From the underground parking lot, the main foyer dressed by a big, sparkling green and red Christmas tree, the upstairs foyer where drinks, slush puppie and jellytots flowed, through every red seat of the auditorium glimmering with tiny flickers of stars from the disco ball, the pantomime magic was in the air. Last night at the official opening of Pinocchio at the Joburg Theatre, I felt like a kid again. I wanted to stuff my face with candy, and try on every prop at the photo booth while pulling the most ridiculous faces. And I wasn’t the only one. People from young to old and everything in between, were laughing and smiling through bubbling conversations, a cheeky dance move here and there, and the loud shriek of old friends and family reuniting. There is an intangible dreamlike atmosphere where the journey to pantomime land suspends all disbelief and allows you to forget the reality of the world just beyond the front glass doors.
While sitting in my seat, directly behind Janice Honeyman herself, I stared at her for a while (of course not in a creepy way), but in awe and amazement. How had she curated a classic tradition that was so popular, so full of life, and had brought, and continues to bring back audiences year after year? How does Janice and her team top one production from the next? I can’t say I’ve cracked the code, but all I know is, they keep doing getting it right!
This year’s Pinocchio panto is marvelous! It has everything you love and expect from the panto, and more! Always more! The high-energy performers, bright coloured costumes supported by incredibly larger than life sets of cobbled stoned Italy or the great depths of the ocean, political and truly South African satire and jokes, music for both the young and old generation, and the fight between good and evil with the villains you love to hate, and the heroes you want to cheer on. I love these classic traits of the panto. I’m comforted by the familiarity of them, like a child in class who wants to show off because they already know the answer. And although the audience was slightly a bit stiff to participate through encouragement by at the actors in the beginning, by the end of the show everyone was on their feet dancing and patting their partner’s bum!
The most outstanding thing about this year’s panto for me was the amazing performances by the cast. Pinocchio herself, I mean himself, was one of my favourites. Played by Kanyi Nokwe, her attention to detail and movements of her puppet character were mesmerizing. Ill Fortunato and Pussy Galore, played by Andre Schwartz and Chi Mende, our villainous villains, were a dynamite pair. Both vocally and performance strong, I enjoyed their partner chemistry and they were so good at being bad I secretly wanted them to win. Other standout performances included Jiminy Cricket, played by Mark Tatham, whose energy just never ran out and always made you laugh, Lampwick played by Ben Kgosimore, whose optimism and winning smile melted your heart and Garth Collins (you’ll know him from MTN Gladiators) who played Strombolio, The Ringmaster and The Bad Boatman, who was both scary and adorable at the same time. Of course classic theatre veterans like Tobie Cronje and Ilse Klink, gave consistently brilliant performances that make you love them even more. In its in entirety, the whole cast gave top-notch performances that had me hooked from beginning to end.
The Pinocchio panto is a roller coaster ride of adventures. It caters for every age; from the bright and colourful lights of Candyland and impressive trickery of the stage levels (I, myself, am always fascinated by this!), a giant sea monster and ship wreck, complete with thunderstorm and the works, not forgetting an actual train that travels across the stage that will have the young ones glued, to the witty, sometimes sassy, humor and current affairs jokes about the Guptas fleeing or the state capture the adults will love. Of course, our South African politics give plenty of material to work with. The new music is current and pop, while the oldschool jams are classics that most generations will know because their parents played it on repeat. The dance moves are fun, high-energy and the type of moves you want to cheer on and encourage while you make the circle bigger with their local twist and flavor.
This year’s panto has something for everybody to enjoy. It’s that perfect feel-good-Christmas-vibe-end-of-the-year escapism that Joburgers need after a full year of hustle and bustle, hours in traffic and skyrocketing crime rates. It’s a great community activity where you can invite your boss or even your mother-in-law, the whole family, or just meeting up with friends to get the perfect Instagram photo, and jump on the #PinocchioSA trend. It’s the complete treat for everyone.
Make sure to book your tickets to see Pinocchio at Joburg Theatre, showing until 30 December 2017. To book your tickets visit www.joburgtheatre.com, or call 0861 670 670. You can also book and pay via the Nedbank app or walk-in at selected Pick ‘n Pay stores to book via webtickets.