-167-0670.