Stage: 031 Temptations – OnStage@Altitude at Club Altitude in Silver Avenue, Morningside, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
HELLO boys and girls, it’s back – Durban’s traditional annual naughty panto is now running until January 11 in the quaint OnStage@Altitude, the 80-seater supper theatre at Club Altitude in Silver Avenue, Morningside (between Stamford Hill Road and Umgeni Road).
This always deliberately tacky and tinselly treat, produced on a shoestring budget, has been a feature of the Durban festive season for 23 years now, and still manages to raise smiles and holiday spirits.
As usual, one is encouraged to take along one’s own eats, but all drinks must be bought at the venue’s pub. Seating is at tables of eight.
This year’s production, unfolding on a small stage decorated to resemble a circus tent but, curiously, with an ornate couch as its only prop, sidesteps the usual tradition of twisting a fairytale. Instead, it opts for an original plot with heaps of local spice.
However, it retains all the trademarks of previous pantos for grown-ups, offering a jolly mish-mash of nonsense and mickey-take, risqué one-liners, audacious innuendo and a merry mix of songs including show tunes and old chart favourites.
As usual, the team pokes fun at the whole pantomime tradition via a very meagre and meandering plot. This year, it nudges, winks and jabs at local politics and politicians while pushing a story about a domineering showgirl, Queer Illa De Lill (seasoned Durban panto dame Darren King), who is hellbent on causing mayhem in the animal kingdom of Azania.
In her sights are safari-suited Frik (the ever-ebullient and scene-stealing Bryan Hiles, in his first adult panto after many years starring in the grander KickstArt pantomimes) and Adele (sweet Philisiwe Ntintili, who made her debut in last year’s adult panto at this venue, Twice Upon a Mattress).
Queer Illa De Lill plots to separate races and enlists Frik to assist, but a spanner is thrown into the works when he falls for the husband-hungry Adele, who spends much of the show joining her co-stars to look for an ever-elusive cast latecomer called Anthony.
He turns out to be longtime Durban adult panto favourite, and popular drag queen, Anthony Stonier, who finally arrives for a finale medley of show tunes, wearing a micro mini. The character appears to have no relevance whatsoever to the plot, but that’s the absurdity of panto-on-a-shoestring, for you. Just go with the flow…
Also featured in 031 Temptations is another longtime adult panto favourite, Thomie Holtzhausen, who wrote and directed the show. He appears as a number of characters, including a priest, a detective called Paul Hawks, a bored Cupid during a ridiculous and amusing dance routine by Hiles and Ntintili; and, for a cook-off interlude involving two audience members, his popular, recurring Indian ‘aunty’ character, Tiger Lily.
Featuring songs from shows such as Cabaret, Funny Girl and La Cage Aux Folles, the popular panto traditional If I Were Not Upon the Stage, as well as hits associated with Mango Groove, Racey, Whitney Houston, Laura Branigan and The Supremes, 031 Temptations may not be among the best of the adult pantos but has sufficient energy and fun to keep the spirits up this silly season.
“The coloured strobes from the venue extend over Silver Avenue to reflect on the walls of the buildings opposite; the bustle of the normally active road is serene and your vehicles are quite safe under the watchful eyes of a car-guard or two, so that you can truly forget your cares and chuckle away at the on-stage antics,” explains Holtzhausen.
Performances are every Wednesday to Saturday at 7.30pm and tickets cost R150 each. To book, or for more info, phone Thomie Holtzhausen at 064 476 9533.