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

ALADDIN (article first published : 2001-12-13)

To many theatre-goers, Christmas wouldnít seem the same without the annual pantomime. A time to gather up children Ė yours and anyone elseís Ė and enjoy the magic and nonsense of age-old stories told in a time-honoured format. In pantomime thereís always a hero (traditionally played by a female); a beautiful heroine in lovely outfits; a fearsome villain to hiss and boo, and a fun character to handle all the knock-about stuff.

Itís all there in Aladdin currently running at Technikon Natalís Courtyard Theatre in Mansfield Road. Produced by Colin Penn and Garth Anderson, itís a delight for young and old.

Pianist and entertainer Colin Penn has been around the Durban theatre scene for more years than he probably cares to remember. Normally producing musical shows like the tribute to music stars such as Christmas with Nat King Cole, this year he has branched out into the realm of pantomime.

He has wisely chosen as his partner award-winning director Garth Anderson who is one of Durbanís most experienced and prestigious actors and directors with his own theatre company, The Actors Co-Operative. This group has been responsible for productions like Tales from the Brothers Grimm and The Lunatic, The Lover and the Poet. He also directed the highly successful Importance of Being Earnest which is due to return to Durban towards the middle of next year.

Garth has performed virtually every style of theatre and has notched up many pantomimes on his theatrical belt. He has scripted and directed Aladdin and put lyrics to Colin Pennís original music. And, as if that were not enough, he also performs in the show as the Genie and the Sultan. He interacts well with children, keeping them gently under control as there is always the danger that they become so involved in the action they threaten to flood the stage and take over!

Playing Aladdin is Georgina Konigkramer, who impressed in the Technikonís production of The King and I. Her hero is spunky, energetic and amusing. With his tall and commanding stature and deep voice, Damon Thomas makes a good villain and he also doubles as the languid aide to the Sultan. Eryl Raymond shows a robust ribaldry and a good strong sense of comedy timing as Widow Twanky and Sarah-Kate Seaward is a sweet and charming Princess Jasmine.

As I mentioned in my review of Christmas with Nat King Cole (see Music), Kelly Fisher is a talent to watch. In Aladdin, she plays the lisping bumptious messenger and a hip streetwise Spirit of the Lamp.

As all pantomimes should do, the action is brought up to date. We see the jewels in the cave stored in a Checkers packet, Widow Twankey zooms around on a scooter in an outfit hung with Pokemon discs and fun is poked at politicians, Big Brother and current affairs. More of the same next year, please! Book at Computicket Ė Caroline Smart




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