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BRER RABBIT AND FRIENDS (article first published : 2003-12-10)

Back under a different title, Garth Anderson’s energetic and inter-active adaptation of the Brer Rabbit stories is bound to delight youngsters of all ages over the festive season. The costumes are just as crisp and colourful as they were a year ago and this year’s production introduces an extra actor.

Brer Rabbit and Friends was first performed by the award-winning Actors Co-operative theatre company at the Kwasuka Theatre in December, 2002, under the title of Izinganekwane. However, early bookings were slow then and it took a while for word to get around town. Seems people had difficulty remembering the title - which is a bit of an indictment on local theatregoers, particularly as we live in a predominantly isiZulu-speaking province!

Under its more “user friendly” title, Brer Rabbit and Friends runs for about 40 minutes and is very suitable for children aged 12 and under. Garth has taken three of the original Brer Rabbit stories and interwoven them with traditional Zulu children’s tales.

Youngsters delight in the character of the mischievous trickster Nokwacha (the Brer Rabbit character) exuberantly played by Mpume Mtombeni who puts in a consistent and engaging performance from beginning to end. She is well-matched by Oded Rouche, fast becoming one of our most skilful and versatile actors, who is particularly delicious as the buxom and adorable Carmen Miranda type cow.

The other members of the cast are David Cowley and Blessing Mbonambi who provide the percussion background – and here I could have done with a more musical-sounding cymbal! They enter the chaotic fray goodheartedly when audience members are asked help the story along by extricating the cow from a tree (another youngster chosen from the audience), digging a well or enacting the process of ploughing and planting!

Greg King’s African print and hessian panel backdrop is still striking but I could have done without the inappropriate floral drapery.

Brer Rabbit and Friends has performances from December 9 daily at 11h00 until Christmas Eve in the Courtyard Theatre. The venue is situated on the campus of the Durban Institute of Technology (formerly Technikon Natal) and the entrance is in Mansfield Road.

Tickets R30 (R25 children under 14). Book on 083 439 1532 or 031 426 0566. Tickets may be collected at the theatre half an hour before the performance (cash only, no credit cards please). More information on e-mail: theactorsco-operative@cybertek.co.za – Caroline Smart




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