David Wood, the theatrical creator of Noddy, also wrote a delightful tale about The Gingerbread Man who lives on a shelf in the house of the Big Ones. Directors Jill Girard and Keith Smith bring this story to life at The People’s Theatre, Joburg Theatre Complex.
The set by Marius Boshoff is a bright, bold dresser, with an assortment of crockery and dominated by a wooden cuckoo clock. It works so well, allowing for some wonderful rigging which enables our Gingerbread hero to ‘fly’. I remember that as a child I had a distinct fascination with cuckoo clocks, almost to the point that I very nearly purchased one when travelling around Europe. Only good sense and a relatively lean budget stopped me! I noted that the children seemed to find this aspect as enchanting as I did at their age.
Gavin Gomes is Herr Von Cuckoo, Noni Mkhonto is the Old Bag, Vishendra Singh is Sleek the Mouse, Sean McGrath is Mr Salt and Alexandra Snyman was Miss Pepper (Alexandra will be alternating with her sister, Isabella Snyman, in the role of Miss Pepper).
The young Karabo Oberem is already a seasoned star, having played the Man Cub in Jungle Book, and he did exceptionally well in The Gingerbread Man. Other young actors who can be seen in the role are Ziya Deva and Joseph Joffe.
There was very little audience participation, although the children responded enthusiastically to requests from the stage. The costume Mr Salt wore was particularly charming, and the Old Bag was quite intimidating until she realised that helping people would help her to be liked, but it was the pinstripe suited Sleek the Mouse who stole my heart. The costumes were all by Linda Wilson.
At interval I was quite stressed, the honey had been poisoned and our little cuckoo was about to eat it and the audience simply abandoned him in favour of tea, cakes and gingerbread men.
The musical aspect is fun and the creative team, and even a lot of the actors, are regulars at The People’s Theatre. Louis Zurname is musica director, Grant Knottenbelt is the lighting designer with Peter Setshedi doing lighting operation, Johnson Oketade is the sound engineer, assisted by Laura Westran. Images are Vivid Images. Stage management is by Alfred Mokoena and the theatre assistant is Joyced Ligege. Front of house you are likely to meet Andrew Fraser or Lorraine De Araujo and, of course, directors Jill Girard and Keith Smith.
The Gingerbread Man, directed by Jill Girard and Keith Smith, is at the People’s Theatre in the Joburg Theatre complex until 5 August. I attended on 9 June 2012 in the morning.