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Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Splendid production of traditional pantomime dedicated to the memory of John Moss. (Review by Caroline Smart)

The Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre tonight saw a splendid evening of traditional pantomime with KickstArt’s production of Cinderella. Director Steven Stead and designer Greg King drive the high standard of productions presented by KickstArt - which swept the boards at the recent Durban Theatre Awards - and tonight was no exception.

A packed audience of all ages revelled in all that makes for this magical, charming and hugely entertaining genre. It was also an evening mixed with nostalgia and poignant memories for those older members of the audience (myself included!) whose Durban theatre history goes back to the days when John Moss, a master of traditional panto, was head of Drama at Napac (the Performing Arts Council of Natal) now the Playhouse Company.

After he retired from Napac, John Moss moved to England with his wife Jill Fenson and their daughter Miranda (both of whom were well-known on the Durban theatre scene) where he lived until his death a few months ago at the age of 85.

John Moss gave Steven Stead his first professional job back in 1982 and in his tribute to him in the programme, Steven states that if it hadn’t been for John, KickstArt would probably never have made this show or any other. “And if by some chance we had, they wouldn’t be half as good because we wouldn’t have learned from a master craftsman what you have to put into a recipe to get a perfect panto … time, care, skill, details, and a whole of lot of heart.”

Among tonight’s invited guests were those who were closely associated with John both on a professional and personal level. Special guest of honour was Jill Fenson who had flown out from the UK, so the evening rang with the sounds of reunion.

The last time KickstArt presented Cinderella was in 2004 at the Kwasuka Theatre which is all of a third of the size of the Elizabeth Sneddon. The extra space has allowed for a presentation on a much grander scale and for Greg King to considerably extend his imagination - I really enjoyed the ceiling of the kitchen! – as well as allowing choreographer Janine Bennewith to make good use of her dancers Josette Eales, Evashnee Pillay, Sanele Mzinyane and Sibusiso Ngidi. The fox is played by Katie Morris alternating with Navitha Singh.

Many of the cast from the 2004 production have been re-assembled for this season with Belinda Henwood reprising her role as an endearing and gentle Cinderella and Bryan Hiles as her adoring, lovable Buttons. Darren King and Thomie Holtzhausen are back in full tomfoolery mode – not to mention, utterly outrageous costumes - as the Ugly Sisters. Janna Ramos Violante and Marion Loudon play the stylish Prince Charming and his valet, Dandini, with Shelley MacLean in the role of the glamorous but ditsy Fairy Godmother.

The production is attractively costumed, beautifully lit and the sound quality is good. Under the musical direction of Evan Roberts, the songs are well-chosen and appropriate and include popular contemporary hits as well as numbers written by John Moss and Jill Fenson. I loved the Let’s Pretend scene with all its charming surprises.

It’s all there – the fun numbers to cover the scene changes, special effects that take you by surprise and the chance to yell your head off in warning if anyone comes near Buttons’ little dog. This is true family entertainment with enough subtle humour and jibes against Eskom, street name changing and the state of Durban beaches to amuse the adults while the youngsters are captivated by the sheer magic of pantomime.

Cinderella runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until January 4, with performances Tuesday to Saturday at 14h30, Friday and Saturday at 19h00, and Sunday at 15h00. There are no performances on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day.

Tickets R90 (R70 for children under 12 ) booked through Computicket. Discounted pensioners tickets (R70) can be purchased from Computicket outlets only, on presentation of appropriate ID, but not on the internet or the telephone. – Caroline Smart