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DRAMA AT GRAHAMSTOWN (article first published : 2000-06-9)

With a line-up that highlights the very best of South African theatrical talent, the 2000 Standard Bank National Arts Festival drama programme is sure to entertain, enthral and enchant audiences (June 30 June to July 8).

Zenzi Mbuli, winner of the 2000 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Drama, directs Siya Vuma!: Silent Movie in Rhythm. Told through music, dance and drama in the style of the old silent movies, the story follows a traditional healer who attempts to explain to his children the ways and traditions of communicating with the ancestors - Amadlozi.

One of South Africa's finest actors, Bill Flynn, is cast as Willy Loman in the Arthur Miller classic Death of a Salesman. Directed by Bobby Heaney, this play is a modern tragedy of classical proportions in which we witness the heartbreaking downfall of Loman, a travelling salesman caught in the collapse of a life based on "a smile and a shoeshine."

From Uganda the National Theatre Guild stages Mother Courage and her Children by Bertolt Brecht (Maama Nalukalala Ne'zzadde Lye). A unique collaboration between the Royal Court Theatre and the National Theatre Guild of Uganda, this classic anti-war play assumes particular significance for Africa today where civil war is tearing parts of the continent apart.

Komeng written by Sello Maake ka Ncube is a response to the current crisis of violent abuse against South African women. It explores the emotional and psychological make-up of men and strives to strip away false notions of over-bearing masculinity by taking men on a journey of discovery from abusive man to responsive human being.

The Handspring Puppet Company presents The Chimp Project, a multi-media production that is a retelling of a myth narrated by the fishermen of Lake Tanganyika and examines the physical, moral and ethical concerns of teaching chimpanzees language acquisition. The combined talents of director Basil Jones, puppet-maker Adrian Kholer, scriptwriter Peter Esterhuysen, animated film designer Gerard Marx and Zimbabwean filmmaker Debbie May promise to make this a fascinating and entertaining production.

Two newly scripted comedies deal with the trials and tribulations of being a modern South African.

Glass Roots, written by Fiona Coyne and directed by Roy Sargeant, is set in the Cape Town advertising industry. It looks into the lives of four very different South Africans who together discover a single truth - advertising may sell lies but those lies are harmless in comparison to the lies told by society and all its various structures and institutions.

Anthony Akerman's satire, Comrades Arms, explores South Africa post-1994. Written in the convention of classic farce, it concerns an exiled communist and poet who returns after the liberation and opens a Bed-and-Breakfast establishment. Misunderstandings, loaded dialogue, hidden damsels and untimely entrances and exits make this a truly funny, uniquely South African satire.

Pieter-Dirk Uys presents two shows that also focus on the lighter side of today's South Africa. For Facts Sake sees the satirist leave behind the minefield of politics that has been the stage for his one-man tango over the past few decades and turn his attention to sex and the HIV/Aids plague that threatens our country. In this show he exposes the facts and fictions of sex, the urban legends regarding cures and rumours about HIV - and the hilarious reality of sex as the most democratic and abused mystery in life.

In Concentration Camp Bambi Kellerman, Evita Bezuidenhout's sister, sings songs by Kurt Weill and other Kampvuurliedjies. Now running a brothel in Paarl (disguised as a wine-tasting cellar) Kellerman brings out her boerewors, barbed tongue and Vrystaat baroque in a way that makes one long for the good old days of censorship.

African Star! - The Will Schreiner Story, written by Guy Willoughby and directed by Chris Weare, is a quirky telling in song, dance and mime of the untold story of Will Schreiner - brother of the more famous Olive. Schreiner, as a statesman, played a pivotal role in the two events that shaped our history a century ago: the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) and the formation of the Union (1909-1910).




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