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NAF OFFERS FAMILY FARE (article first published : 2006-06-11)

Take a pot-pourri of poetry and a couple of puppets, a dash of magic and a fistful of clowning, mix them together with a smidgen of karaoke, throw in a monster or two for good measure, combine with loads of animal antics and a whole lot of laughs, and bake in the winter sunshine for a day or two.

The children's theatre programme on the National Arts Festival Fringe in Grahamstown running from June 29 to July 8 is a cauldron of fun for the littlies - and their moms and dads too!

"Close your eyes now . 1 - 2 - 3 and in the land of dreams you'll be" - with a drop of the Sandman's magic, Gareth Pretorius and Colleen Triegaart spirit you off on a wacky adventure of clowning, magic, physical theatre and fun in Silly Billy and the Land of Dreams.

Whisking the audience into a foot-stomping flurry, Sans Moonsamy pulls out all the stops in the multi-media song and dance extravaganza, Show me the Music. Think Britney and Moulin Rouge crossed with Jim Carey and Elvis. Meet up with some very quirky characters and get ready for a roller-coaster ride through a world of music where you get to be the star! An interactive karaoke cavort that the kids will love - the hilarious story of a "wannabe" in a talent competition who has to prove himself to three loony puppet judges.

Adding a dash of 1,000-year old wisdom, that wackiest of wizards is back! Pulling rabbits from hats, taking coins from your ear, making handkerchiefs from thin air - an old fashioned dose of pure magic mixed with some comic banter - The Wacky Wizard Comedy Magic Show will appeal to young and old - come and be mesmerised! The Crawford Preparatory School from Durban bring yet another new show to Grahamstown audiences. Journey Past the Sun is the story of a young girl on a quest to retrieve a magic water-pot that will save her people. Jean van Elden's direction and the young performers' energy and enthusiasm bring this moving story to life - interweaving dance, song, poetry and colourful characters in a kaleidoscope of South African storytelling.

Fuelling the fire with fantasy is Tokolosh, an action-packed mix of animation and acting about Serena, an English girl in a boarding school in South Africa who imagines Africa to be a jungle where the locals eat each other for a spot of fun. Intrigued by a kitchen staffer's missing fingers, a crazed headmaster and psychotic matron, Serena's over-active imagination is fuelled by the Meanie sisters until at last she receives help from Nokukyana, an opinionated wise woman who visits her in her dreams. Will Serena find the courage to face her enemies? Find out in this technically ambitious production where film and acting meet in the melting pot of a young girl's mind.

Detective Jack is on the loose in the Ubom! Eastern Cape Drama Company's absurdly inventive Jack Slater Monster Investigator. It is directed by Andrew Buckland who adapted the story from John Dougherty's book of the same name (published by Random House under the Young Corgi imprint). This fun and funky story encapsulates the imagination, innocence, fears and heroism of the young as it plays out the universal story of 'monsters under the bed'. Jack thwarts an attempted coup by some of the funniest, silliest puppet monsters you're likely to meet in a hilarious play that'll appeal to anyone aged six to sixty.

Check out the rest of the Fringe programme for more family fare - there's plenty on offer from music to comedy, dance and drama. There’s Moron. Than Off, described as "slick, brilliant and magical, a feast of surreal madness, combining the silent genius of Marcel Marceau and Mr Bean" (M&G), is a display of physical clowning by that master of mime and former Durban actor Aldo Brincat - family fare that will appeal to everyone over the age of four.

The Jungle Theatre's production Hoerikwaggo is a combination of storytelling, mime, song, dance and puppetry that spins the tale of a baby rescued by two baboons after a fire on Table Mountain. Drawing from San, Cape Malay and Dutch history and mythology, this thoroughly entertaining and educational environmental production will appeal to the whole family.

And there's Bird's Eye View, a big-hearted and poignant original South African tale, told through explosive physicality, clowning, and comic storytelling by Eye2Eye Productions in association with From the Hip: Khulumakahle. Suitable for all ages, this fast-paced romp communicates a very positive message of our need to take responsibility for our actions, for people and also the world around us.

There's plenty more. Don't miss out. Get a Booking Kit from your nearest Standard Bank and head off to Computicket. Further information on 046 603 1103 or visit www.nafest.co.za

The Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, the SABC, the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and the National Arts Council are the proud sponsors of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, with a special support grant by Business and Arts South Africa (BASA).




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