Yo ho ho and a stage full of funLesley Stones
Lesley Stones: Whether you shriek and cheer or boo and hiss at pantomimes, Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates is a big and bold production.
A man with a massive smile jovially announces after Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates that anyone who doesn’t enjoy the show is clearly a heartless cynic. So that makes me a cynic. Oh yes I am. Oh no, I’m not. Oh yes, I am….
But it’s not cynicism that can prevent you from enjoying all the razzamatazz of a traditional pantomime. Some people just aren’t programmed to enjoy these formulaic tales where the goody triumphs over the baddy, the prince finally gets his girl, and the audience gets to sing along.
If you’re into all that stuff, you’ll adore this year’s offering written and directed by panto princess Janice Honeyman.
This is a lavish show put together with such vast oodles of money that Honeyman must have a fairy godmother of her own.
Its shiniest star is Marc Lottering, who does an admirable job flapping around as Dame Lolly Lottalove, a loveable slapper tarted up by Lottering’s irrepressible wit. There are numerous other theatrical stalwarts in it too, with Louise Saint-Claire, Michael Richard and Judy Page all giving splendid performances.
Saint-Claire plays the mean mayoress, a Helen Zille wannabe who adds some much-needed adult-oriented wit to keep the parents happy. The perfect panto has a double thread running through the script with corny gags and eye-candy for the kids and clever jokes and innuendoes for the adults. Robinson Crusoe is a little lightweight on the adult aspects. Only Lottering and Saint-Claire’s mayoress bring in any social and political satire, making it a show to skip if you don’t have wide-eyed youngsters in tow.
Since a good portion of the cast is drawn from TV series and soapies there’s a greater emphasis on references to television shows. But one hitch is that some of the diction isn’t clear enough, so part of the wit is wasted.
Kids will lap it up, though, and be thrilled by the endless variety of changing scenery, the sword fight, pretty costumes and the overall opulence of the production.
The story gives Honeyman the chance to bring in an impressive pirate ship, a cave that rises up from underground, and fireworks that literally add some sparkle to the already glittering show. There are endless scene changes as the rather loose plot takes us on a quest to rescue the kidnapped Primrose Petal, played by the gorgeous Tanya van Graan.
The action is interwoven with numerous songs supported by a five-piece band, with lyrics sometimes adapted to fit the plot and others just plonked in because it’s time for another quick burst of exuberance.
Although it flags a little in the second half, Robinson Crusoe is a high-energy, extremely well executed bit of fluff. And even we cynics know there’s nothing wrong with a bit of fluff occasionally.
Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates runs at the Joburg Theatre until January 2, 2011.
Lesley Stones is a former Brit who is now proudly South African.
She started her career by reviewing rock bands for a national UK music paper, then worked for various newspapers before spending four fun-filled years in Cairo, where she ended up editing a technology magazine.
Lesley was the Information Technology Editor for Business Day for 12 years before quitting to go freelance, specialising in travel & leisure writing and being opinionated about life in general. Her absolute passions are travel, theatre, the cinema, wining and dining.
Joburg Theatre Complex, Loveday Street Braamfontein Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa