Two theatre professionals on the effects of "A Dog’s Life"

Earlier this month IFAW Southern Africa’s “Twinnings” educational theatre project took to the boards in Cape Town, South Africa. The project has been run with the help of Jungle Theatre Company (JTC) for the past 10 years and brings together children from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds to enjoy theatre that focuses on animal welfare issues.

In the past decade, close to 20,000 school children have attended “Twinnings” performances. This year’s play was A Dog’s Life. The storyteller in the play is Angel, a dog puppet. Here are the impressions of Vincent Meyburgh, artistic director of JTC, and Joce Engelbrecht, performer and puppeteer.

Vincent Meyburgh:

“Children who have never been into a theatre and children who have theatres at their schools came streaming into the Masque Theatre together.

“I watched the young children’s faces with eyes wide and jaws dropped open. A puppeteer moved through the shadows bringing the narrator, a dog called Angel to life. Angel greeted the children and the children greeted her back. From that moment on the children were drawn into the magical world of Jungle Theatre where dogs can talk and share their stories, and children can take part in changing the world. The children gasped, sighed, screamed and laughed as they were lead through the story of an abandoned dog and a street child who help each other find a home.”

Joce Engelbrecht:

“Today is my last performance at the Masque Theatre and what an exciting week it has been. Performing in a theatre always adds an extra touch of magic. Talking about magic, when I met Angel last week I was totally mesmerized by her blue eyes and the furry coat. Aptly named! Unlike that of Champion, our other dog puppet that we use for our “Top Dog” anti-dog fighting play, with his bold outlook and wise yet kind eyes, Angel's story has been slightly adapted to appeal to younger audiences, and they just adore her. The children did not disappoint, spirited and ever so involved in the story line. They stayed engaged to the very end.”

Vincent Meyburgh:

“After interval, the children poured back into the auditorium for a workshop and were invited onto stage in groups. Each group was given the space to share by moulding their bodies into statues of how they felt about different parts of Angel’s story. There were statues of sadness, despair, fear, anger, relief, joy and victory.

“All the children stood up and sang a song about what they can do to keep their dogs happy. It seemed the children had forgotten that they came from different schools and different levels of society that rarely mix, let alone learn and play together. Upon leaving the theatre the children kept on singing as they waited for their buses on the side walk.

“I will not forget this event and I’m sure these young children will remember this experience and what they have learnt and share it with many people throughout their lives.”

Joce Engelbrecht:

“During the workshop, we gave the kids a chance to become the characters in the play and to showcase their feeling and emotions. We practiced our powers and the effect of losing, using and abusing it; we recapped songs and scenes from the play. Oh, and the prizes on offer encouraged participation; so much so that at the end we left them wanting more!  

“The warm hugs and thank yous after the show from the kiddies and teachers alike always make it worthwhile. While we motivate animal welfare awareness to young audiences, I must admit that even as an adult the message is so powerful that it cannot be ignored. I find myself being more conscious about animals and how we treat them and now I continue to speak out about the need for animal welfare in my own community. Make a change and spread the word on welfare, I say!    

“A Dog’s Life brings to life a beautiful story about animal welfare and to a fair degree the welfare of human beings too. Such an important message to share! Just to remind us that animals and humans come in many different sizes and colors, but we all have the same loving heart and soul”.

Vincent Meyburgh

Vincent Meyburgh carries out the artistic vision of Jungle Theatre Company by conceptualising productions and programmes, directing, performing, and developing scripts, stage managing and training actors. Vincent graduated from UCT Drama Department in 1993 and was a founder member of Jungle Performance, a part time theatre group, in 1995. When Jungle Theatre Company became an NPO in 2004 Vincent’s dream of being the artistic director of a full time theatre company became a reality. In 2010 he led the Laduma Jungle Training programme paving the way for eight young artists to join the company. His passion for original family theatre and the environment makes him a driving force in the children and young people’s theatre scene.

Joce Engelbrecht

Joce Engelbrecht attained a Performance Certificate from the Trinity College of London. Her career started in 2001 doing a touring production, speaking out about HIV /Aids and this catapulted to many other theatric ventures at the Baxter Theatre, KKNK and many other festivals around the South Africa. She took a break from the Arts and returned in 2010 to do a short film called Lenteblom with ImagenHeart Films. She then completed a Puppetry Project with UNIMA and participated in the Infecting the City Festival in Cape Town. She was introduce to Medicine Theatre with CAST, a theatre group from Georgia USA and did a performance at a Summit for the CCD, USA. In 2014 she had an opportunity to hone in on her puppetry and facilitating skills as she joined The Jungle Theatre Company in Top Dog and, more recently A Dog's Life. This has added to her love for children's theatre as well as giving her a new appreciation for animal welfare. 

Post a comment


Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project