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CATCH KHALULU! (article first published : 2000-12-10)

Presented by the Playhouse Company as part of its impressive festive season entertainment package is Catch Khalulu! which has just opened in the Sanlam Loft. The play with its vigorous and energetic cast is written and directed by Greg King who has also designed the set and costumes. De Wet Wraight has produced the music and the lighting design is by Glen Olsen.

Catch Khalulu! is set in a general grocer’s store and the opening scene finds the rabbit Khalulu wheeling in on his scooter down a secret tunnel to raid the store for his evening meal. The unprincipled shop owner Poobie Raboobie is notorious for his rotten vegetables and his equally potent atchar.

A much-experienced performer in children’s theatre, Philippa Savage is suitably mischievous and spunky as Khalulu while Sduduzo Kawula is endearing as the lumbering and slow-witted Big Willy who eventually comes out a winner. One of the most delightful scenes of the play sees the two of them perched on the counter top.

Then there’s the unwholesome trio of “baddies”: a strident Liesl Coppin – move over Cruella da Ville of 101 Dalmations! – as the horsey, haughty and vengeful Patritsia Bludgeon; the mercurial Kaseran Pillay who handles much of the knock-about comedy as Poobie Raboobie; and tall, imposing Thami S’khosana as the dark and evil Doomsday Dubane. Heavily into violence, Doomsday’s strange choice of hat identifies him more as one of the Three Musketeers!

Kaseran is also appearing each night in Snow White and Several Dwarfs in the Cellar although where he finds the energy is a mystery!

The actual production differs much from the advance publicity which sets the play in the Valley of a Thousands Hills on a mountain called Phezulu with its spectacular views. Unless I missed it, there wasn’t much reference to this mountain - on top of which Khalulu apparently lives under a thorn tree. A few moments in a specially lit small corner of the stage would have sufficed to identify Khalulu’s home. The publicity story continues that surrounding the mountain are beautiful farms owned by three greedy and unpleasant farmers who are furious with Khalulu for raiding their crops whereas in the actual production, he raids a store.

I appreciate that many new and original productions are still in a working process when the first phase of the all-important publicity campaign is due to get underway. However, theatre companies should bear in mind what they have committed themselves to in terms of scenario. Or else they should be less specific. This would allow them to change direction if the creative process so dictates. I hasten to add that Catch Khalulu! is not the only production to fall prey to this problem – it’s is a trend that has been building for some time.

However, the young audience at the opening performance of Catch Khalulu! wouldn’t have cared about the above quibbles even if they’d known about them. They shrieked, laughed, trembled with delicious fear, squealed at the rude bits and generally had a ball. They took part in the interaction without being prompted and many enthusiastic members volunteered to be “health inspectors”. There were times, though, when they were fairly restless but I suspect that this happened when the action and dialogue went way over their heads

Greg King’s set, based on the original set by Deon van Dorp for Circus Adventure was suitably full of surprises and the “port-a-loo” is a delight - flushing sound effects and all!

Catch Khalulu! runs in the Playhouse Sanlam Loft until December 23 from Tuesday to Saturday at 11h00 with a show on Sundays at 15h00. On Wednesdays and Saturdays there are extra performances at 14h00. Tickets R25 (R15 children) booked through TicketWeb outlets or at www.ticketweb.co.za or call 0861 400 500. Credit card bookings on Dial-A-Seat on (031) 369-9444.




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