HE’S BIG, HE’S bold and he’s got his quill-covered head on sensibly. This is Noko (Lebotho Moshoeshoe) the porcupine, a character you will love for his overriding sense of justice in a world of bullying and misunderstanding. This week, you can get to meet him and his night school classmates, in a production of Noko Goes to School, directed by Dale Scheepers, and at the National Children’s Theatre until 6 August, but also at the Redhill Arts Festival for this weekend.
Because even four-year-olds are privy to the discomfort of ‘being different’ and having their peers deem them ‘weird’, this tale has prescience in the world in which we live. It has gentle audience engagement which will keep your under five-year-old shrieking with delight, as it has all the nuts and bolts of being at school, including the teacher, a rather shrill guinea fowl by the name of Miss Tarentaal (Priyanka Bandu), the leopard in the class, Nkwe (Virtuous Kandemiiri), who knows she’s gorgeous and isn’t afraid to show it, and the hyena Mmabudu (Nozipho Mbele), who is one of the A-team.
But it is the challenges which Kolobe the warthog (Nolwazi Keithlean Mfeka) face that will warm the cockles of your heart – and that of your little one’s – most of all. She’s little, she’s shy and she’s different to the omnivores and carnivores with which she’s learning her A-B-Cs and history. But when she finds her own feet and knows her own strengths, she can sing with as much charm and pizzazz as the rest of them.
It’s not an earth shattering work in its narrative content, but it’s a clear and brightly coloured one, and the main thrust of the work is contained by the innovative costumes which veer from brightly coloured onesies with cutesy animal heads. Rather, instead, the costumes work with the idea of the animal in question, forcing the young audience member to read ‘porcupine’ or ‘guinea fowl’ in a conceptual and layered way, instead.
It’s a tale of Nelson Mandela and the value of being kind. Of understanding that sometimes your buddies eat worms when you’ve got a lunch tin full of chicken, and that that’s okay too and should have nothing to do with your ability to love your friends with a full heart.
- Noko Goes to School is adapted for stage by Moira Katz and Dale Ray Scheepers, based on Noko the Knight: What’s Your Tribe’s Treasure? a story by Eleni Theodorou. Directed by Dale Ray Scheepers, it features design by Dale Ray Scheepers (musical direction), Sarah Roberts (set and costumes) and Khayeletu Ndlovu (choreograpy) and it is stage-managed by Froas Masseule assisted by Gideon Moyo. It is performed by Priyanka Bandu, Virtuous Kandemiiri, Nozipho Mbele, Nolwazi Keithlean Mfeka and Lebotho Moshoeshoe at the National Children’s Theatre in Parktown until August 6.
- It also performs at the Redhill Arts Festival in Morningside, Sandton, on Saturday 29 July at 11am and Sunday 30 July at 9am.