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ALICE IN ZULULAND (article first published : 2001-12-8)

Inspired by an original concept by Greg King, Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company's new “dance fantasy” Alice in Zululand forms a milestone in the history of this courageous independent dance company which is now in its fourth year of operation.

Directed by Mark Hawkins with choreography by FFFDC’s resident choreographer David Gouldie, it is fun, funky and visually stunning. The latter is due to the combined brilliance of long-established designer Andrew Botha and young Danish lighting expert Lars Sorensen.

The music aspect is just as impressive with an original score composition by Philipp Maier who sometimes uses only a percussive theme or a piece created by sloshing water. Song composition is by Evan Roberts and lyrics by Jon Solem and Karen van Pletsen.

Performing the songs and putting in some nifty dance movements as Alice is Carol Trench who is appealing, spunky and in glorious voice. Unfortunately, the sound was occasionally out of balance which meant that she was often inaudible and drowned by the backing tracks.

With added numbers, the FFFDC dancers acquit themselves well and special mention must be made of Ebrahim Medell who does a wonderful extravaganza number as the Queen of Hearts. Also University of Natal Durban dance lecturer Lliane Loots who is a frenetic kick-boxing White Rabbit obsessed with the passage of time. David Gouldie was hilarious as the Mad Hatter (dressed in cowhide markings, perhaps he was more of a Mad Cow?), particularly when he took to belly surfing on a water-logged table.

With funding from the Royal Netherlands Embassy, FFFDC have been working with children from Cato Manor in a project called Cato Manor Vibe!!!. These well-disciplined youngsters won the audience’s hearts with their various appearances.

When a dance or any performing arts company presents a work, in the main it has been done before and during the course of time initial problems get ironed out as the production settles. Thus any new work is disadvantaged by its new-ness. Alice in Zululand merely requires some judicious pruning of numbers which over-explore their theme.

Teething problems aside, Alice in Zululand can be hailed as a major dance work originating from right here in KZN and it is as African as the fascinating grass hut costumes. Some of the most dramatic scenes happen in the first half while the second is memorable for its beautiful underwater sequence.

Alice in Zululand runs in the Playhouse Drama from December 7 to 29. Tickets R45 and R55 (inclusive) for all performances. Book at TicketWeb or call the Playhouse box office on 031 369-9444. Block bookings attract a 10% discount on 10 or more tickets. To book for fundraising/sold performances or block bookings, call Mala Govender on 031 369-9497.




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