Stage: Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs – Playhouse Drama, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
FIRST staged in 2005 at Durban’s now-defunct KwaSuka Theatre in Greyville, then again in 2011 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, Kickstart’s Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs pantomime is now enjoying an eagerly-awaited short season at the Playhouse Drama theatre, having been commissioned by The Playhouse Company as part of its festive season programme.
What a joy to see a large-scale panto again after so very long under the suffocation of Covid-19 restrictions, even if it means limited patrons due to only 50% capacity being permitted at the venue.
A winner of 10 Durban Theatre Awards in 2011, this super-duper serving of theatrical candyfloss marks KickstArt’s 17th panto. It is written and directed with customary flair and fun by Steven Stead and playfully designed, with his usual aplomb and eye for intricate detail, by Greg King.
The show is of particular note for its whackiness and huge dollop of audience participation involving actors calling on little ones in the audience, and their parents, to hiss the villain and shout-out warnings to the good guys. And what a treat watching excited children eagerly getting into the swing of things!
While nodding to the evergreen fairytale, Stead’s Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs offers so much more – the song-laden and joke-filled story meandering down several sidepaths while introducing some oddball characters that include Bryan Hiles as Zanzibar Jack, a rum-loving, Johnny Depp-like pirate, complete with dreadlocks.
Comical Zanzibar Jack is the mate of charming Prince Valiant, played by good-voiced newcomer Sihle Manonyane, who may be remembered for his performance in the 2019 Young Performers’ youth musical, Curtain Up.
The two pals arrive at the home of vain, towering and overpowering Queen Malicia, played with scene-chewing relish by a standout Blessing Xaba (remember him as ’Fatty’ in the Spud movies?).
She, of course, is the wicked, conniving stepmum of super-sweet Snow White (strong-voiced Georgina Mabbett-Kelly, reprising the role for which she won an award in 2011). It isn’t long before Malicia gets ticked off when Valiant, whom she woos without success, starts making eyes at the darling young damsel with skin as white as snow.
Other characters are amiable royal huntsman Tom Trueshot, played by ever-dependable Mthokozisi Zulu; Polly Pumpkinseed, a scatty kitchen maid with hayfever, delightfully overplayed by Belinda Henwood, and dancers Kirsty Ndawo and Simone Mann (who also created the choreography).
Then there are the dwarfs – puppets all, and very cleverly presented – as well as a chipmunk, a cinematic talking mirror that draws loud ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’, and a chirpy, big, blue bird.
The fun, which includes loads of spectacle, sparkle and surprises, also involves topical jabs (Zuma, SARS, and Covid all get a mention). Also dotted throughout the tale are varied tunes including songs from such musicals as The Greatest Showman, Oliver! and Annie Get Your Gun, as well as pop hits such as Mr Lonely, Dancing Queen and This Kiss. The traditional singalong song, with lyrics on a giant suspended cloth, is also here, as is the popular line song (Old McDonald Had a Farm, this year) and a glittering finale where much laughter is spurred by a sparkling sleigh with a difference.
All this and touches of magic – a standout, crowd-pleasing sequence has Malicia, amid a puff of smoke, instantly morphing from camp queen to old hag in rags – makes Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs a giant, tinselly Christmas cracker of note.
The heart-warming production features musical direction by Jason Bird and lighting by Tina le Roux. Booking is at Webtickets and performances continue until December 30, as follows:
Tues, Dec 21 – 2pm and 6pm
Weds, Dec 22 – 2pm and 6pm
Thurs, Dec 23 – 2pm and 6pm
Fri, Dec 24 – 2pm
Sat, Dec 25 – no show
Sun, Dec 26 – no show
Mon, Dec 27 – no show
Tues, Dec 28 – 2pm and 6pm
Wed, Dec 29 – 2pm and 6pm
Thurs, Dec 30 – 2pm and 6pm