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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

JUST SO STORIES (article first published : 2008-03-28; last edited : [an error occurred while processing this directive])

Great to see Garth Anderson taking up the director’s reins again and getting his Actors Co-Operative theatre company back in operation after his lengthy period of serious ill-health last year.

They’re back in the Durban Botanic Gardens, the scene of so many of Garth’s highly popular and well-attended children’s productions. The new amphitheatre – aptly named Under the Fig Tree because of the massive fig tree that overlooks the venue – is the perfect choice to spend a couple of hours if you have young children to entertain during the April holidays.

The production is Just So Stories which includes six of Rudyard Kipling’s charming tales which Garth has adapted. These include: The Elephant’s Child, How the Leopard got his Spots, How the Rhino got his Skin, The Butterfly that Stamped, How the Camel got his Hump and The Cat that walked by himself - or in this case, because the person playing the cat is a female - The Cat that walked by herself!

The four young cast members enter into the spirit of Rudyard Kipling’s fascinating fables with great gusto and while the youngsters may not always catch some of the witty dialogue, it keeps the adults well entertained!

Sheldon Campbell, Georgina Giorko, Jonathan Tifflin and NJ Sithole work well together and, while I was only able to get to the show well after it had started, I could see that they had the youngsters entranced by the storylines, giggling helplessly at the chaotic antics and deliciously frightened by the scary bits … and by the end of the show many of them had gravitated to the very edge of the stage as if drawn by magnets.

The cast has good versatile skills and their diction and projection is clear. My only problem was that as the wife in the final story, Sheldon became almost too shrill for audibility and would have been better helped by some kind of prop to identify the wife so that he could keep his voice in a lower range. He was a delight, however, as a bad-tempered spitting camel while Georgina could be seen slinking around among the children as the imperious cat. Jonathan Tifflin and NJ Sithole provided much hilarity as they galloped around the auditorium area. Top marks for all four for unflagging energy!

Under the Fig Tree is so designed in order that the audience can sit in camp chairs, on the grass on blankets or on the cement risings. Its informal nature allows youngsters to stretch their legs during a performance and a surrounding fence ensures that they don’t travel very far before a beady parental eye catches sight of them.

Under the Fig Tree is situated at the top end of the Gardens. Enter on the Sydenham Road side and turn right up the first pathway and keep going until you see the Just So Stories poster.

Just So Stories runs until April 12 (no Sundays performances). Tickets R60 (R40 pensioners and children under 12) Bookings through Garth Anderson on 083 883 8855. Tickets can be collected 20 minutes before the show begins at 10h00. – Caroline Smart




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