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CINDERELLA (article first published : 2004-12-4)

Knowing the size of the Kwasuka Theatre’s performing space and its miniscule backstage area, it is little short of miraculous that KickstArt has managed to create what it terms a “postage-stamp” pantomime with Cinderella. There are no less than three different major settings with platforms, stairs, doors, revolving fireplaces, a wishing well, balustrades and large marbled plinths.

It is close on ten years since Durban has seen a traditional family pantomime, as opposed to the adult pantomime shows, like Aladdin which is running at the Royal Grillroom. This means that a large section of young people are fairly unfamiliar with the genre. However, the youthful members of tonight’s audience responded in the time-honoured fashion, booing at the right times and delighting in the over-the-top nonsense that makes for pantomime.

Director Steven Stead and designer Greg King cut their teeth on pantomime in the days of the Natal Performing Arts Council (Napac) under the direction of John Moss. Nice to see John rightfully acknowledged in the programme as “The Undisputed Prince of Pantomime”. Three of his songs are included in the show and it’s good to hear them again.

Steven and Greg are to be congratulated on pulling off a major coup. With a scaled down cast of seven (pantomimes usually run into casts numbering 15 at the very least) and a series of spectacular costumes, mostly from the State Theatre wardrobe, the show is a visual and magical delight for all ages.

Belinda Henwood is an endearing and gentle Cinderella who is adored by the cheerful and likeable Buttons, played by Bryan Hiles. Thomie Holtzhausen and Darren King bring much hilarious vigour and flamboyance to the roles of the Ugly Sisters. Clare Cassidy puts in a controlled and consistently enjoyable performance as Prince Charming, backed up by lively Josette Eales as the long-suffering Dandini. It’s good to see Kenlynn Sutherland back on stage, dressed to kill as the Fairy Godmother!

While this is undeniably an ensemble piece, special mention should be made of Bryan Hiles who is quietly and steadily growing in stature as a performer. We all know the quality of the voice of his sister, Kerry Hiles, but it is good to see Bryan proving that he’s no slouch as a singer, either.

The only problem with the show is that the backing tracks are too loud for the performers’ voices and perhaps relocation of the speakers might help. There are also some blank lighting spots in the kitchen scene but this may be governed by the addition of the proscenium arch. However, I am quite sure that both problems will be corrected.

Postage stamp pantomime, it may be, but it's true to the classical style and is well worth a visit.

Cinderella runs from December 3 to January 2 with shows Tuesday to Saturday at 19h00 (matinees Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 14h30). As there are no performances on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day, there are extra evening shows at 18h00 on December 26 and January 2.

Tickets R65 (R40 children under 12; R50 grannies and granddads). Book at Computicket. Seating is reserved, so book early to avoid disappointment). Kwasuka Theatre is situated on the corner of First Avenue and Stamford Hill Road in Greyville. Secure parking available. – Caroline Smart




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