Theatre review: Tales of A Big Bad Wolf – fairy tales- with a cool and hip vibe- script written by Nikki Turner and original music by Anton Luitingh

What: Tales of A Big Bad Wolf- children’s theatre
Where: Kalk Bay Theatre (on the premises of the Brass Bell)
When and times: December 11-24, 2021 at 10.30am, Tuesday through Sunday
Tickets: R100 [plus R5 booking fee]
Direct booking link:
Writer and director: Nikki Turner
Original music: Anton Luitingh
Performers: Stuart Brown, Tannah Levick, Noluthando Dlamini, Tjaart Van Der Walt and Tamryn Oates  

I attended a performance of Tales of A Big Bad Wolf, its opening weekend, Sunday December 12, 2021. This energetic and fun production features graduates from LAMTA [The Cape Town acting academy headed up by Anton Luitingh and Duane Alexander]. The director is Nikki Turner [formerly Louw] who has also written the script and the original music has been composed by Anton Luitingh who heads up LAMTA with Duane Alexander. In fairy tale parlance, Turner and Luitingh performed a version of this production, a long, long time ago, at the National Arts Festival – when Makhanda was known as Grahamstown.  Louw who is a Stellenbosch drama graduate, acted in professional children’s theatre troupes, also a long, long time ago. She loved the medium of theatre for small fry – particularly fairy tales – and now as a mother and drama teacher- she decided that it would be cool to construct a fairy tale play which speaks to young people and riffs off references that they are familiar with – TV, games, lingo. See interview with Turner, where she talks about being inspired by her young daughters and what interests them. []

High production values – design and costumes

Turner was keen to put on quality children’s theatre – with high production levels – design (lighting, costumes) and music – which is why she invited her long-time friend Luitingh on board. Fairy tales remain a favourite staple for kids  and grapple with many themes which allow them to work through fears. Parents and educators love the opportunity to get life lessons across – being wary of strangers,  not venturing into the isolated places (Little Red Riding Hood); staying safe in a shelter-in-place (The Three Little Pigs). Turner has woven together a compendium of fairy tales with the so called big bad wolf taking centre stage. Plot spoiler alert- the wolf pleads his case that he is not such a bad dude. The script is on pulse of young argot. Even fairy tale characters are not safe from getting ‘cancelled’  [as in cancelculture or call-out culture- shaming people on social media]. Rona gets a nod  when Little Red’s granny (aka the wolf) is coughing – and may have a touch of Covid. The young cast is terrific. Fabulous leg hoists from Tannah Levick. It is lovely to see a youthful cast perform children’s theatre. They are not children and are not veteran musical theatre stars. The kids in the audience can relate to them. The script and music is a delight – wonderful to hear the original music by Luitingh.  

Open windows – ocean ventilation at the Kalk Bay Theatre

Watching on Sunday, in a time when we are wary of the #Omicron Rona variant, it was fabulous to see the sliding windows of the theatre, being opened by stage manager Luella Holland. The blackout curtains were billowing as the waves of the ocean gusted against the theatre walls. I found this very comforting and applaud the Kalk Bay Theatre for making theatre as ‘safe’ as possible, during these strange days. Yes the ocean was noisy and it may have at times made parts of the dialogue difficult to hear, but it added to the context of watching theatre, during Rona. The cast is unable to interact physically with the audience – because it is Rona. They cannot bring skids onto stage.  In ‘normal’ times, the small fry would be sitting close to the stage. These are not ‘normal’ times.

All together now – shouting out fave lines

The kids loved Tales of A Big Bad Wolf  and shouted out in unison – “Little Pig Little Pig, let me in. Little pig, little pig, let me in…Not by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin … I will huff and puff and blow your house down…” I also joined in. There is huge cathartic and fun in reeling off those lines. Interestingly the origin story of The Three Little Pigs is said to be traced to 1890 English Fairy Tales, compiled by Joseph Jacobs and he credited James Halliwell-Phillipps – an English Shakespearean scholar who collected nursey rhymes and fairy tales. [] There are versions in other languages. Fairy tales, myths and fables tend to pop up – the same but different. I think that is what makes them such great material for theatre. Turner quips in her script: “Fairy tales take on a story of its own”. In her telling, we see a Cinderella who has performance anxiety and has to be cajoled to go to Prince Charming’s ball. We hear about the proliferation of dodgy princes in Snow White and Cinderella. The Narrator muses that he has to fix everything. It adds up to a “fairy tale revolution”. Tales of A Big Bad Wolf  is cool and hip children’s theatre

Encore – more children’s theatre

I hope to see more children’s theatre from Nikki Turner, at the Kalk Bay Theatre. I loved the open windows and the sense of sitting in a theatre, perched IN the ocean. It would be great to see a show which is site-responsive– perhaps for a kid’s show or another show? How about that – Ash Searle and Vanessa Harris – proprietors of the KBT? How about using the ocean as a ‘prop’ and/or design feature? Applause to Turner, Luitingh, the cast and KBT for bringing us quality children theatre and for opening those windows – letting the sea air in- to flush out (hopefully) the dreaded Rona. I reckon that sitting in this theatre, is a lot ‘safer’ than going to the supermarket, mall or pharmacy.

Fairy tale revolution: Tales of A Big Bad Wolf– at The Kalk Bay Theatre, December 2021. © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen, December, 12, 2021.

Open windows: Nikki Turner -writer and director of Tales of A Big Bad Wolf– at The Kalk Bay Theatre, December 2021, pointing at the windows which are being left open to ensure that the theatre is ventilated by fresh air and is ‘safe’ as possible for patrons, during the time of Covid. © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen, December, 12, 2021.

Theatre in the ocean: The Kalk Bay Theatre, December 12, 2021. Watch theatre, during the pandemic with lovely fresh air ventilation, from the ocean. © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen, December, 12, 2021.

❇ Image credits: © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen. Featured image: A scene from Tales of A Big Bad Wolf .