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Is it possible that we’re talking pantomime already? Hasn’t the last one just finished? Of course, and that’s the point. This is no ordinary show. For the Joburg Theatre, panto is their annual family showpiece and one they need a big bag of cash for to properly produce each year.
They’ve got the funding for the next two years, marketing from M-Net as in the past and sponsorship from Bankservafrica tied up for the next two years.
But then they also need that something extra to get people talking and thinking of their end-of- year plans. Who or what is the drawcard? Will it be big enough to keep them coming? Can Tobie Cronjé pull it off every year? Probably, but they’re always looking for new faces for the future.
No one can do it all the time except perhaps Janice Honeyman (creator and director), who has become the sole proprietor of successful panto in Gauteng. They tried it without her at one time, but she was back on board sooner than a click of the finger and ever since she’s been ruling the roost with her assistant director Timothy le Roux, who has been learning the ropes through the years and now swings freely with gusto.
But back to that mystery guest. Finally, after many years of nagging from CEO Bernard Jay, popular radio host Jeremy Mansfield has agreed that this is his year. Theatre is where he started with Most Promising Young South African Actor Vita Award winner in 1985 for Deon Opperman’s More is ’n Lang Dag, but he was soon lured away to a place where he believes he paints his own pictures of the mind.
Mansfield will be playing the evil Abanazar in Honeyman’s 2013 panto at the Joburg Theatre, Aladdin. And to add a strong sexy theme to this year’s end-of-year season, Christopher Jaftha will be playing the title role. He currently stars in Dirty Dancing and has an impressive credit list to his name, but many might recognise him as a model, which is his parallel career.
Speaking about his desire to bring Mansfield to pantomime, Joburg Theatre’s Bernard Jay explained that they’re constantly looking for larger-than-life personalities who can become part of the panto family. Mansfield in turn kept turning him down, not because he didn’t want to be on stage, but because of the demands of his radio career. Finally, Mansfield believes he’s ready for panto. With a number of strings to his bow, the latest as cookbook writer (with his wife), someone who always hopes to be part of the world of radio, he also feels he’s back in the family of theatre and hugely excited to work with the acclaimed Honeyman.
“I view it as loads of fun,” he says. And asked about the singing, he’s quick to brush the silly question aside with a “I have a very good singing voice.”
Naturally he’s made an album because this is a man who does nothing in half measures. But something he’s as quick to admit is that he has less confidence in his dancing skills. “We’ll give him twinkle toes,” quips Le Roux (also a choreographer) from the sidelines.
Mansfield’s recent cancer scare took eight months of his life, but he’s back and raring to go and in remission.
Those of us who are constantly in the theatre, know that Mansfield is a regular in the audience, too. This is obviously a huge part of his life. What he loved about radio was the way he could make it his own, create his own kind of theatre and regular listeners will know that he certainly did that.
This time though, he’s stepping into the limelight and putting it all out there.
• Aladdin: October 30 to December 29 at Joburg Theatre.