Roald Dahl’s much-loved classic Fantastic Mr. Fox wowed young audiences at the National Children’s Theatre in Johannesburg where it was staged in December.

Given the catastrophic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic this meant that stringent protocols most of which have been in place for a little over a year were in place but the main change being that the production was performed on a purpose-built outdoor stage next to the main theatre complex.

The management of the National Children’s Theatre must be commended for the decision because not only did they strictly ensure that all protocols including social distancing, hand sanitizing, and wearing of masks were adhered to but families came out with their picnic baskets and other goodies to make it a truly wholesome outdoor family-friendly theatre experience.

Fantastic Mr. Fox at the National Children’s Theatre in Johannesburg. Photo by Rebecca Hearfield.

The inclement weather conditions which characterized much of the day certainly did not deter the young and young at heart from coming out to enjoy this wonderfully put-together production.

Based on Roald Dahl’s children’s novel, the musical stage adaption coupled with the excellent casting and a plethora of recognizable South African-isms made this production both exciting and a lesson-filled experience for the young children who attended. Fantastic Mr. Fox is in essence a human story told through animal characters with themes such as resourcefulness, craftiness, virtues of cooperation, and the triumph of good over evil (though not in a traditional sense) all of which made this adaptation a memorable experience for the young theatre lovers.

<em> Fantastic Mr. Fox</em> at the National Children’s Theatre in Johannesburg. Photo by Rebecca Hearfield.

Fantastic Mr. Fox at the National Children’s Theatre in Johannesburg. Photo by Rebecca Hearfield.

The production which was suitable for children from the age of three and over featured some great singing, fleet-footed dancing and provided an all-round feel-good experience which had the young audience and their parents and caregivers marveling at how Mr. Fox saved the day and by so doing ensured the survival of all the other animals.

The execution of the story was exceptional and if one is to believe the absolute truth that children are hardest to please and therefore the harshest critics – then one can conclude that from the way they sang along, laughed and how they all clapped animatedly when it was over that they thoroughly enjoyed the show.

One hopes that the outdoor theatre venue though a consequence of Covid-19 is something that the National Children’s Theatre management keeps because it really made the run a one-of-a-kind family experience which can be part and parcel of their unique theatrical offering post-Covid-19.

Fantastic Mr. Fox adapted for the stage by David Wood and directed by Daniel Geddes featuring Sandi Dlangalala, Mark Tatham, Gamelihle Bovana, Harry Faulkner, Kiruna-Lind Devar and Songezo Khumalo was on at the National Children’s Theatre from 28 November – 23 December 2020

This article was originally published in The African Theatre Magazine and has been reposted with permission. To read the original article, click here.

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.