The latest pantomime from renowned South African writer and director Janice Honeyman, based on the age-old classic Cinderella, is coming to the stage of The Mandela at the Joburg Theatre in November and December 2021.
Being dubbed “The Fairy Godmother of All Pantomimes”, Honeyman’s Cinderella follows the story of an impoverished young girl’s quest to find prince charming. It is a story that has stood the test of time and remains an important part of popular culture to this day.
Aside from Honeyman’s pantomime, Cinderella is a constant feature in entertainment despite the original story being thousands of years old, having been traced back all the way to ancient Greece. The film released in 2015 received rave reviews and brought in over $540-million at the box office.
It was so popular there is another set for release in July starring Camila Cabello and an upcoming Andrew Lloyd Webber West End production. Cinderella also often features as a character in video games, such as the Kingdom Hearts series of games, and there is even a Cinderella’s Ball slot game found at online casinos in South Africa such as Kassu.
However, there aren’t many versions of Cinderella with a distinctly South African flavour, and we know that’s just what we will get from Janice Honeyman. Her shows are packed with plenty of comedy, ambitious set design, and stunning costumes.
Her shows also feature plenty of pantomimes, especially around significant plot points so it will be interesting to see how her interpretation of Cinderella transforming from a poor young girl to an apparent princess, as well as her search for prince charming afterwards.
By way of example, her retelling Jack and the Beanstalk in 2019 featured an unfriendly giant that was based on one of South Africa’s controversial former presidents Jacob Zuma. She even managed to jam a scene celebrating the Rainbow Nation’s win at the Rugby World Cup in Japan that year into the show at the last minute, which sent the crowd into raptures.
“It is crucial to paste and pepper the panto-pie with recognisable local references. An audience needs to see the show and identify with the ‘South African-ness’ of it all. I keep my eye on the news and current events, local jokes and political satire… and I rely on the youngsters in the company to set me right on current TV references, current slang, social media, colloquial language,” Honeyman said, according to the Daily Maverick.
But it isn’t just local references that carry Honeyman’s shows. She is a genuinely talented writer and director, and the pantomimes stand well on their own even outside of a South African context. She was educated at the University of Cape Town where she earned a BA and Performer’s Diploma in Speech and Drama.
She has countless credits as an actor, writer, and director but began her pantomime journey with her version of The Sleeping Beauty on behalf of the Performing Arts Council of Transvaal in 1990. She has over 30 years of experience in this genre alone, not to mention her work on many other productions.
Honeyman has become renowned around the world for work creating pantomimes and plays for a younger audience and has been credited for creating a particular style of pantomime that combines social issues, humour, educational material, and current events. In 2002, she was nominated for the Best Director Award at the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards for her work on The Beauty of Queen Leenane and went one better at the Vita Awards, winning the category. She also won the Fleur du Cap Award in 2013 for her work on Nothing but the Truth and Vatmaar.