Christmas holidays are synonymous with family. What better way to spend time with the youngest members of the family than watching a play at the theatre? Put down the iPads, leave the remote controls at home, and dive into the magical world of theatre.
With this in mind, I invited my 5-year old nephews to come and watch My Forever Friend (based on the book by Jeremy Daniel and adapted for stage/directed by Joanna Evans). Their excitement at the fact that the play was behind the curtains (it’s performed in the Baxter Flipside, behind the main stage) was a good start to our theatre date.
It’s a sweet play with a great theme – the difficulties of starting school, making friends and having good self-esteem – aimed at six to 12 year olds. The story follows Mimi (Tarryn Wyngaard), a young girl starting school and her reflection, Copia (Nieke Lombard), who magically has a life of her own behind the mirror. Both young actresses bring energy and verve to the stage.
Designed by Merryn Carver, the centre stage rotates. It’s a beautifully set, colourful bathroom, complete with stripy shower curtains, basin and toilet – showing us Mimi’s ‘real’ world on one side and Copia’s ‘magical’ one on the other.
When Mimi goes off to Big School, she is afraid and hopes her friend, Copia, will still be there to keep her company in any reflective surface (including a hand mirror, magically put in her pocket by Copia). Unfortunately, this is not to be.
Fear gets the better of Copia and she finds she is unable to leave the bathroom despite many attempts at fixing the fabulous transporter machine in the shower (made up of tea pots, bells and such) and advice from the wise old toilet and fantastical old book that reminded me of The Neverending Story.
When Copia realises that Mimi’s house is being sold and Mimi’s family will be moving, she tries her best to get rid of potential house-buyers in a brilliant puppet silhouette scene that involves a toilet brush-ear-bud-monster that we all wanted to take home as a pet.
Songs are scattered between scenes – Nieke Lombard in particular has a breath-taking voice – and there is lots of fun frivolity to keep young (and older) minds from straying. And – as any good children’s production should – it all ends well.
I watched my nephews’ enthralled faces during the play, as their expressions moved between sad and happy and laughing at the many giggle-inducing silly bits. As we walked out, I asked them what they liked best, and one said: “That they were forever friends” and the other “That she had her friend in her eyes.”
I agreed with him, as he followed this with: “As long as she didn’t tickle her in her eyes.” You’ve got to love how literal 5-year olds are.
Take the kids to see it, and then you’ll know what he meant.
My Forever Friend runs at The Flipside, Baxter Theatre Centre, Cape Town 10 December 2014 to 10 January 2015.