Stage: Jack and the Beanstalk – Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre
(Morning and afternoon performances only – Tuesdays to Sundays, until January 15
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
A CHARMING hero in great voice, a Scottish giant with a massive headache, two imbecilic and very amusing baddies, a deliciously boo-worthy villain, a sweet princess, magic beans, a man-sized spider. Then there’s a towering and terrific dame, a gossamer-winged fairy that talks in rhyme, dancing minions, a golden harp, fireworks, a lively cow, singing livestock and, of course, a massive beanstalk to a castle in the clouds.
Welcome to the colossal cracker of a Christmas confection that is KickstArt’s 16th pantomime – a frothy, fabulous show jam-packed with comedy, surprises, topical nudge-winks, varied songs from the charts and musicals, and a whacky line-up of characters. It offers just the right amount of tinselly sparkle everyone needs to brighten the year!
Written and directed by Steven Stead, Jack and the Beanstalk was last staged in this same theatre in 2013 (with Rory Booth as Jack and Jessica Sole as his love interest). It marks KickstArt’s first panto in the Sneddon Theatre since Covid-19 thrashed the world. And what a well-deserved, wonderful ‘welcome home’ it received from the wildly enthusiastic, capacity audience at last night’s official opening.
Highlighting customarily bright and detailed, cartoon-like sets by Greg King, lit by Tina le Roux, freshly choreographed by Simone Mann and featuring delightful work by costumiere Shanti Naidoo, the panto has dialogue updated for more topical nudge-winks. Fun comes from taking the mickey out of everything from political parties, the Bluff, general Durban woes and Telkom, to Charlize Theron, Meghan Markle and Caster Semenya.
The show stars Durbanite William Young who, making his professional debut as Jack, displays a winning smile, a cool confidence, an easy charm, a good sense of rhythm and a terrific singing voice. I predict this 20-year-old is set for a glowing future in theatre.
As with all pantos he creates, Stead directs with flair and a lightness of touch and once again his script, while sketching the familiar outline of his chosen fairytale, boldly embroiders on it with quirky additional characters and some wonderfully playful ingredients.
Cute-as-a-button Roshanda Lewis (who was the title character in KickstArt’s Cinderella a few years ago) is in fine voice as Jack’s love-interest, Princess Jill, and that equally impressive songbird, Shelley McLean, makes a perfect garden fairy called Glissanda Goldenvox, who comes to Jack’s aid.
Chewing all the scenery and having a ball doing so, is Liesl Coppin, delicious in her reprisal of her role as power-hungry sorceress Lady Perfidia Beastly. Also well cast is Lyle Buxton (on stilts under kilts, and operating arm extensions), who plays club-wielding giant-in-the-clouds, Blunderbore, of ‘Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum’ fame.
Dancers Simone Mann and Kirsty Ndawo play various roles, with the always-in-disguise Carl Oosthuizen portraying cow Buttercup and the scuttling spider mentioned earlier.
And now the big drumroll… there are three clear standouts in this panto and one of them is Spud star Blessing Xaba as Jack’s larger-than-life mum, Dame Flora Flatbroke. He offers much mirth in many quick asides, cheerful song-and-dance moments and a chaotic baking scene.
The other stars of this show are the comical, bumbling robbers – hunched and dim-witted Cecil (Bryan Hiles speaking in a high voice throughout) and eye-rolling, self-appointed-robber-in-charge Claude (the ever-dependable Iain ‘Ewok’ Robinson). It’s this twosome that gets the audience to participate in the always-obligatory panto singalong, complete with large, printed lyrics displayed on a drop of fabric.
Jack and the Beanstalk is a perfect Christmas gift for the young of every age. Hurry to get your tickets (R130 to R250) at Computicket, where you will also find the full schedule of performance times.