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LONG, LONG AGO (article first published : 2005-07-15)

Anderson does Andersen! And very nicely, thank you!

Garth Anderson’s latest production held in the beautiful surroundings of the historic Durban Botanic Gardens, is Long, Long Ago …. Or, to give its full title, Long, Long Ago ... Hans Christian Andersen in Africa!. The show follows a series of stories created from the tales of the Brothers Grimm and others inspired by the Brer Rabbit stories.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the legendary Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen and Garth has taken this opportunity to present Andersen’s classic and time-honoured story written in 1837 of the “Emperor’s New Clothes”, giving it a robust African twist! Drawing to the end of its season, Long, Long Ago … marks one of the Actors Co-Operative’s most successful children’s shows to date.

Garth has directed a young and enthusiastic cast who are dressed in attractive costumes with African-styled decorative appliqué work. They don’t stint their energies to keep the large audience of impressionable youngsters amused.

For those unfamiliar with this enchanting story, two rascally weavers pull the wool over the eyes of their fashion-conscious Emperor by conning him into paying them to make him some beautiful material to be turned into a new set of clothes. The weavers’ scam is to pocket the money and pretend to produce the cloth, claiming that all erudite people can see the material. It’s the fools who can’t see it. It takes the outspoken perception of a child to give the game away.

As the Emperor, Roweena Naidu is suitably pompous and very funny when the character discovers that he’s walking among his people with no clothes on. Yajna Maharaj gives a good portrayal of the long-suffering prime minister who is acutely aware of using internal politics to his own end. At the still tender age of 14, Daniel Watson shows a good flair for comedy as the 2nd Weaver and I am sure we will see more of him on the Durban theatre scene.

Although tending to sound a little strident at times, Mihlayenkosi Rose Magagula is the kingpin of the production as the 1st Weaver. Her dramatic talents are strong and she brought gales of laughter from the audience as she went “walkabout” after the character receives a gold medal – The Honourable Order of the Baobab - from the Emperor.

The play is aimed specifically at under-12’s and the humour is up to the minute, much of it prompted by well-known advertising slogans. Judging by the response of today’s audience, parents and grandparents were just as entertained as the youngsters. The performance venue is about 100m above the tea shop and is clearly signposted from the Sydenham Road entrance and the Main Botanic Gardens entrance.

Long, Long Ago... Hans Christian Andersen in Africa! has two more performances: July 15 and 16 at 11h00. Bookings on 084 422 1422. Tickets R25 (R20 under 12’s and pensioners) can also be bought at the venue half an hour before the show. Safe, guarded parking is available at both entrances. – Caroline Smart




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