Janice Honeyman's Peter Pan - The PantomimeI am not a panto-virgin anymore! My panto-virginity has been torn to shreds thanks to Peter Pan. Joburg Theatre last night hosted the opening night for Peter Pan: The Pantomime, directed by legend Janice Honeyman, produced by another theatre legend Bernard Jay and sponsored by BankServ. The pantomime, panto for short, is in association with Mnet, Jacaranda FM and Your Family magazine; and sometime in the month of December 2014 into January 2015, will be broadcast on Mnet.

The story of Peter Pan is for most of us a well known tale. It was not for me. I mean, I knew about Peter Pan but I didn’t have much of an idea of Neverland and how Wendy Darling came about. As far as I knew, Captain Hook was a bad pirate and Tinker Bell is Paris Hilton’s chihuahua. Ok, maybe I knew that Tinker Bell is a fairy from the story. In case you are about to say it – no, I did not have a sad childhood. I just didn’t take to animated stuff well when I was a kid, nor do I now. I felt watching cartoons endorsed not being taken seriously by adults, so I insisted on news bulletins and current affairs from age eight. To date, I still cannot stomach cartoons, baby talk and puppets.

So I took the pantomime opportunity with the idea of opening myself to a new experience. I was going against my grain not only because it was my first time and that I was taking a chance on a storyline from cartoons, but also because as theatre goes, this is totally different from the theatre I enjoy. I am drawn to, and enjoy performance art that is heart wrenching, gut exposing and incredibly cerebral. If not, then it has to be lewd or violent. Art. For adults. But boy did I have a surprise waiting for me!

The production turned out to be a phenomenal presentation. From the live music to the lighting, props and sound – it was well orchestrated, not a hair out of place. I wonder why they do not tour the country with that show! There is a brilliant cast led by Michael Riff Themba as Peter Pan and Craig Urbani as Captain Hook – it’s a stellar ensemble with incredible laughs coming from Thembsie Matu who plays Tinker Bell and Weslee Swain Lauder who plays Clementina Coconut. The spirit in which it is performed is whimsical and convivial, it is special and the idea of tradition – the pantomime being a mainstay of the Joburg family theatre circuit – is tangible.

Peter Pan Pantomime at Joburg Theatre

The closing number – Peter Pan: The Pantomime

Written for both parents and children, the presentation appeals to kids; and the script with its numerous double entendres and political commentary appeals to adults. Pop culture references are littered throughout; from pop hits and classics like Rihanna’s ‘Shut Up and Drive’, Sara Bareilles and Katy Perry’s ‘Brave’ and ‘Roar’ mashed up, Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ and Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’ to the cast doing the dougie, pliés and the nae nae in their dance numbers . The audience will sing along to songs, say a few lines and participate in a number of activities like the scratch and sniff cards. I am not a big fan of participatory theatre but the kids will love it.

Bravo to a team of dedicated individuals – Janice Honeyman, Bernard Jay, the outstanding cast, musical director Roelof Colyn, talented choreographer Timothy Le Roux, the lighting designer Graham McLusky, sound designer Trevor Peters and the many faces behind the scenes, pulling the ropes and making things happen.

Janice Honeyman’s Peter Pan: The Pantomime will be running at at The Mandela, at the Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein, Johannesburg until December 28th, 2014. Rumour has it that 80,000 tickets have already been sold meaning that the tickets left are quite limited. So go on to http://www.joburgtheatre.com/ and make your booking – it will be an absolute treat for the family! Tickets range from R195 – R310.

Thembsie Matu & Craig Urbani. Peter Pan: The PaJoburg Theatre

The hilarious Thembsie as Tinker Bell and Craig as Captain Hook. Photo from SouthernCourier.co.za