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The Rainbow Puppet Theatre in Constantia
A kiddie’s theatrical experience that harkens back to one of the earliest forms of storytelling
The use of puppets in performance and storytelling reportedly dates back to 3000 BC and, perhaps as a testament to its value, is still a popular and thriving form of entertainment today. Keeping this ancient method of performance alive in South Africa is the Rainbow Puppet Theatre.
The establishment is the only permanent puppet theatre in the country, and every Saturday morning from a nook in the kindergarten building at the Constantia Waldorf School in Cape Town, the theatre puts on shows that are inspired by classic Grimm’s fairy tales and that have been re-imagined to be kid-friendly (they’re recommended for little ones from age 4 and up).
The playhouse of sort was established in 1992 and is now run by former Waldorf School pupil Alison Fenton.
“Everything we do, we ensure that it is true, beautiful, good and honest. Everything is done with the child in mind. The shows are spiritually uplifting and magical,” says Alison.
The productions rotate on a monthly basis and past pockets of magic have included retellings of Snow White, Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood.
“All the stories have meanings behind them. Like Little Red Riding Hood, for example, represents not straying from the path, and the wolf symbolises greed. So, in that case, we taught children how to overcome that greed in themselves and how to indentify it in the world. So all the stories have messages aimed at children,” adds Alison.
Once the tots have filled the room and their parents are situated, rather comically, in the child-size chairs, the lights are dimmed and the show starts with a sweet rendition of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ that sets the tone for a fantastical experience, and then the designated storyteller introduces the tale with the help of Oggy the hedgehog. The little furry creature encourages audience participation from the little ones and likes to greet and blow kisses at them.
Oggy and the rest of the puppets - there are roughly 300 of them - are all handcrafted from various materials and are mostly glove and rod puppets- not be confused with marionettes (string puppets). Similarly, all the backdrops, set pieces and props are custom-made, while the sound effects and live music are all courtesy of the five talented resident puppeteers.
This back-to-basics, hands-on approach (pun intended) is in keeping with a framed quote from philosopher Rudolf Steiner that hangs in the theatre. It reads: “Puppetry is a remedy against the damage of modern civilization - it must fold and develop the fantasy of the child".
So if you are looking for an alternative form of storytelling for your precious tyke to enjoy, and you don’t want them to just experience tales through screens and other devices, then head off to the Constantia area for some uplifting chronicles told in a magical, innovative and incredibly accessible way.
And be sure to obey to the “No Cellphone Area” sign on the gate leading to the venue!
Tip: The Rainbow Puppet Theatre is a top spot to host a kiddie’s birthday party. The theatre can house up to 60 youngsters, and the building also has a beautiful garden in which the children can run and take in some fresh air. The troupe also has a mobile puppet theatre for home birthdays or functions.
The Bill: Entry is R20 for both adults and children and tickets can be bought at the venue.
Opening Hours: The theatre is open every Saturday morning. Show times are 10am and 11:15am.
Constantia Waldorf School | Spaanschemat River Road | Constantia | Cape Town | +27 (0) 21 783 2063
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