Traditonally, the character of the Dame in a pantomime forms part of the travesti portrayal of female characters by male actors. Travesti is a theatrical term referring to the portrayal of a character on stage by a performer of the opposite gender.
The panto Dame characters are sometimes played in an extremely camp style (like a ‘drag queen’), or at other times by men acting butch in women’s clothing (as with the legendary UK panto star Danny La Rue). They usually wear heavy make up and big hair, have exaggerated physical features and perform in an over-the-top style.
South African actor Germandt Geldenhuys – best known as Louis Koster in Binnelanders on kykNET, a role that garnered him the Huisgenoot Tempo Award for Soap Actor Of The Year in 2017 – is currently performing his first Dame role to great critical acclaim in Janice Honeyman’s pantomime Jack and The Beanstalk at Joburg Theatre.
While Geldenhuys has considerable acting experience in musical theatre, stepping into the role of the Dame has been an extreme challenge for this talent, who has now proved to his followers and theatre critics that he is a multi facted, versatile actor.
“Panto has been an exciting and thrilling and at the same time petrifying and challenging experience for me,” says Germandt. “The Pantomime has a very specific style of acting, which is very different from my usual work. Also the pace at which everything unravels – from the rehearsal schedule to the opening night –happens quite quickly. The switch over from TV to Panto, which is a giant spectacular, has been an adjustment. The process hasn’t been easy but it has been extremely rewarding. Working with Janice has been great as she knows exactly what she wants and how Panto should be; she has been a great guide and mentor in terms of the style. Bernard Jay is also a wonderful producer to work for and the audience reaction makes it special.”
However, one would never assume that this role hasn’t been within his comfort zone, by the seeming ease with which he plays the Dame and by the response from critics and fans.
Jennifer De Klerk from Artslink had this to say:
“This is panto, so there also has to be a Dame, Mies Miemie Mosbolletije-Melba, with a massive hairdo and lots and lots of make-up. This year it’s Germandt Geldenhuys from Binnelanders who prances hugely.”
Summer–Raine from SA Music News Magazine, shared her experience and also praised Geldenhuys: “Watching these performers pulling it off with such ease (apparently it just looks that way promises Germandt Geldenhuys who plays ‘Mies Miemie Mosbolletjie Melba’) helps one appreciate the calibre of talent and mastery it requires to perform in a pantomime.”
On Facebook, Kobus Burger from RSG Radio raved about the Panto and Geldenhuys: “Congratulations to Janice Honeyman and team. And especially Germandt Geldenhuys for his unforgettable mosbolletjie-“dame”.” *translated from Afrikaans to English
In 2006, Germandt Geldenhuys competed at the World Championships for the Performing Arts (in Los Angeles) where he received the prestigious Grand Champion Award for vocal performance. He went on to study at the Waterfront Theatre School in Cape Town. Under the direction of Delia Sainsbury, Paul Griffiths and the late Keith Galloway, he graduated with his Licentiates in Drama and Musical Theatre from Trinity College. In his final year, he was awarded the Richard Loring Award for Outstanding Musical Theatre Performance. He returned to Johannesburg in 2015 and had featured roles in The Jungle Book, Sister Act, Sweeney Todd and Sneeuwitjie.
In 2018, he made his film debut in the critically-acclaimed Kanarie and was awarded Best Supporting Actor: Film at the kykNET Silwerskermfees. For this performance, Germandt was also nominated for a SAFTA for Best Supporting Actor in a Feature Film.
See Germandt in this year’s pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk, which runs until the 22nd of December 2019 at Joburg Theatre.
Jack and the Beanstalk is presented by Joburg Theatre and Bernard Jay, in association with MNET, 94.2 Jacaranda FM, Your Family and the Mail & Guardian. Tickets are available from R225, with fantastic group discounts available. Call 0861 670 670 or visit www.joburgtheatre.com.
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