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

TALL STORY (article first published : 2004-07-10)

About ten years ago, I was working on a television news shoot in Kenya where we visited the Giraffe Sanctuary outside Nairobi. By feeding them from a balcony area, the public is able to come face to face, literally, with these beautiful creatures. As the giraffes strode graciously towards us, we noticed that one of them was particularly small and asked the game warden if there was something wrong with her. “Oh no,” he replied happily. “She’s just short!”

I was reminded of this when watching Belinda Chapman’s first show Tall Story directed by Greig Coetzee which recently appeared on the fringe of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Belinda is 4’6” tall and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with her. She’s just short!

Not “small” and definitely not “cute” – two words which will send this pint-sized dynamo into a froth of apoplexy.

Unfortunately, I was not able to see the whole production but was highly entertained with the half hour that I did see. She relates with laconic amusement the problems she has with her height – like reaching the top button in an elevator, standing in queues or folding a double bed sheet! She also proved that she’s no slouch when it comes to singing by including some fun numbers into the show.

For those of us who know her well, it was Belinda being delicious Belinda. However, it was fascinating to watch the response from the audience who initially had problems getting their heads around the fact that this child-sized person was a grown adult with a sharp brain, occasional very unchildlike language and bossy, to boot! She hauls several members of the audience onto the stage to take part in a condensed version of Lord of the Rings and they obey like little lambs. You don’t argue with Belinda when she’s on a mission!

The script is peppered with puns dealing with lack of height, distance or size and the use of the four-step ladder as a scale is a reminder that Belinda is dynamite in a small … sorry, short … package with an awesome capacity to walk tall! – Caroline Smart




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