Theatre at its best! (Review by Keith Millar)
Normally, the only occasion I go to children’s theatre is to take my grandson. I find that it is often rather stereotyped and a bit boring - and one only derives satisfaction through the enjoyment of the little ones.
The reason, therefore, that I attended a children’s theatre production at the Hilton Arts Festival was to experience a full cross-section of what was available – and to support a friend who is part of the Assitej organisation which brought the play to the Festival.
So it was with some trepidation that I joined the audience to see a performance of Rat Race.
Well, I needn’t have worried. It was in every respect a most entertaining, charming and clever production, and the performance by the cast of two was captivating.
Rat Race is presented by the innovative Well Worn Theatre Company from Johannesburg, is devised and directed by Kyla Davis and features Ameera Patel and Roberto Pombo.
Pombo is Myles a stressed-out city rat. His hectic lifestyle is making him ill so he goes on holiday to the countryside to get some fresh air, and to learn to take it easy. There he meets Melissa (Ameera Patel) a kind and relaxed farm mouse. Initially, their different approaches to life result in them clashing. But slowly they learn from each other and eventually become firm friends.
The production is billed as a pop-up storybook play while it also reminded me of a whacky TV cartoon with plenty of visual gags and sound effects. Music, clowning, puppetry and physical theatre are all used in the telling of the delightful and comic tale. It also teaches lessons of tolerance, change and friendship.
The characters elicit plenty of chirps and heckling from the youngsters in the audience and both actors do a good job of embracing this as part of the production.
The absolute star of this show is the very clever set. It consists of a flat which has a city scene on one side and a farmhouse on the other. It has trap doors, flaps, pop-outs and pull downs, and all manner of props used in the production are produced from its depths. It is an innovative and masterful theatrical contraption.
The publicity for Rat Race suggests that it is aimed at children from four to six. However, the show I attended had many parents and even grandparents in the audience and to the man they were entranced, charmed and amused.
Rat Race is theatre at its best!
For more information on the annual Hilton Arts Festival visit https://www.hiltonfestival.co.za