by Fiona Ingram, a  South African writer who loves books, travel, animals, antiques, and adventures of all kinds! Read Fiona’s author site and find out about her recently published children’s adventure novel

The mark of a great story is one that stands the test of time and South African classic Jock of the Bushveld is one of those stories. Entertainment for all ages, Jock’s adventures have found their home on stage. Jock of the Bushveld: The Musical is pure enchantment. From the moment the theatre lights dim and the audience hear the night-time sounds of the bushveld, the magic begins. This is family fun and enjoyment at its best.

The wonderful saga of Jock and his exploits takes us into a mesmerising world. Clever costuming creates the impression of the various animals Jock meets—from the stately giraffe to the frenetically trotting warthogs, to the gracious hippo, to the hip troop of ‘gangsta’ baboons. Jock’s lessons in life are all learned in his environment, and from his encounters with both his friends and his enemies. He learns about courage, fortitude, how to hunt, the meaning of true friendship, trust, love and loyalty, and the value of keeping one’s word.

The cast give a brilliant ensemble performance, weaving their way seamlessly from one animal character to another, and also playing the humans that Jock encounters. The animals are beautifully portrayed with actors’ subtle movements. Somehow the wiggle of a rear conveys the typical gait of the Mister and Missus Warthogs plus kids, while the ambling of Mama Hips the hippo lets us know exactly who she is. Interestingly, Leopard enjoys Tai Chi…

It’s impossible to pick out ‘best’ actors because they are all so good, and their voices are a joy to hear.   Jock (Vaughn Gardiner) very ably portrays the brave-hearted, feisty Jock. The lady who steals Jock’s heart is a simply splendid French Poodle called Fifi, played by Suzzi Swanepoel. Fifi sings a rip-roaring ‘Hot Dog’ in one of the most enjoyable songs in the entire show. But the scene stealers just have to be the three vultures: Chérie, Boet and Bob. Reminiscent of the Three Fates and the vultures from The Jungle Book, they have some of the funniest lines and for good reason. Their pièce de résistance is a memorable song and dance routine called ‘Culture Vulture.’  Jock’s friend Chicken is another scene stealer.  Chicken is the friend everyone wants in times of need. Brave, loyal and faithful, Chicken overcomes her (natural) fear of bigger animals with lots of huge teeth, and performs the most unheard of deed such as seeking out Leopard when Jock needs help.

The show is peppered with many typically local jokes and references. Some adults may find their kids pick up these before they do! Look out for Bob-E-Jahn and his bold and brassy gang of baboons. The African bushveld, specifically the Kruger National Park where Jock ultimately meets his end, is portrayed with amazing simplicity. A rotunda moves the actors from one setting to another, drawing the audience into various locations such as the campsite, the river, the leopard’s lair, the baobab tree.

As anyone who has read the book will know, Jock does meet a sad end, but in such a way that he simply exchanges one life for another, leaving the audience a little heartsore, but satisfied. For parents who are keen to encourage their children to read, this show is a delightful way to begin. Children will love the show and very likely will be keen to read more because of course, there’s always more to the story in a book.

Age recommendations: All ages from about 8yrs old.

Jock of the Bushveld – The Legend Lives On is currently being performed at The Mandela at Joburg Theatre until Oct 10, 2010  Click here for details

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