FROM LEFT: Thokozani Jiyane, Yamikani Mahaka-Phiri, Noni Mkhonto and, front, Jaydene Marais.
FROM LEFT: Thokozani Jiyane, Yamikani Mahaka-Phiri, Noni Mkhonto and, front, Jaydene Marais.
Picture: John Pettigrew
Picture: John Pettigrew
Children’s theatre shows can be a little harder to pull off because the audience is much more honest about what they experience.

The task is managed with ease by the cast of Beneath African Skies, a children’s theatre production at the People’s Theatre at the Joburg Theatre.

The production is 90 minutes long and perfect for young children. It is the re-telling of some of our favourite tales which have been known to teach young children important values while allowing them to have fun.

The cast is made up of Yamikani Mahaka-Phiri, Noni Mkhonto, Thokozani Jiyane and Jaydene Marais. The actors take turns narrating the stories while simultaneously taking part in them.

At first, the stories sound like all the fables we were raised hearing, but there are some slight additions to the stories that make them more unique to the production. The story I enjoyed the most, which transported me to my childhood, was the one about how the rabbit lost its long tail.

A crucial component to the production is that every skit is about 10 minuess long, separated from each other by musical interludes.

The cast alter their voices to fit with each individual character.

The performances of the skits are accompanied by miniature props, animal heads that can be put over the face, clothing items that are worn to bring a character to life and other such props.

The production features old and new music with performances of FreshlyGround’s Doo Bee Doo, the 2010 Fifa World Cup Theme song, Waka Waka, Vicky Sampson’s African Dream and Pata-Pata made famous by Miriam Makeba.

There is also an interval in the production to allow the audience to to stretch or go to the loo.

On the day that I watched the production, the children in the audience were Grade 3s who, thankfully, seemed to understand what was going on in the play.

They were there on a school excursion. While watching the play, they were given popcorn, bought from the on-site store.

The play has elements where the audience must interact with the cast in order to get the story to move along. It’s an interactive play which makes for an exciting time at the theatre for young children.

* Beneath African Skies is at the People’s Theatre, located at the Joburg Theatre till October 8. Tickets are available from webtickets at R142 per person. Visit the Joburg Theatre here.