Intimate space for naughty panto

Jaziel Vaugh’ann as an evil queen and TQ Zondi as her son in Once Upon a Fairy (Not the Adult Panto). Picture courtesy of Sonneke Kacel.

STAGE Once Upon a Fairy (Not the Adult Panto) – Club Altitude, Stamford Hill


IF YOU are a fan of the annual naughty-but-nice, nudge-wink adult panto that has become as much a part of Durban’s festive season as surf, sand and uShaka, note that the latest offering – by a new production team in a new venue – has only five more performances.

Award-winning Durban actor-director and show producer Thomie Holtzhausen is responsible for this year’s tinselly romp, having penned and directed Once Upon a Fairy (Not the Adult Panto) and also taken a role in it.

Thomie opted to create his own show at a venue he manages, after Durban’s Sue Clarence, who has produced the annual adult panto for many years, announced she could not find a suitable venue, and ditched plans for her production.

At a time when local theatres continue to close – the latest casualty, of course, being Umhlanga’s Barnyard Theatre, which shut doors on New Year’s Eve – Holtzhausen has bravely opted to create a 72-seater supper theatre on the dancefloor surrounding the small stage at his Club Altitude, in the Stamford Hill area.

As I wrote in my recent review in The Mercury newspaper, the good news is that the ground-level venue at 25 Silver Avenue, off Umgeni Road, is perfect, with loads of potential; offering a bar and plenty of guarded parking.

It is a tiny space, but, for me anyway, returns the fun intimacy that has been missing from these silly-season shows since they left Durban’s Playhouse Cellar – where they were born two decades ago – and headed for bigger venues in more recent years.

After many years of appearing in the adult pantos, Holtzhausen had enough to draw on to create Once Upon a Fairy (Not the Adult Panto), which features a cast of four and has been running at Club Altitude at 7.30pm every Tuesday to Saturday since November.

Note that the final five performances are at 7.30pm today and tomorrow (January 5 and 6), then at the same time on January 12, 13 and 14. Doors open at 6.30pm.

In my November review for The Mercury I pointed out that Once Upon a Fairy (Not the Adult Panto) is not the best adult panto we have ever seen in Durban, for sure.

However, there is enough of the expected mish-mash of topical reference, mickey-take, sexual innuendo, random song, naughty jokes and general nonsense and outrageousness to satisfy the average fan of these giddy romps.

The action takes place on a small stage dressed with colourful floral creepers, a swing and polystyrene pillars.

In brief, the plot centres on the delightful T Q Zondi (who appeared as the lead characters in the last two adult pantos, SinderFella and A Lad in Grey Street) as Jack, a prince with a big grin and a mammoth appendage, who seeks true love after failed romances with assorted fairy tale characters.

He seems to be on the right track when he comes across leather-clad Cindy Spitz from Brakpan (a hyper-exuberant Kerry-Lee McKibbin, who speaks with an exaggerated guttural accent). She is seeking seven different men, she tells the audience, because she can’t believe one man can have all the qualities she needs.

The thorn in the the side of this potential romance is Jack’s mother, a cynical, flamboyant and flirtatious woman played in drag, and with aplomb, by Jaziel Vaugh’ann.

Holtzhausen completes the cast as a variety of characters that come and go, among them a seedy and unsmiling lothario, a golden-locked woman quoting Shakespeare, an effete man in sequinned shorts and a grey-haired Indian woman that Holtzhausen has played in a number of previous adult pantos.

A little loose at the seams at times, decidedly low-brow and not always vocally great, but all, of course, relevant to the unpretentious formula, the show features songs as varied as Sunglasses, One Way Or Another, You’re The One That I Want, I Wanna Be Evil and the show tunes Maybe This Time (from Cabaret) and Gee Office Krupke (from West Side Story).

Have a few drinks, buy into the nonsense and you are sure to leave with a smile.

Patrons can take along a picnic basket (excluding drinks) or pre-order a variety of snack baskets from the Skyy Café next door. My only quibble is that there the panto venue has a meagre wine choice – Thomie seriously needs to stock a bigger (and better) selection.

The venue is easily accessible from Umgeni Road, and patrons are invited to enjoy the after-show bar and dancefloor.

Tickets for the show cost R140 each and seating is at tables of eight. Book online at or phone 064 476 9533 during office hours.

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