STAGE: Sinbad the Sailor – Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
A DAME riding a peacock. A shy camel with a cute curtsey. A very large worm that appears as a surprise after monster sandwiches vanish. A cream pie in the face. A golden-beaked bird that carries three human passengers and has a wingspan the width of the stage.
Oh, there’s more – including a ship, the Salty Sultana, tossed about by a disgruntled whale; massive reptiles in a valley of colourful gems; a mischievous gorilla; a camper-than-candelabra genie; and a powerful magical pearl. Not to forget Lassie, a dog who won’t go home…
All find place in the witty, whacky and wonderful world that is Durban’s 14th joyous pantomime, the eighth to be written and directed by award-winning Steven Stead of Durban’s KickstArt theatre company, and designed by the ever-impressive Greg King.
The setting is the Seven Seas, where, in the market of the Port of Al-Havanotha (geddit?), we meet dashing sailor Sinbad (Lyle Buxton, sporting a beard and moustache that suit him), his dilly dame mum, Donna Kebab (an ebullient Bryan Hiles) and Sinbad’s dimwit younger brother, Silly Billy (a delightful Graeme Wicks).
All end up taking an adventure on the high seas with conniving pirate king Long John Slither (Darren King, channelling Captain Hook), his comical sidekick Mustapha KitKat (a standout, loose-limbed Mthokozisi Zulu); Slither’s sweet daughter Marina (a radiant Amanda Kunene, a former Idols contestant who was so good in the Young Performers’ Seussical The Musical) and her sidekick Ameena Labeeba (leggy and amusing Marion Loudon, having an absolute ball).
Also aboard, for various reasons and to make waves, are the evil Morgiana the Magnificent (Belinda Henwood, on hissing good form), the Genie of the Seven Seas (played with aplomb by opera singer Sandile Masaso, who, according to Donna Kebab, resembles “a giant Smurf”); and four versatile dancers, well choreographed by Evashnee Pillay.
Kudos to KickstArt for having not only introduced some new faces to the panto family, but for also switching things up a bit – Darren King as the villain instead of his usual dame; Hiles as the dame rather than the fall guy or sweet best friend; Henwood as scowling nasty rather than good fairy. Fun.
All you’d expect of a panto – and more – is in this lively confection, including the usual audience singalong with lyrics on a drop cloth and the If I Were Not Upon the Stage line song, here with a lyrical variation and probably KickstArt’s funniest line song to date.
We also get a heap of topical references (the recent Durban storm damage; the local municipality, the devaluation of the rand) as well as gentle side swipes at everyone from the Guptas and Julius Malema, to Patricia de Lille, US rapper Nicki Minaj and Linda Bukhosini of The Playhouse Company.
The sets, props and costumes are a massive highlight, as usual, and the song choice is again a fun mix – including My Humps, Milkshake, Don’t Stop Me Now, My Heart Will Go On, How Far I’ll Go from Moana, and This Is the Moment from the musical Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
There’s even a spot of rap and Bollywood in a panto which, as Stead writes in programme notes, has something for everyone, embraces all types of theatre, and this time around also celebrates many different cultures.
Lit well by Tina le Roux, featuring sound by Ross van Wyk and with musical supervision by Jason Bird, Sinbad the Sailor is ship-shape for a whale of a time. Dive in!
The show runs until January 7. Performances are at 2.30pm every Tuesday to Sunday, with an evening performance on Fridays at 7pm. No performances are scheduled for Christmas Day or New Year’s Day.
Ticket prices range from R150 to R230 (R120 to R180 for children). Booking is at Computicket.