’Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ Was Fantastic

Gum that changes flavour from KFC to kapana, Wonka bars sold by crabby street vendors and gumboot dancing Oompa Loompas are just some of the remarkable reinventions one could see in Sandy Rudd’s local, laugh-worthy version of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ which premiered at the National Theatre of Namibia last week.

Starring five kooky kids from Van Rhyn Primary School as Augusta Gloop, Violet Beauregard, Mike Mobile, Veruca Salt and Charlie Bucket, the play prompted sing-a-longs, hand-clapping and exciting interaction from its adorable audience, thanks to the talents of Twapewa Mungoba, Olivia Paulus, Andreas Hamurenge, Francineth Bauleth and Warren Thomas who manifested a sweet and charming Charlie.

Also of note was the engaging and rabble-rousing narrator Elzaan de Wee who spoke clear and true while tempting and teasing the young audience. The three fussing and excitable Damara oumas played by Esmeralda Cloete, Emilia Petrus and Lahiah Musimani were just as hot and bothered as one expects grandmothers to be and were particularly pleasing when they sang a Damara lullaby to lull Charlie to sleep the night before his birthday.

Also singing spectacularly were coastal singers ‘Power of One’ and Lize Ehlers, who sang an acapella version of the Oompa Loompa theme song reworked to include foot stamping, arm movements and deep bass to render it a thrilling and mesmerising work song. The bow-tied and brilliant singers provided the soundtrack to transition moments while the Oompa Loompas deftly changed the scenes on stage.

Sounds simple enough? It certainly was, thanks to the immense talents of Katie Muller, Helen Harris and John Pindala who designed a wonderfully dynamic stage made of cardboard boxes which were rearranged in a heartbeat to create everything from trees over a chocolate river, machines in the inventing room, a conveyor belt in the nut room and much marvellous more.

Wonderfully lit, staged and with a soundscape by Lize and Karl Ehlers, replete with all the magical whooshes, tinkles, clanking and creativity one could hope for, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ was a visual and auditory extravaganza that kept kids thrilled to the last minute while making magic from boxes of board, pulleys and pure imagination.

As for Wonka himself, he was as soft in the head as the tale implies but he was also a little soft on his mic, which made him difficult to hear despite being in the front seat. Still, Josephat Tjiho was charming and was in particularly good form near the end when he mimicked a delighted Charlie’s dance moves after gifting him the chocolate factory.

Not a problem for the children but somewhat strange for the adults was the story’s lack of a villain. Entirely omitting Arthur Slugworth, a rival chocolatier from the original story who asks Charlie to steal an Everlasting Gobstopper so he can copy it, the play does not test Charlie in any way, though in the play, Wonka does say he is awarding him the factory for being “loyal”.

A glaring omission for fans of the stories and a missed opportunity in terms of character building, the kids in the audience weren’t bothered in the least and were so engaged they sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Charlie at the top of their lungs, learnt the Oompa Loompa song and sang along in no time and applauded deafeningly and delighted when the cast took its final bow.

Certainly a story well loved and presented wonderfully, the cast, crew and directors must be commended for a job dazzlingly done and for successfully ‘decolonising the Oompa Loompas’.

Source : The Namibian