The Emperor’s New Clothes  

Performers: Henu Baden and Jessie Diepeveen
Director and script: Sue Diepeveen
Design: Jessie Diepeveen (set) Sue Diepeveen (costumes)
Where: The Masque, 37 Main Rd, Muizenberg, Cape Town, 7950, South Africa
When: February 9, 10 and 11, 2024, at 14h30
Tickets: From R100
Book at Quicket:

Presented by: The Drama Factory
Discounted block bookings – more than 10 tickets: e-mail  
Box office: The Masque Box Office is open from 9am to 2pm every Wednesday

The Drama Factory’s production of The Emperor’s New Clothes was on last weekend (February 9, 10 and 11, 2024), in Muizenberg at the Masque. It is an electrifying Emperor new Clothes which zips and zaps into the Zeitgeist of our times. The young and very talented Jessie Diepeveen and Henu Baden play various characters who are fleshed out with nuance. Sue Diepeveen is the director and has also written the spirited script. It is a crackling adaption of the much loved Hans Christian Anderson morality tale – funny and pitched at young audiences with delicious characters to pull them into and immerse them in the narrative. There is audience participation. I won’t production spoil. In addition to delighting the small fry, the script is heaped with sardonic ripostes and asides for the adults- with biting political commentary into load shedding and the need to be politically attuned to what is going on around us. His Majesty (the emperor) doesn’t care a hoot. Core to the emperor is his vanity, self obsession and narcissism and this has been heightened in this production, through his fixation with TikTok.

I attended the performance on February 9, 2024, which followed the State of the Nation Address in South Africa – February 8 – and there in this kids production, we see the frustrated Larinda (Jessie Diepeveen), the PA to His Majesty/The Emperor (Henu Baden) trying to engage him about SONA. This is indicative of how director/writer Sue Diepeveen and the cast bring fresh titbits to each performance, keeping it topical and on-point. The use of improv and the participation of the audience means that each performance will be different.

His Majesty is obsessed with TikTok and despite the Larinda’s efforts is intent on getting Charlotte, a TikTok fashion star/influencer to be in his camp so he can dupe his subjects. I loved Larinda’s smart corporate persona as opposed to the garish His Highness who has no fashion sense.

Of course all ends well. I won’t narrative spoil. It is a lot of fun with zany characters and outstanding performance from Diepeveen and Baden who are adept with physical theatre and improv and they bring their extensive acting smarts to this production.

The attention to costumes and props (Sue Diepeveen) is fabulous. Jessie Diepeveen has created a wondrous set design – evoking a fairy tale royal real estate pad, with saturated pinks, blues and flashes of tangerine and purple [see screenshot from my TikTok on this page]. Jessie told me that she used AI for her design and it was then screen printed onto a canvas. It frames the story beautifully and together with the fun lights (with a disco vibe) and upbeat music, the stage is activated with energy and verve. To get a sense of the energy of this production, see my TikTok video:

The Emperor’s New Clothes is a treat – visually (design- sound, costumes, props, lighting), theatrically (performances) and conceptually adroit in its embrace of TikTok. Yes, it is a cautionary tale but this adaption is also a tribute to the fun and enjoyable element of TikTok- the dancing, wackiness and fun that it brings people of all ages and that is cool. Why not have fun but know one’s boundaries and make sure that we know the influencers in our midst.

This is innovative, quality and electrifying children’s theatre production, which is underscored by a savvy socio-political conceptual arc. I love, loved, loved The Emperor’s New Clothes and hope that it tours widely.

Vibing it: Jessie Diepeveen and Henu Baden in The Emperor’s New Clothes, directed and scripted by Sue Diepeveen. The production has been produced by The Drama Factory, South Africa. Pic supplied.
Wacky royal real estate pad: Jessie Diepeveen’s set for The Emperor’s New Clothes was created using AI. This production, produced by The Drama Factory in South Africa was staged February 2024 at the Masque in Muizenberg. This is a screenshot of a video posted on TikTok, by Robyn Cohen/TheCapeRobyn, performance of February 9, 2024 at the Masque.

✳ Featured image: Henu Baden and Jessie Diepeveen in The Emperor’s New Clothes, directed and scripted by Sue Diepeveen. The production has been produced by The Drama Factory, South Africa. Pic supplied.