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SLEEPING BEAUTY (article first published : 2006-12-11)

Red roses by the hundreds – climbing up the walls of the castle and eventually engulfing Princess Rose as she sleeps for a hundred years – adorn a delightful set by Greg King in KickstArt’s traditional pantomime production of Sleeping Beauty.

Director Steven Stead, who has also written the script, cut his teeth on traditional pantomime in the days when John Moss was head of drama for the Natal Performing Arts Council (now the Playhouse Company). Ably assisted by Kenlynn Sutherland, he brings this knowledge and capacity for the kind of humour that delights all ages to Sleeping Beauty which is an enchantment from start to finish.

It’s an excellent cast headed by Shelley McLean as the charming and endearing Princess Rose and Cobus van Heerden who fits the bill perfectly as her handsome prince. This is a part normally taken by a female but I didn’t see anyone complaining!

Then there’s the good fairy, Celestina Sparkle, played by Belinda Henwood and the wicked witch Maleficent played by Clare Mortimer. This is without doubt one of the finest performances I’ve seen from these two talented actresses. Lisping Barbie-doll-like Celestina is a meringue froth of tulle and frills while darkly menacing Maleficent is in a splendid Terrence Bray number with a headdress to die for!

Darren King as Nurse Knickersnagger, wearing some hysterical outfits designed by Peter Court (I loved the Red Cross motif), and Bryan Hiles provide most of the comedy. Their kitchen scene with Clare Mortimer – Maleficent now disguised as a Scottish maid - was absolutely hilarious.

Adding to the fun and nonsense are Wendy Watson as the formidable Queen Zinnia and Thomie Holtzhausen as the doddery deaf King Colin! Aaron McIlroy is in that melée as well, as the voice of Gobby the Goblin, who obviously spent his early beginnings in Grey Street!

Apart from the abovementioned outfits, the costumes have come from The State Theatre and they add a magnificent touch. There are also all the tricks that delight and entrance youngsters – puffs of smoke, little explosions, knockabout comedy with just the right touch of naughtiness, heroes slaying dragons and fun songs to sing. Old MacDonald had a farm was a delight! Musical direction is by Evan Roberts.

I had as much fun observing the young members of the audience as I did from watching the show. The response from children is always wonderful in these productions as their sheer energy and spontaneous involvement carries the action along at a spanking pace. The cast needs to be prepared for anything – apparently at one performance, a determined young lady severely told off Celestina Sparkle for not noticing that Maleficent was behind her, with a solid yell: “I TOLD you!”

Sleeping Beauty can deservedly take its rightful place alongside KickstArt’s other successes, Winnie-the-Pooh, Snow White and Cinderella. After producing minor miracles on the small Kwasuka stage, it’s great to see Steven and Greg being able to use the space of the Sneddon to best advantage.

Sleeping Beauty runs until December 31 with performances Tuesday to Saturday at 14h30 (Sunday at 16h00) with one evening show a week on Friday at 19h00. Tickets R75 (R60 pensioners and children under 12). Early booking through Computicket is strongly advised! – Caroline Smart




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