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PLAYHOUSE WINTER SEASON (article first published : 2006-06-17)

Countering winter temperatures, a hot entertainment line-up at Durban's Playhouse has the theatre complex abuzz with activity.

This weekend's Hip Kulcha, the Playhouse Company's annual Youth Festival, takes place on June 17. Ticket holders are standing by for fireworks on stage with this year's South African Music Award winner, the Afro Pop Superstar Ntando as the headline act in the evening's bigstage concert in the Playhouse Opera.

Also on the Playhouse's roster is eTV's Backstage heart throb Charl Timotheus (Ziggy), who appears along with leading Durban rapper EWOK (alias actor Iain Robinson), and popular Newlands hip hop group Verd. The evening will start at 19h00 and is set to slam to a close with Durban-based DJ Tira at the controls. Pre-booked tickets R55, R40 and R25 at Computicket on 082 915 8000 or the Playhouse Dial-A-Seat on 031 369 9596 or 031 369 9540. Heavy pre-bookings have resulted in tickets being almost sold out.

Preceding the evening's concert, the Playhouse Company's 2006 Hip Kulcha youth festivities on June 17 offers a free programme of midday Youth Talks scheduled to take place in the Playhouse Loft. With Ukhozi fm personality Linda Sibiya in the chair, the topic of Breaking into the Arts Scene will be spearheaded by guest speakers Ziggi and rapper Iain Robinson. Audience members will have a unique opportunity to receive signed posters and greet some members of the evening's concert stars, including Ntando, between 12h45 and 12h55.

Other upcoming shows and events at the Playhouse in the weeks and months ahead included the bi-monthly series, Test Driving the Arts, in the Playhouse Grand Foyer every alternative Thursday at 13h00. These popular lunch-hour concerts are structured to showcase the talents of upcoming artists in KZN, and to promote indigenous music, dance and drama.

The Department of Arts and Culture's Choral Eisteddfod runs in the Playhouse Opera between June 23 and 25; while the hit musical Annie comes to the Playhouse from Johannesburg for performances by Northcliff High School between June 27 and July 2 in the Playhouse Drama.

The award winning Durban theatre company KickstArt teams up with the Playhouse to make sure this July holiday will be one to remember for the whole family, with a heartwarming, glossy, beautifully designed production of the children's classic, Winnie-The-Pooh. Directed by Steven Stead and designed by Greg King, the show will feature some of Durban's best actors and also introduces several new faces to the theatre scene. Rowan Bartlett plays the title role of the loveable bear with Very Little Brain, while well-known Durban entertainer, Carol Trench is his nervous friend, Piglet. Peter Court is the gloomy Eeyore, and Michael Gritten a suitably exuberant Tigger. Others in the cast are Anthony Stonier as Rabbit, Ali Cassells as Kanga and Wendy Watson as Owl. Two talented boys share the role of Christopher Robin: Jamie Royal and Daniel Botha, while two equally talented little girls play the part of naughty baby Roo: Rebecca Bauristhene and Valentine Sterling-Court. Eight other children fill up the stage as Rabbit's furry Friends and Relations.

The catchy, original songs are by Justin Southey and musical direction is by Dawn Selby. The show will delight old and young alike. Winnie-The-Pooh runs from June 28 to until July 16 in the Playhouse Opera. Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 14h30, Sundays at 15h00, and Friday and Saturday at 18h30. Book at Computicket. Seating will be limited, so early booking is advisable. Block bookings of 20 or more will receive a 10% discount (call Illa on 031 201 1638/9) Tickets R65 (R50 children under 12 and pensioners).

Bayede Shaka - The Spear Is Born plays in the Opera theatre from July 8 to 26. This cultural-musical-theatre-dance spectacular salutes the unifier nation-builder Zulu King Legend, Shaka. Written and directed by Edmund Mhlongo, the production has been lauded by the Zulu Royal house, as well as by Madiba after a performance at the Nelson Mandela Civic Theatre in Johannesburg. "My best night ever spent with my grandchildren," the great man is alleged to have said. Bayede Shaka will be performed at the Playhouse by the K-CAP internationally acclaimed cast seen by thousands. Another locally acclaimed hit musical, Jimbo - last seen at the Playhouse in the early 90's - makes a long over due return from July 11 to - 23, presented by the Playhouse Company. Scripted by local playwright and actor Hamish Kyd, Jimbo depicts Durban's coloured community during the 1960s and '70s. It is set to original music by Siva Devar, with lyrics by Kyd and Themi Venturas. Charged with vitality and graphic humour along with its own brand of pathos, Jimbo's evocative story of back-street life is played by a sharply-drawn cast of characters, headed by two hobos who tell of life lived between heaven and hell.

The play evokes distinctive landmarks such as Durban's Indian Market and Warwick Triangle as they were 40 years ago. It remains a moving and highly entertaining tribute to the people who lived, loved, laboured and died in the area. The Playhouse's new staging of Jimbo can be seen in the Playhouse Drama from July 11 to 23. Themi Venturas is back in the director's chair. R & B singer Percy Smith takes on the title role, appearing opposite Kyd, the only member of the original cast, who returns to the play's other principle role of Vishnu. Up tempo choreography is by Ebrahim Medell. Early booking is advised for Jimbo, which enjoyed sold-out performances during its premier run at the Playhouse. Book at Computicket on 082 915 8000 or the Playhouse Dial-A-Seat on 031 369 9596 or 031 369 9540. Tickets pre-booked range from R20 to R45 (R30 to R55 at the door). To book a sold performance, call Mala on 031 369 9456.

Offstage, Playhouse patrons and visitors can look forward to the opening of The Zulu Jazz Lounge, formerly known as The Cellar in the coming few months. The Jazz Lounge will feature local talent as well as play host to top international jazz bands. There is also an African themed cigar lounge due to open soon, formerly known as The Tudor Room while patrons will welcome the imminent opening of the restaurant facility at the Playhouse to be operated by Piatto MK Holdings.




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