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Festive fun with learning, laughter for kids

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NM crisscross1


YULE LOVE IT: Nhlakanipho Manqele as Holly the hapless elf, Bryan Hiles as Noel the gluttonous reindeer and Clare Mortimer as Carole the warbling, horrid little fairy.

Criss Cross Christmas
DIRECTOR: Claire Mortimer
CAST: Clare Mortimer, Bryan Hiles, Nhlakanipho Manqele
VENUE: The Zone, Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World
UNTIL: December 24


DURBAN is spoilt for choice when it comes to family and children’s theatre offerings this festive season.

Clare Mortimer’s Criss Cross Christmas opened at the weekend with Holly the reindeer (played by Bryan Hiles) and Noel the elf (Nhlakanipho Manqele) on a quest to find the true meaning of Christmas.

Carole – a shopaholic who loves the fact that Christmas brings with it more shopping, more presents “and things and things and things” can’t wait to hit the malls.

Holly – an eat-aholic who loves the fact that Christmas brings with it all things delectably edible – can’t wait to start his Christmas binge.

But Noel is uncertain about this. He’s a bit frustrated that Christmas can be so fickle (according to his two friends) and troubled by the feeling that there has to be more to it.

Determined to find out what the true spirit of Christmas is all about, Noel and his reluctant friends set off on a journey of discovery.

It’s not easy putting on a production for little theatre goers; in fact, I’d argue it’s harder than one aimed at a more mature crowd as you’re dealing with busy bodies and active minds whose attention needs to be held throughout the show.

The strength of Criss Cross Christmas lies in its variety.

A script that is laced with funny characters and funny moments keeps the amusement and chuckles flowing. Sing-alongs and dancing keep the active minds engaged with the show and they have lots of fun while doing so.

But there’s also the edutainment aspect, like engaging the children to get them thinking. Such as, what they could do through the year to make sure they earn their Christmas presents.

The children are also invited to embark on this journey to find the new meaning of Christmas, so they get to take part in the show by building a Christmas tree on stage or being the designated “jingle-bellers” – much to their delight.

Part of the production includes a story session, with a heartfelt lesson to be learnt about Christmas. This is followed by a clever exercise based on the lesson learnt in which the children share a gift that is given to them.

A minimalist set is well used with simple props like cardboard boxes transforming the stage into a Christmas highlight for the children. The costumes are simplistic, yet more than effective for the characters.

A minor sound glitch didn’t seem to detract the little ones’ attention from the show.


• Criss Cross Christmas runs at The Zone, Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World, until December 24 at 11am daily. Public booking is through Computicket, at the door or by contacting Ailsa at 083 250 2690. Tickets are R60.

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