/ 7 December 2023

It is that stage of the year again ….

Suzy Bernstein (1)
Imagination: The Terrified Talabalushi, a theatre piece with music for children, is on at The Market Theatre in Joburg. Photo: Suzy Bernstein

As the holiday season heats up, theatres across the country are offering a range of performances for audiences of all ages, from comedy to pantomimes and thought-provoking political satire.

For over three decades, the panto has been a reliable staple in Joburg, offering fun-filled adventures with light-hearted adult innuendo. 

In Cape Town, theatre at this time of year competes with restaurants, bars, scenic views, and beaches. And in Durban, sundowner concerts, Christmas carols, dance shows and music performances at The Playhouse, as well as KickstArt’s annual traditional-style panto at the Sneddon Theatre, are the main attractions. 

For many young people, a December visit is their first encounter with a theatrical performance.

This year, at Joburg’s The Market Theatre, families with young children can enjoy The Terrified Talabalushi, a multilingual children’s theatre piece by acclaimed Cape Town writer Megan Choritz. 

It is directed by award-winning Omphile Molusi and has music by multi-talented Volley Nchabeleng. 

Set in the Knysna forest, the protagonist, Tokkie, a young Talabalushi, grapples with fear, preventing him from fulfilling his mischievous duty of keeping humans out of the forest. 

This South African production imaginatively allows young audiences a chance to explore the emotion of fear in a safe and entertaining environment.

The Joburg Theatre once again beckons with Janice Honeyman’s much-loved pantomime Peter Pan

Just next door, at the People’s Theatre, you can encounter the green ogre on his quest, accompanied by a wisecracking donkey, in Shrek: The Musical Jr. This is an energetic and fun show for those who love recognisable, mainstream characters.

In Durban, KickstArt Theatre presents the panto Aladdin, featuring the flying carpets, giant genies, popular songs and impressive sets that are a signature of this award-winning independent theatre company. 

With a cast led by Daniel Anderson as Aladdin and Blessing Xaba as Widow Twankey, this rendition of the popular tale is essential for families looking to add a touch of theatrical magic to their holidays.

For those seeking a musical journey, DuPreez Strauss returns to the Theatre on the Square in Sandton with Dreamland, featuring piano interpretations of Disney songs coupled with Strauss’s reflection on his time as co-music director and orchestra conductor for the stage production of The Lion King.

On the comedic front, Marc Lottering is at The Baxter Theatre in Cape Town with So I Wrote That Musical. In this comedy show, Lottering reflects on the challenges of navigating between the worlds of stand-up and musical theatre, throwing into the mix his take on the madness of South African life.

Also at The Baxter for a limited run is Mike van Graan’s political satire My Fellow South Africans

Performed by the talented Kim Blanche Adonis, this one-person show has enjoyed a national tour this year, providing thought-provoking and highly entertaining commentary on the state of the country.

Adding to Johannesburg’s festive season is the brand-new South African comedy A Marry Little Christmas, which premiered at The Market Theatre this week to a standing ovation. 

The feel-good play is about two very different Johannesburg families trying to make the most of the “happiest day of the year”. 

A Marry Little Christmas is a laugh-a-minute, holiday-themed play about family dynamics, misunderstandings, and the madness of eating hot turkey under the  South African sun. It is directed by Charmaine Weir-Smith and written by me under commission from How Now Brown Cow Productions.

As the lights go up on this range of varied theatrical work, live performance offers a holiday season filled with laughter, adventure, music and playful fun.

The nation’s stages are set to provide a much-needed escape into the world of theatre after a challenging year.

Greg Homann is the artistic director of The Market Theatre Foundation. His work as an award-winning director, dramaturg, playwright, educator, and academic has positioned him as a leading figure in the South African theatrical landscape.