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Wednesday, December 4, 2013


 (Rory Booth plays Jack with Darren King as his long-suffering, eccentric mother. Pic by Val Adamson)

Once again, KickstArt presents unparalleled entertainment delight for the whole family over the festive season. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Last night, KickstArt opened with their 8th traditional pantomime, a format which has grown to be a must-see production over the festive season in KZN. Its writer and director Steven Stead cut his acting teeth under the influence of the late John Moss, the former head of the Drama Department of NAPAC (now the Playhouse Company) who was an internationally-acknowledged expert in the pantomime genre.

This year, KickstArt presents Jack and the Beanstalk and the opening night audience responded with delight from the first sight of the set to the final number. KickstArt has dedicated this production to Jill Moss (John Moss’s wife, known by her stage name of Jill Fenson) who passed away last year, for being a continued source of inspiration and support.

Rory Booth gives an energised and endearing performance of the optimistic but none-too-bright Jack, coming into his own in many of the duo numbers. As his long-suffering mother, Flora Flatbroke, Darren King provides the necessary focus to carry off some outrageous costumes while still remaining within the bounds of credibility!

Jessica Sole is a delight as Jack’s feisty love interest, Princess Jillian. Then we have the good/bad spirit scenario - Shelley MacLean, charming as the good fairy, Glissanda Goldenvox, and Liesl Coppin, powerful as the evil nemesis, Lady Perfidia Beastly.

Providing most of the delicious repartee are Peter Court and Bryan Hiles – back again in their hilarious roles as the incompetent crooks, Cecil and Claude. Towering above everyone and impressing us with his manoeuvrability in a hectic costume which saw the rest of the cast barely reaching his waist, was Lyle Buxton complete with authentic Scottish accent.

The production also has the added attraction of Evashnee Pillay and Dominique la Grange who take on a number of roles, including the chicken that lays golden eggs and a harpist who can only play one pop number. I would have liked to have seen Nathan Kruger taking a curtain call as himself to show who was “inside” Buttercup, the adorable scene-stealing cow as well as the Spider.

While pantomime is geared towards children, there are the usual contemporary gags for the adults and in amongst the usual audience participation – with much enthusiastic response from the youngsters! -  there are some memorable numbers such as Liesl Coppin’s Lady Gaga take-off and Gangnam Style.

It’s only when they come to a final curtain call that you realise the actual size of the cast. Just shows what you can do with a committed cast and careful budgeting. For KickstArt to have achieved what it has with this production on the comparatively small cast and production team, deserves major accolade.

Apart from some sound glitches at the start which made it difficult to hear Shelley MacLean and also made Liesl Coppin sound uncomfortably strident, all kudos to the technical crew for pulling off a number of hectic scene changes, puppetry involvement and the impressive rising of the beanstalk!

As always, Greg King has come up with a versatile set which lighting designer Tina le Roux has augmented to good effect. Musical direction is by Evan Roberts and Charon Williams Ros (also the vocal coach) with choreography by Janine Bennewith and sound design by Jackie Cunniffe.

Take a good look at the costumes. All original this year, there are more than 40 of them! Designed by Greg King and Steven Stead and made by Shanti Naidoo, they range from the attractive and the elegant to the hilarious or ridiculous.

Jack and the Beanstalk runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until January 5 with performances Tuesdays to Sundays at 14h30 with Saturday evening shows at 19h00. Booking is through Computicket. For block bookings of 10 or more, or sold performances, contact Ailsa Windsor of Going Places on 083 250 2690 or email: – Caroline Smart