Abromovitz brings back Noddy and Mr Fox
“IT ALL began when my mother whose family regularly held soirees and poetry evenings, put together a Christmas pantomime to entertain the local children in Walvis Bay to raise funds for charity and made me, age three, Little Red Riding Hood with about 10 lines to say.” So says Cape Town’s children’s theatre doyenne, Cheryl Abromowitz.
Now, many years later, Abromowitz’s Stagecraft Drama Studio will present a mini festival of children’s theatre when she will bring David Wood’s adaptation of two top children’s authors to the Artscape Theatre Foyer.
Enid Blyton’s More Adventures of Noddy will be staged from June 26 to July 10 and Sally Reid’s adaptation of Fantastic Mr Fox is up from July 6 to 18.
In response to the inevitable question on what inspires Abromowitz to do children’s theatre, she says: “I love seeing children achieve what many oldies think is impossible, and my knowing they can do it. I believe in them, therefore they believe in themselves and always rise to the occasion.”
And even though she knows that children’s theatre is definitely not without its challenges, she believes even more indubitably that it has a future.
Her joy, she explains, comes from seeing a new unit being formed every time she produces a show: “With each show, seeing a group of young people from different schools and diverse backgrounds rehearse together and become a solid confident supportive new unit, who even run the performances backstage; the music, the props, the costume changes and even sorting out problems that could crop up. Confident young performers inspire me, and make me shed tears of joy.”
One of the challenges of children’s theatre for Abromowitz, is to find a play or a story that she feels would appeal to, and entertain young children.
The next step is to secure the performance rights, which is a costly affair.
Her company pays for everything, from advertising to the final product that people get to see on the stage.
And, because these are schoolgoing children, rehearsals can only happen during school holidays and over weekends.
“The aim is to give young performers the opportunity to perform in a professional venue to a professional standard. Parents drive them back and forth, so it’s a huge commitment. I have given up all school holidays for many years to make these children’s dreams come true. A constant challenge for children’s theatre makers in this country will always be support, in terms of money and venues.”
As someone who has been in the theatre-making industry for all of her adult life, Abromowitz mentions that many successful performers in the city cut their teeth, and even as adults starred in productions that she adapted, produced and directed.
She mentions performers like Jody Abrahams, Anton Luitingh, Duane Alexander, Lindy Sachs, Charlie Keegan, Gary Naidoo, Pierre van Heerden, Jenny Stead and Niall Griffin. “The list goes on,” she laughs. How does Abromowitz choose the productions she wants to produce, and why specifically these two productions for the upcoming holiday mini festival?
She explains that she has done many varied children’s theatre productions but the young parents and children keep asking for Noddy.
“Despite all the contrary com- ments about Noddy and Big Ears, the children seem to love kind, caring characters where good triumphs over evil. And as far as Fantastic Mr Fox goes, Roald Dahl was the most brilliant author of children’s sto- ries. He writes about the underdog who wins despite the nasty plans of characters like Boggis, Bunch and Bean. Also, this is a brand new Noddy story and Fantastic Mr Fox was done about 15 years ago. It is time it’s magic was seen again.”
It is Abromowitz’s dream that the City of Cape Town would consider building a theatre dedicated to children in order to “train, promote and produce children’s theatre with a playground, a child-friendly restaurant and parking area that could be busy every day with children from all areas and diverse backgrounds coming in to learn, to gain confidence, to make friends, to enjoy and love the wonderful world of atre.”
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