Donkey's Years


Jiminy Cricket Lynn Jelks Pinocchio Wendy Allen Pearls Leslie Opperman June Mackey Me Lesley Candy Lobster Susan Harman

Donkey’s Years

Mom remembered the magical Pantomimes she had seen every Christmastime at the Empire Theatre in Johannesburg as a child.  It began with the tram ride from her home in Observatory to down town.  Next, came a peach melba at the tearoom next to the Empire.  Finally the moment came when the grand red velvet curtain parted to reveal a magical world.  Black Magic chocolates were passed at interval followed by more magical pantomime.

Mom wanted to make that magic for Que Que’s children. After the success of In Mother Nature’s Garden she set to work on a much more ambitious script for Pinocchio.

“I’ve got to get a really life-like seahorse for Pinocchio,” she said one day to Dad.  “Would you mind awfully if I rented one from African Theatres Ltd in Johannesburg?”

“Isn’t that a bit over the top?”

“No, no!  It will be so sensational on stage.  Trust me, everyone will love it!  You see I don’t want one of those funny little stand up fishes that just bobs along.  I want a lovely real horse the ocean pearls can ride.”

“Well, if you must,” he said.  “Go ahead.”

Mom wasted no time.  African Theatres didn’t have a horse. Would a donkey do?

It arrived by rail on the 2 am train and she was there to pick it up.

Rehearsals were well underway by then.  Like all donkeys he was grey, small and sad.  He wasn’t a lovely sea horse for the ocean pearls to ride.

Dad had worse news. “You know about the polio outbreak,” he said.


“We have our first confirmed case in isolation being transported to Salisbury.  Old Man Richards the GMO (Government Officer of Health) will have to suspend all public gatherings.”

“Oh dear!” she said.

“The swimming pool will be closed, all sporting activities cancelled and there’s no question of having the play rehearsals going on.  Just as well it’s the Christmas holidays:  no school.”

“Well,” she said, “How long will this go on?”

“No telling, can’t make any predictions.”

There would be no Pinocchio!

“It’ll pass,” he consoled.   “Why don’t you write to African Theatres Ltd and explain the situation.  Its quarantined too, you know.”

African Theatres replied “It might be donkey’s years before we are rid of this plague.  Mothball him for safekeeping.  Medicine will triumph.  Theatre will live on.”

Pinocchio was put on a year later.  The donkey found a place in a scene change skit.  Jack Nimmo, the fitter and turner at the Globe and Phoenix Mine, had time to make a lovely big black horse for the ocean pearls to ride.