IT MAY be one of the old- est and most well-known children’s tales around, but Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling can still teach all of us a lot about our attitudes towards those we consider “different”.
That is what has drawn Port Elizabeth director Greg Everard to the musical Honk! – based on the story of the strange- looking baby duck in search of his real mother – which he is staging for Pemads and which opens at the Little Theatre next week.
Everard says while researching Honk! he read an article discussing the message of the musical that referred to Shakespeare’s enduring “All the world’s a stage . . .” line, which conveys how art reflects life.
“Although Honk! may be seen as a children’s fairy tale, I do believe that Hans Christian Andersen had hoped we would raise a few social and moral questions when listening to the story of The Ugly Duckling.”
Everard said the title character was shunned for being different but it was wrong to say the message was equating being happy with being beautiful as the duckling did not question his looks until society put the idea in his head.
“If we as a society in this ‘new’ South Africa could be a little less judgmental and critical of fellow South Africans based on looks, personal preferences and a myriad of labels and stereotypes we’ve created, we may find our land a better place to live and bring up our children.”
Everard said this was the reason he loved theatre.
On his role as director, Everard said he had enjoyed the experience of working with young, enthusiastic cast members.
“Their energy, especially during this time of exams, has been a joy.”
He said the show was led by the Ugly Duckling, played by Litha Hewitt-Coleman and Ida, performed by Minkie Ludik.
“But it is ostensibly an ensemble piece with cast members doubling up on various roles – some with eight seconds for costume changes!”
Everard described it as a very colourful production for the entire family.
“It may be viewed as children’s fare but this is not the case.
“The show, as with the Disney movies of the last number of years, caters for the entire family in music, humour and plot,” Everard said.
Musical direction is by Debbie Everard and Wendy Doubell, with choreography by Andrea Morris.
Honk! will be staged at the Pemads Little Theatre from Wednesday to December 14.
Tickets are available from Computicket.