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THE BEST KEPT SECRET…SHHHHH (article first published : 2006-12-15)

Good to be back at the intimate Kwasuka Theatre to see one of the productions offered for young children over the Durban festive season. This time it’s from the Dingalings Production Company which presented Faraway Forest last holidays and it has the fun title of The Best Kept Secret…Shhhh!.

If there has been a revamp at Kwasuka Theatre, I don’t see much sign of it except that the garden has been drastically trimmed back which means that the venue has lost its lush tropical surroundings. However, as any Durban gardening enthusiast will know, this will no doubt all grow back again quickly! At the moment, the air-conditioning is not operating but, despite it being a very warm day outside, it was bearable inside the theatre with the interconnecting backstage doors kept open.

Directed and written by Koobeshen Naidoo, The Best Kept Secret…Shhhh! is a simple little tale involving a baddie called Frazzlefoot, who claims to be a pirate. He comes across a bag which has been left behind by the diminutive Cristabel played by Nirvana Naidoo and he wastes no time in opening it. Inside the bag are several presents waiting to be delivered and some poignant dreams and wishes from children. Frazzlefoot determines to steal this precious bag and the show proceeds to revolve around the whereabouts of the bag and whether the “good guys” can get it off him.

Always a delight, Vivian Moodley is a crotchety and argumentative Mr Grumblewump and it’s not surprising that he’s irascible. He’s married to the stroppy Mrs Grumblewump, a harridan of the first order played with much gusto by Kumseela Naidoo who also takes the role of Nosy Parker. Henry Ramkissoon is an amusing and suitably menacing Frazzlefoot with Koobeshen Naidoo taking the part of Tiddlewinks, the tall lanky bumbling hero who cannot keep a secret.

The audience responds to Tiddlewinks immediately and I would suggest that, after witnessing some of the youngsters’ alarmed initial response to Frazzlefoot, that Tiddlewinks opens the show to tell the audience who’s who and what’s where. It’s a more effective way of helping them to accept the “baddie” and being the safe conduit through which they understand that it’s okay to boo and hiss him – in fact, the more involved they are, the better they will enjoy the show. Children are utterly uncompromising and will enter into the spirit of things with gusto. When Cristabel asked the audience whether perhaps Tiddlewinks had told the secret to anyone, one determined young lady behind me yelled “He’s told EVERYONE!”

Kwasuka Theatre is a very intimate venue so performances have to be real and the acoustics are good so there is no need for strong projection. With the director being in the play, it is difficult for the cast to have a yardstick as to whether they are coming over effectively or not. The answer is – watch the children. If they sit fairly motionless they either can’t hear or are being assaulted by sound.

Performed on a set attractively decorated with simple fencing adorned with sunflowers, The Best Kept Secret…Shhhh is an amusing and entertaining hour or so for youngsters and is well worth visiting.

What is it about some Durban audience members that they have no concept of live theatre? A young woman, carrying a child with other youngsters in tow, happily walked right in front of the performers to take her seat in the front row. Not only that, she then proceeded to pass out goodie bags to the children next to her. She was also late so the correct thing to do would have been to take a seat further back so as not to disturb either performers or the rest of the audience.

There needs to be much stronger control of latecomers from the management of Kwasuka. This is not television - the actors are trying to create magic. This is real live performance, folks – would you tolerate someone who walked across a rugby pitch or a tennis court in the middle of a game?!

The Best Kept Secret…Shhhh runs until January 6 with performances Tuesday until Sunday at 11h00. There are no shows on Monday. Tickets R45 include a Festive Goody Bag from Game City. Tickets R30 for the show only.

Bookings through Thandeka on 031 305 6889. Catalina Theatre and Kwasuka Theatre tickets are now available online at www.strictlytickets.co.za or at www.catalinatheatre.co.za or www.goingplacesSA.co.za / www.goingplacesSA.com




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