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Take your kids’ imagination to the theatre

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Val Adamson

Clare Mortimers Criss Cross Christmas opens this week. Pictured are cast members (from left) Bryan Hiles, Marc Kay and Mortimer.

DURBAN theatre practitioner Bryan Hiles (pictured) is a popular face in children’s productions, and next appears in Clare Mortimer’s Criss Cross Christmas, opening this week.

Hiles has his hands full this festive season. He has done the set design for the adult pantomime, Romeo and Juliet: An East Coast Story; he and Peter Court reprise their hilarious performances as the two incompetent crooks, Cecil and Claude, in KickstArt’s Jack and the Beanstalk, making a comeback after their demise in Robin Hood; and then there is Criss Cross Christmas.

Tonight caught up with him to find out more about the last play.

“I play Holly the reindeer… there are three characters: an elf, a fairy and a reindeer. All of them are trying to grasp the real meaning of Christmas. For Holly it’s all about his tummy and the cake and the chocolates and the food… for the fairy it’s all about things and glittery wings and iPads…

“Criss Cross Christmas is all about getting to know what the real meaning of Christmas is. It’s about discovering that Christmas is about friends and family and humanity. It’s for the very littlies, there is lots of interaction,” he explained.

For Hiles it’s not uncommon for him to be approached as one of his popular kids theatre characters. “I’m often referred to as Buttons, my character from Cinderella, or Wishy Wash from Peter Pan. I’ve even had some adults call me wishy washy,” he laughed.

“But it’s fine, it’s absolutely fine because to the children I’m that particular character. It’s endearing when they see you as a character.”

Known for his skill on and off stage Hiles said that while he really loved being on stage, he also enjoyed building sets and props, and doing lighting and sound.

“It’s very important for actors to be able to function on the technical side of things to give you a better understanding of how things work. And it’s also important to be able to do a variety of things and have a well rounded understanding of the industry,” he said.

This year is a special year for Hiles, as his mother is visiting from abroad and will see him in action.

He also talked about the anticipation of the children’s reaction to shows. “I love the immediate response of the kids; it’s really satisfying. When you are doing a kids theatre piece and it’s good, and the kids love it and they go home trying to be, or wanting to be the characters, it feels great.”

However in an age when almost all films released are 3D and almost everything is touch-screen interactive, there is a lot that challenges theatre.

Asked about this, Hiles said he believed theatre “grounds children”.

“Technology is a wonderful thing but I do think theatre helps children to use their imaginations. Instead of using technology, they can create their own worlds with theatre.”

Enter a world of Christmas adventure and discover its true meaning with Criss Cross Christmas which runs at The Zone, Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World, from December 7 to 24.

Tickets are R50 each with performances daily at 11am.

Booking is through Computicket, at the door, or contact Ailsa on 083 250 2690.

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