Nights of old movie stars in days of… the giant projector
SABC model building department head Rod Campbell unveiled a restored cast of Liewe Heksie: Levinia, Matewis Kat, Kwaai Babatjie and Blommie.
They look much smaller in reality than they did on screen. The controls were able to move Heksie’s eyelids, head and arms. The puppet has the original controls and eyes, but her wig was redone and the original fabric was sourced for her witch’s outfit.
The cast was reconstructed by Jo Roets of CityVarsity, from watching Liewe Heksie DVDs and looking at pictures.
Some of The Little Marionette Company’s work from recent years, including puppets made for series still seen on kykNET, such as Tjiff & Tjaff, Matilda and Glub-Glub, are on display. These were later dubbed into Zulu and Tswana for broadcasts on the Magic World channel. Visagie says they did a good job selecting new voices for the characters, but adds that humour does sometimes get lost in translation.
Of today’s shows, Visagie says: “It became easier to buy programmes. With animation the possibilities are so big… The biggest responsibility is performing for children. There is talent here, but the machine came to a stop.”
Talking Strings is at CityVarsity, 32 Kloof Street, Gardens, until July 19. Times are 10am to 4pm on weekdays, and 10am to 2pm on Saturdays. Visagie will do a walkabout on Wednesday from 11am to 12.30pm. I’M PERSUADED – against my will because of all the abuse I’m sure to get about my advanced age – to recall how, when I was in Std 6 at school (even that’s changed now to Grade 8!) our very first TV set arrived in the lounge.
It was a day of high anticipation, accompanied by family members with the aerial on the roof shouting down to others wiggling knobs on this spectacular new piece of entertainment… until we got… the test pattern. It was black and white, but my older brother, who still enjoys the very best things in life, searched out a weird contraption that sat in front of the screen offering a smidgen of colour – if you looked really hard.
But none of us cared. We watched every single thing… English, Afrikaans… if it was in Spanish we would have watched that too. No one cared about age-appropriate choices, and the puppets of Liewe Heksie, Bennie Boekwurm and Haas Das se Nuuskas became like new members of the family.
In fact, I’m sure I could still dredge up the words to the ditties if someone started me off.
Before the arrival of that box in the lounge, in-house entertainment had been courtesy of a giant projector, which my father bought my brothers and I, and which dramatically upped our popularity in the neighbourhood.
Saturday nights (or maybe it was Fridays) were movie nights, and everyone came. The lounge was full to bursting and sometimes we even moved the “event” outside on particularly hot Durban evenings.
Huge reels had to be changed, allowing convenient toilet breaks. And when the film broke, a collective sigh could be heard far and wide. I remember my father even investing in a splicing machine to zap together snapped bits of film. Those were the nights of old movie stars like Mario Lanzo, John Wayne, Doris Day and Audrey Hepburn.