Review: Innovative Sleeping Beauty at the Masque Theatre Muizenberg, Cape Town, with gender bending fairies and a knockout Maleficent

Sleeping Beauty- a musical for all ages Where: The Masque, 37 Main Road, Muizenberg, Cape Town

When: December 9 – 23, 2022 and then January 5-15, 2023
Tickets: R100-R120 -available at Quicket
Direction/adaption: Faeron Wheeler
Musical director: Tersia Harley
Choreography: Stephanie McCulloch
Costume design: Jennifer Carbutt of Studio Kasuga    

Impressive Sleeping Beauty, staged by the Masque Theatre in Muizenberg, Cape Town, for the festive season December 2022 to January 2023, with Faeron Wheeler directing and musical direction by Tersia Harley. Sleeping Beauty is innovative, with fabulous gender bending fairies (Rufaro Mvududu, Tithonia Roux and Claire Thomson) and a knockout Maleficent played by Kim Mortimer – rock chick with leather, horns, swishy dress. The costumes of the fairies and Maleficent have been designed by Jennifer Carbutt of Studio Kasuga. Wheeler has cooked up a delicious adaptation of the fairy tale. For instance, Maleficent has a penchant for shopping at Woolies. The song play list is fabulous. Savvy references to social media, trends, TV shows.

Wheeler’s adaption has stripped much of the mawkishness that goes with this fairy tale with her rendition of the fairies and Maleficent. They undercut the more traditional rendition of the King, Queen and Aurora. It gets dark and very interesting in the 2nd half with striking lighting design (Gary Fargher and Gail Duguid Fargher).  I loved the mashing up traditional with contemporary and would like to see that even taken further in future adaptions of fairy tales.

Last festive season [2021/22], we were still subject to lockdown regulations. We had a surge in infections, which kept people away from theatres. With the pandemic on the boil, The Masque presented Cinderella to provide festive season cheer and provide comic release and relief. The production was created in six weeks and was energetic and entertaining. For Sleeping Beauty, they had four months and the hard work is evidenced in this terrific production – which is probably one of the most vivid re-imaging of the fairy tale that I have seen. Cinderella bordered on the camp and a romp. Sleeping Beauty transcends send-up. The fairies and Maleficent are the catalyst for a nuanced out-of-the-box staging. The choreography (Stephanie McCulloch) is considered and the ensemble works well with the principals.

I was delighted by the voices – actually amazed. This may be a community theatre production but a number of the performers have been professionally trained in musical theatre. I chatted to a few performers and yes, they have the degree and have for various decided to work in other areas.  They do community for the love of theatre. For instance, Shaun Klaasen delivers a superb performance as Prince James by. He has the performance arts degree and has performed in professional productions in South Africa and on the international circuit- including Off Broadway (New York). He got married, got a job, teaching at a Cape Town school and here he is, as a measured and polished Prince. 

The fairies are terrific. I chatted to Rufaro Mvududu (Sola). She hails from Zimbabwe and did theatre at school. She works in the medical field. It is interesting to find out about the performers and what they do for their day jobs and how theatre is their passion. They put their spare time into rehearsals and preparing. Great to see community theatre maven, Wayne Anthony Ronné back on stage – as the King. He had a bad bout of Covid (and his family) and it is wonderful to see him dancing in his kilt

People in the industry can be disparaging of community theatre. I think that is a shame. Sure, performers vary in terms of skill sets. With community theatre, although there are auditions, one works with what there is who is available. The idea is to provide a platform for those that want to be part of the show and have fun. Obviously some performers are ‘stronger’ than others.  The fun element comes across in this production. They look they are enjoying themselves but at the same time, there is precision and careful placing on stage – testament to Wheeler and the creative team The Masque’s 2022/23 Sleeping Beauty is children’s fairy tale fare – above the usual trumpeting of the much loved story. Support the Masque and community theatre. Go see Sleeping Beauty.

Fairy tale imagined. Kim Mortimer as Maleficent (left) and Karla Britz, Tithonia Roux, Wayne Ronne (King in kilt), Tanya Smith (Queen) and ensemble – Sleeping Beauty – Masque Theatre December 2022 – January 2023. Photo: Faeron Wheeler

✳Featured image: Claire Thomson, Tithonia Roux, Kim Mortimer and Rufaro Mvududu in Sleeping Beauty, Masque Theatre, Cape Town, December 2022 – January 2023. Photo: Faeron Wheeler.

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