After the very successful production of Shaka Zulu – The Musical; it was with growing excitement, that I looked forward to the Opening Night of “Jock of the Bushveld – The Musical”. I was yet again surprised with the absolute amazing talent, young and old alike that we have in South Africa.
The hand-picked performers were extraordinary, brilliant and it was clear that each creature was studied with a precision that was spot-on. The cast included acting and singing talents: Vaughan Gardiner as Jock, the dog with the heart of a lion, Cobus Venter as Percy, Judy Page, the grand dame of South African theatre, Michelle Botha, David James, Lawrence Joffe, Mark Richardson, Ruth Brown and were in turn supported by an ensemble cast that brought all the animals and creatures to life. It was enjoyable, light-hearted and it was absolutely astonishing to experience how the animals came to “life” in their human persona.
The Vultures ,Boet, Cherie and Bob. - (Judy Page as Cherie)
Photograph by E Meyberg
As with Shaka Zulu – The Musical, the set design of Stan Knight, was magnificent and again impressed with how the scenes transformed from the one Bushveld landscape to another. The waters of the “Crocodile river” were so mysterious and cleverly hid the orchestra pit where the most beautiful sounds and songs derived from – as if created by magic creatures in the shadows. The singers’ vocal abilities surprised, as you identified with their animal characteristics and yet also experienced the human emotions intermingled with their characters. The storyline captured the audience’s attention and one could feel oneself entering into this historical journey with the creatures and walk amongst them in the lovely Bushveld.
The musical is so true to South Africa, its history and sentiments and was filled with subtle nuances and humour which the South Africans at heart would all understand and appreciate. I truly believe that the writers succeeded in bringing the “Bushveld that we (humans) see and the Bushveld that the animals see” together to form a better understanding of how wonderful a country we life in.
Jock (Vaughan Gardiner) with Chicken (Michelle Botha) - Bob E. Jahn (Joel Zuma) - Fifi (Suzzi Swanepoel)
Photographs by E Meyberg
The spectacular lighting effects provided by Gerda Kruger, the very innovative designer, contributed to ‘Jock of the Bushveld’ being a “truly breathtaking visual experience” as was promised by the producers of this very enjoyable production.
The costume designs of Sarah Roberts were ingenious, creative and true to each creature’s character. I could feel the excitement of the audience as they recognised and identified with each of the artists as if they themselves were also transformed into the animal kingdom. I would not be surprised if some of us went home and wondered how we would “dress” in the Animal kingdom!
It was a truly magical experience and I realised that any part of our South African history and tradition, no matter how trivial it might seem, can have such a powerfully positive message and effect on us in our modern ways; I went home with laughter in my heart yet also mixed with the subtle sadness as I realised that we too often forget about the good and positive in our past.
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