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READINGS OF NEW WRITINGS (article first published : 2007-10-22)

The KZN Regional Finals of one of South Africa’s most dynamic writing competitions, the NLDTF / PANSA Festival of Contemporary Theatre Reading of New Writings, which features four innovative brand new scripts, will be read at the Kwasuka Cutting Edge Theatre on October 27 and 28.

The staged readings of these finalists coincide with matching festivals in Cape Town and Johannesburg and will conclude with a national final to be held in Durban in two weeks time. The aims of the Festival are to generate original South African theatre works, to provide a platform for these works to reach the attention of theatre producers, and to work towards full-scale productions of the regional winning plays to be presented as part of a possible national tour in 2008. Many of the previous winning plays have been hugely successful, from Mike van Graan’s Green Man Flashing to Karen Jeynes’ Everybody Else Is F**King Perfect.

The festival is one of the initiatives of PANSA (The Performing Arts Network of SA) – the civic association serving the needs of the performing arts community nationally and regionally. PANSA also co-ordinates the Musho Festival of One and Two hander plays every January at the Catalina and Kwasuka Theatres in Durban.

With a generous grant from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), the festivals will take place nationally this weekend with staged readings in the provinces that house PANSA’s three provincial offices; Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng. Winners from these regional festivals will represent each province in a final national festival to be presented in Durban November 10 and 11 at the Kwasuka Cutting Edge Theatre.

Greg Homann, the festival’s project manager, says: “An important component of the festivals is the discussions that follow the staged reading of each work. These encourage constructive feedback and debate around theatre aesthetics, functions and forms. Another exciting component of the festival is the Audience Prize which allows the audience to actively participate and contribute to the outcome of the competition.”

There is substantial prize money available for each festival– various awards will be presented and will be known as the NLDTF/PANSA awards. Regional cash prizes include: Best Writer (as selected by the panellists) R5,000; Runner-up R2,500 and the Audience Prize R2,500. At the National competition prizes include: Best Writer (as selected by the panellists) R30,000; Runner-up R15,000; Best Director R10,000 and the Audience Prize R15,000.

A panel of judges in each region have selected the best script in each category for participation in the regional staged readings. The judges for KZN are Tamar Meskin (from the drama dept: UKZN); Christa Biyela (drama dept: DUT) and Neil Coppen (actor / writer / film-maker)

The first reading is on October 27 at 14h00 of Clinton Marius’s script: iLobolo. Imagine how you’d feel if you were an Umhlanga socialite and 61 cows invaded the manicured beauty of your garden! This is the story of ilobolo negotiations gone horribly wrong. Clinton Marius’ script is highly amusing, mildly chaotic and hugely entertaining - and very much a story of the new South Africa. iLobolo is directed by Caroline Smart and the seven cast members include Lisa Bobbert, Tom Read, Cindy Ngidi, Thomie Holtzhausen, Edwin Khumalo, Sifiso Simamane and Sibusisiwe Ngubane.

This is followed at 17h00 by Carole Green’s Shrink – an absurdist comedy in two parts read by actors Clare Mortimer and Steven Stead. Steven Stead, who also directs the piece, considers it as something of “Shirley Valentine meets Monty Python” It looks at two characters on the brink of madness presented in a format not unlike Laughing Wild. Clare Mortimer plays a kooky actress in the middle of a crisis involving sharp knives, a divorce and an assortment of vegetables. Steven Stead plays a man who is about to declare war on the Department of Home Affairs who have botched up yet again. Shrink looks at the curve balls life throws at us and the different ways we have of managing them.

Afternoon tea will be served between the two shows to audience and participants.

The finalists on October 28 are Kobus Moolman with Stone Angel at 12h00. Clare Mortimer directs this compelling, lyrical and moody two-hander read by Josette Eales and Janna Ramos-Violante. These two enormously complex women are separated by more than a hundred years but have a connection between them. Part theatre “Biopic”, part historical drama and part ghost story, this script weaves stories of past and present together and, in so doing, examines our interpretation of historical events which over time has become folklore and national myth.

Poppie – is a contemporary car guard in Northern Natal guarding cars of visitors who have come to attend a function at a Boer cemetery on a battle field where the Stone Angel from the play’s title guards the grave of a young Boer woman who died during the Second Anglo Boer War. We cut back 100 years to meet Dolli – the fallen Boer woman and learn about her fascinating story.

At 14h00 is Carole Green’s second entry -A Child for Anna. This is a piece of detective fiction set in Durban 1935 which is loosely based on an actual murder case. Significantly, it is set in the year before Hollywood adopted rampant censorship laws and at a time when life in Durban was like the movies only raunchier, bloodier and sexier. Written as part crime thriller and part historical drama, A Child for Anna is once again directed by Steven Stead and read by Iain Robinson (Ewok); Frank Graham; Michael Gritten; Josette Eales; Clare Mortimer; Bryan Hiles; Ntando Cele and Afzal Khan.

A light lunch will be served between the two Sunday shows, to audience and participants.

Readings will be followed by the adjudication, discussion and prize-giving. Entry is free and all are welcome! For more information, contact the Catalina Theatre on 031 305 6889 or Scelo in the PANSA KZN offices (mornings only) on 031 309 5838, or PANSA KZN on pansakzn@polka.co.za




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