A delight for the little ones

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to kitchen fables3 Pictures: Niklas Zimmer

KITCHEN FABLES IN A COOKIE JAR

DIRECTOR: Jori Snell

CAST: Jori Snell

VENUE: Kalk Bay Theatre

UNTIL: January 6

RATING: ****

KIDS in Cape Town are very fortunate to have two very intelligent pieces of theatre aimed at them over this holiday season.

Theatre Arts Admin is hosting Swoop – which successfully started off at Kalk Bay Theatre earlier this year – and Jori Snell’s latest production is at the Kalk Bay Theatre.

Kitchen Fables in a Cookie Jar won a Silver Ovation at the National Arts Festival earlier this year, but that’s judged by adults, so in order to check if this really worked for its intended audience I “borrowed” some children (and their parents) for a little theatre expedition.

The stage is made up like a kitchen with a grass floor and Snell uses the various kitchen implements to play games and create various characters – a little girl is asleep and while she dreams her kitchen comes alive with various characters who are baking cookies.

Snell transforms into a fussy housekeeper type who cleans up all the time, a baker with a huge chef’s hat and a playful little girl. There’s also a little lemonhead character whose antics were amusing initially, but this is the only point at which Snell starts losing the audience, because his antics just go on too long.

On the whole the near hour-long play is almost an abstract piece in the way it presents dream-like sequences and images, but the children went with the flow of it, only getting restless when lemon-head went on yet another journey.

Three-year-old Danielle sat entranced on her mother’s lap the whole show through, which is high praise indeed, since I have known her to wander off after just a few minutes if she’s not interested in something. She took the offered cookie at the end of the show and warmed up to Snell when she was allowed to touch the grass on the stage.

She called it “just a little bit scary, but not a lot” and didn’t seemed too fussed when the houselights when out.

In her previous production Inua, Snell also made use of lights in unusual ways and here she incorporates light into the show to create entrancing sequences.

For the most part the storytelling is non-verbal, though some of the characters do throw the odd word or sentence out, but this is about how kitchen tools and ingredients take on a grotesque life of their own in our dreams, so anything goes.

Five-year-old Luke was very serious when he deemed the show “better than tv”. He seemed to pick up on the delineation between the characters better than his younger sister, calling the chef “silly” and empathising with the mannerism of the little girl the most.

He started giggling at the antics of the characters right at the beginning, and was as amazed as the adults at the performer’s agility. Snell wraps herself around the table and cavorts around the stage with a calculated abandon that comes across as child-like in the one character and Chaplin-esque in the next.

Little Luke was very chuffed to inspect the stage after the show and when we passed the theatre building much later he was quite keen to come back and watch it again, which from a little kid steeped in the ways of wii and Disney, is the highest praise.

• Kitchen Fables in a Cookie Jar is on at 11am from December 20 to 23 and 27 to 31; as well as January 2 to 6.


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