Entertaining fairytale, told like a jazz session where everyone hooks up

The animation film Kirikou et la sorcière (1988) is a wonderful amalgam of West African and European influences. Filmmaker Michel Ocelot based himself on stories he heard in his youth in (French) Guinea, but adapted important elements – such as the ending: where in the film it focuses on reconciliation, in the original story it was a traditional settlement with the evil.

In his theater adaptation for the Toneelmakerij, writer Ayden Carlo stays close to the original. Its main addition (besides an unexpected guest appearance by the mythical spider Anansi) is that the whole story is cast in the form of a narration, which does justice to the oral tradition of West African folklore. In his role of griot, Leandro Ceder tells with much panache about the brave boy Kirikou, who saved his village from the curse of the evil witch Karaba. He involves two village children (Kimberley Agyarko and Fjodor Jozefzoon) who play all other roles.

Coming-of-age story

The result is a witty and fluently told fairy tale, perhaps just a little too much on the beaten track of the countless Disney adaptations of classic fairy tales. Both the moral of the story (a coming-of-age in which the protagonist must overcome his doubts and learn to embrace his uniqueness) and the way in which side characters such as comic relief being deployed feel somewhat jaded and safe.

However, the execution more than makes up for the lack of originality. The fun of Ceder, Agyarko and Jozefzoon emphasizes the fun of telling a story together, like a jazz session in which every new initiative is effortlessly incorporated into the whole. Annelies Michelle Shakison’s costume design emphasizes this fluidity: monsters and animals consist of found objects and waste, and the costumes themselves mix traditional with modern elements. Kirikou and Karaba the witch thus becomes primarily an ode to the story told, which can never be pinned down in one definitive form.

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