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SLEEPING BEAUTY (article first published : 2006-07-7)

Garth Anderson and his Actors Co-Op have produced yet another charming, interactive and hugely entertaining fairy tale – this time a delicious Sleeping Beauty – which takes place daily in the Durban Botanical Gardens for the school holidays.

Directed jointly by Garth Anderson and Bryan Hiles, Sleeping Beauty is a sheer delight to be enjoyed by both parents and children of all ages. It is part of the Actor’s Co-Op’s Izinganekwane Story Theatre series. It is a true telling of the well-loved fairy story but told with quirky asides, lots of regional references (the Wise Woman from the South actually comes from Umbilo!) and huge dollops of humour and fun.

Set on an empty stage just up from the tea-garden, framed by billowing curtains and two screens, the story is told by an exuberant cast of five performers dressed as maskanda minstrels, all playing a multitude of roles.

The story is narrated by Pippin, the world-weary, gawky and love-struck court jester (Clinton Small) who watches the adorable and virtuous Princess Aurora (a scene-stealing Leleti Khumalo look-alike Mihlayenkosi Magagula) grow from a much-loved baby into a beautiful teenager.

As the story goes, the adoring parents (Queen Mona – Raessa Abdul-Karrim, and Clark Kent-inspired King Henry the Ninth – Eduan Bothma) invite four wise woman to present gifts to the baby princess. The deliciously camp sari-wearing Wise Woman of the East (Rory Booth) offeris her the gift of song, the Dame Edna-type Wise Woman from Umbilo (Clinton Small) offers the gift of dance; and the yuppie Wise Woman from Gauteng offers the gift of education.

Things unravel badly with the unplanned arrival of the Wicked Wise Woman, “Malweaval” (Clinton Small) – who gate-crashes the party and bestows her horrible present upon Aurora: on her 16th birthday she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. All is not lost as groovy Winnie Mandela look-alike Wise Woman, “Dora” (a funky “Madam and Eve”-style puppet – voiced by Rory Booth) arrives declaring her love for the soaps on the telly and undoes the spell – or at least changes the death warrant to the promise of sleeping for one hundred years.

Once the inevitable happens as predicted, the whole kingdom sleeps for one hundred years, guarded by the Impenetrable Forest (arm-waving children from the audience) awaiting the arrival of the handsome Prince Charming (Rory Booth).

A laugh out loud, charming re-telling of a familiar and still beautiful story. I am just sad that Pippin didn’t get to kiss the Princess first. I thought he was a better catch than the Prince. Sigh….. ! Take a warm jumper, blanket and fold-up chairs – and make a point of getting there in time to take part in the colouring-in competition.

The show runs daily (except Sunday) at 11h00 until July 15. Tickets can be bought at the door: R30 (R25 children and pensioners). All in all, an entertaining hour and a half in beautiful surroundings. - Charlotte Fairfax




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