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"Camp it up at the pantomime!" Top 5 Page for this destination Nelson Mandela Theatre / Joburg Theatre Tip by CatherineReichardt


One of the absolute highlights of Christmas in Johannesburg (and for my money, it's far and away the best time of year here) is the annual pantomime at the Nelson Mandela (previously the Civic) Theatre.

The pantomime is a veritable family institution that appeals to all generations. Pantomime is an art form that is virtually impossible to explain to people who haven't been exposed to British/colonial culture - including my German husband - and, whether you end up loving it or loathing it, it is well worth the experience! It is best described as a camp, bawdy, satirical musical based (usually very) loosely on a children's fairy tale that appeals to kids on one level and their parents on another. Smutty humour and double entendres abound - usually about topical issues such as politics, celebrities and other holy cows (the more controversial, the better!). There is always a Dame (a man dressed unconvincingly as a woman) and unlike most other theatrical performance, audience interaction is encouraged (a standard excerpt involves the audience baying, "He's behind you ...", and interactions such as "Oh no he didn't!" ... "Oh yes he did!"). The costumes and sets are over the top, the music is loud and upbeat - frankly there's nothing like a panto, and you should grab the opportunity to see one if you get the chance!

The pantomime at the Civic (directed by the legendary Janice Honeyman) is always a lavish affair, and well worth catching if you're in town. This year, an added bonus is that the part of the Dame is played by Marc Lottering, a coloured comedian who is one of South Africa's best loved stand up comics.

The season runs 12 November 2010 - 2 January 2011, with previews in the previous week, and ticket prices range from R191 to R278.

The Nelson Mandela Theatre is located in unfashionable Braamfontein, at the northern end of the Johannesburg CBD. The location is unfortunate, given the reluctance of most Jo'burgers to venture into the CBD, particularly after dark, but it happily appears that people are slowly being tempted to return. There is limited underground parking beneath the theatre complex, and the security for overflow parking (underneath the Jo'burg municipality) is pretty good. There is also an excellent branch of the News Cafe franchise in the foyer, which is the ideal place for a pre-dinner meal.

Although I wouldn't usually recommend that tourists venture into the CBD at night, the security is excellent, and it would be a real pity to let this put you off. If you still don't feel safe at the prospect but would still like to experience this unique form of theatre, then why not consider one of the matinees?

Update (December 2011): This year's pantomime is Cinderella and has received rave reviews : we are only booked for the last day of the run - 30 December - so unfortunately I can't provide a personal review!

Also note that the Civic Theatre is about the only live entertainment venue in Johannesburg that no longer accepts bookings through Computicket: you rather need to book through the somewhat temperemental website below.

Address: Loveday St, Johannesburg
Directions: GPS co-ordinates S 26*11’30.20061? E 28*02’16.87350?
Phone: (0)861 670 670 (0)11 877 6855

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Dec 19, 2011
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