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Thursday, December 12, 2013


(Nhlakanipho Manqele, Bryan Hiles & Clare Mortimer)

Delicious fun for young ones and adults alike. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Multi-award winning actress Claire Mortimer has created and directed a delightful festive season entertainment for youngsters titled Criss Cross Christmas which is currently running at The Zone, at Suncoast.

Mortimer also appears in the production as Carole, a glitzy fairy with blue takkies who is far too concerned with where she can go shopping - or what presents people are going to give her - than be bothered with what Christmas is all about.

The irrepressible Bryan Hiles plays the equally grasping Noel. He’s a reindeer (with a very effective headpiece) whose life revolves around his stomach. His sole focus is on what delicious things he can eat at Christmas time.

The only one who feels that there is something lacking is the more subdued Holly. Played by Nhlakanipho Manqele, he’s an elf without “elf esteem”. While he feels strongly that something is wrong with their approach to Christmas, he can’t identify it. Too busy cavorting about in their materialistic way, the other two try to cheer him up but in vain. Perhaps he has “tinsel-itis” or is “glitterphobic?”

It’s an endearing story with a strong and sincere message without being schmaltzy. The cast engage well with their audiences. There is much fun with wordplay and Mortimer has written some very humorous lines aimed mainly at the adults. These were enjoyed to the full by those of us more mature members of the audience!

There is a clever building of a Christmas tree – extremely simple but very effective – and the youngsters are eager to get stuck in and help!

The only problem I had was with Holly’s character. When we first meet him, he is coy with a babyish accent. Then, when he discovers a book with a beautiful story representing the true spirit of Christmas, he suddenly speaks in a normal voice without changing costume or being placed in any dramatic lighting spot. This comes across as illogical. Holly should stay the same throughout. He has a serious side while the other two characters are the ditsy ones!

However, that’s academic. In the end - as the proverb goes - “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”. The response from the youngsters and their joyous interaction with the production is what counts. If the performance I attended is anything to go by, this delicious fun for young ones and adults alike is a winner!

Lighting design is by Tina Le Roux with sound design by Megan Levy.

Presented by Sue Clarence Promotions and Clare Mortimer in association with Suncoast Casino, Hotel and Entertainment, Criss Cross Christmas runs until December 24 each morning at 11h00 at The Zone at Suncoast. Tickets R50 booked through Computicket, at the door or contact Ailsa on 083 250 2690. – Caroline Smart