Review: The Firebird


FirebirdIgor Stravinsky’s original score seamlessly combined with dance and giant puppets is a thrilling multisensory experience.

Janni Younge Productions and IMG Artists International have produced a visual explosion of perfection in The Firebird. Younge is the former director of Handspring Puppet Company which sprang to international fame with the War Horse puppets.  This fact in itself will entice many theatre goers and lovers of cutting edge art and design.

But even those drawn simply by the idea of witnessing the giant puppets first hand will leave feeling filled with a much bigger experience than the magical liquid movement of huge bird-like, wolf-like and snake-like structures. The Firebird is a visual storytelling of South African history, pain, hope, enthusiasm, defeat and success.

Choreographer Jay Pather has completely reimagined the ballet, so that African dance jumps, dreamlike, into ballet, which bounces into pantsula, shuffles into tap and leaps elegantly into contemporary dance styles.

Characters such as The Seeker (Jackie Manyaapelo), The Creative (Sean Oelf) and The Alchemist of Honesty (Ntombi Gasa) weave a wordless story of flesh and ancestral beings. As they move and glide through real and imagined space their bodies tell truths that many of us would rather not utter.

That The Firebird has taken two years to create is understandable when observing the finished production. With lighting by Mannie Manim, animation by Michael Clark,  and costume design by Birre le Roux, the attention to detail, and the level of care and professionalism is astounding.

The Firebird is at the Artscape for a very short run before flying off to this year’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown then swooping over the seas for an international tour to venues including the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

Catch it if you can, it is an experience not to be forgotten.

Thola Antamu

The Firebird runs at the Artscape Opera House, Cape Town from 24 to 26 June 2016. Book via Computicket.
The performances at the Grahamstown Festival can be found at and for information regarding the season at the Hollywood Bowl in LA, where the production will be accompanied by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, please visit
Not recommended for children under the age of 6 years.


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