Stage: Peter Pan (Adult Panto) – OnStage@Altitude
at 25 Silver Avenue, Stamford Hill, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
YES, it’s naughty panto time again, boys and girls – and the popular Durban tradition of a small cast mounting an intentionally tacky, tinselly and tongue-in-cheek entertainment on a showstring budget, for a strictly grown-up audience, is now in its 25th year, believe it or not!
First presented in 1996 at Durban’s much-missed Cellar cabaret venue at The Playhouse, and staged at various venues since, the annual small-scale panto has been staged over the festive season at OnStage@Altitude since 2016.
Scheduled to run at the intimate cabaret venue at 25 Silver Avenue, in Stamford Hill, until December 30, this year’s mangling of a fairytale classic nods to Peter Pan and follows last year’s merry distortion of the Red Riding Hood story.
As usual, the show is loaded with jokes both corny and below the belt. Sexual innuendo is everywhere and the plot is a loose hanger for mischief, mirth, mayhem, a mixed bag of pop and show songs, and a bulging sackful of sillinesss. Heck, this year we even get nods to callgirls and rent boys.
Peter Pan is a tweaking and updating of the 2010 production of the same name, which was staged at the now-defunct Dockyard Theatre in Musgrave Centre. That original production took the Durban Theatre Award for Music Revue Production (for Sue Clarence Promotions) as well as the Performer award in that category, for Thomie Holtzhausen.
Good news is that Holtzhausen, owner of Altitude, is back again to reprise his award-winning performance in various roles, while Peter Pan scriptwriter King has not only revisited his original script but also directs and now, in leotard, wig, coat and ribboned heels, also joins a cast that includes Slindile Khuzwayo, Wonder Ndlovu and Chaunees Bokaba.
Peter Pan is not among the top adult pantos ever staged in Durban but the team, with oodles of nudge, wink and zeal, presents a show that is giddy, goofy and a good giggle – a perfect ‘regmaaker’ for these tough times.
The action unfolds on a set designed by Bryan Hiles, on a modest stage overlooking a small audience (thanks to Covid-19 restrictions). Seating is at tables, where one can take along a picnic basket of eats to enjoy during the show, but must make use of the intimate venue’s pub for all drinks.
The panto opens with King arriving on stage, a hook replacing his left hand, singing a lyrically revised Sweet Transvestite from The Rocky Horror Show. He is Hooker, a lecherous so-and-so who soon crosses paths with the boyish ‘rent boy’ Peter Pan, played with gusto by newcomer Ndlovu.
Peter loses his shadow then meets Wendy (sweet and strong-voiced Khuzwayo) but thereafter J M Barrie’s classic tale of a forever-young lad from Neverland takes many, very unexpected turns. To say more would spoil the fun, so suffice it to say we get to meet a twinkling, mischievous Tinkerbell (a fun Bokaba), while other characters thrown into the mix – all played with relish by the scene-stealing Holtzhausen – include Indian granny Tiger Lily from Blue Lagoon, a rude flasher called Smee and a tarty Mrs Darling, in a towering, blonde, fright wig.
The show takes topical jabs at everyone and everything from Malema, Zuma, Sonny and Cher to Covid-19, The Playhouse, Ushaka Marine World, King Shaka Airport and The Bluff.
Songs performed to backing tracks include a good rendition of the Dreamgirls hit One Night Only (a crowd-pleasing solo by Wendy), Michael Jackson’s Beat It (a Peter solo), Me and My Shadow (a Peter and Hooker duet) and Got to Pick a Pocket Or Two (Hooker and Smee), the hit from the musical Oliver. Other vocal highlights are the Peter and Wendy duet, Shallow (from A Star is Born), Hooker’s saucy I Wanna Be Evil, Wendy’s Old Fashioned Millionaire and the amusing traditional line song, If I Were Not Upon the Stage.
Altitude’s doors open at 6.30pm, an hour before the show, which is restricted to over-18s and runs for about an hour, without an interval. Tickets cost R150 each (discounts for groups). Book online via Quicket or send a Whatsapp to Thomie Holtzhausen at 064 476 9533.