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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

ALL-NEW THEATRE AT NAF (article first published : 2008-06-2)

Nine Main Programme productions, nine premières: an unprecedented bonanza for theatregoers at the National Arts Festival (Grahamstown June 26 to July 5)! This year more visitors than ever will be able to say, “I saw it first at the Festival.”

The seven world premières include two important docu-dramas: Cissie and Biko: Where the soul resides, written and directed by Nadia Davids and Martin Koboekae respectively. Presented by The Baxter Theatre, David’s engrossing piece dramatises her years of research into the life and times of Cissie Gool (1897-1963) – one of the most influential and well-loved women of the District Six era. In Biko, Koboekae offers an intimate reading of the man behind the icon. Utlwanang Theatre presents the piece in association with the State Theatre.

Standard Bank Young Artist award-winner Jaco Bouwer directs a new work written by Saartjie Botha and tellingly titled Untitled. Using innovative theatre techniques, it engages with the crippling silence of fear.

In contrast, Paul Slabolepszy’s For Your Ears Only is all about words. Directed by Ralph Lawson and presented by SAfm, it takes audiences into a radio-recording studio to share the hilarious fuss and palaver listeners miss out on. More laughter is assured when the curtain goes up on Australia vs South Africa, a rugby comedy/drama featuring Ellis Pearson, Bheki Mkwane and Australians Tom Lycos and Stefo Nantsou. Presented by Sue Clarence Promotions, it’s fast-paced and very funny, skidding to a conclusion as tough as a punch in the solar plexus.

Canadian Kristen Thomson’s charmingly funny and poignant I, Claudia is brought to the Festival stage by actress Susan Danford and director Lara Bye. Teenage Claudia is a character that will linger in the heart for many months.

Tshepo, protagonist of The Quiet Violence of Dreams, is a 20-something graduate at peril in the social melting pot of contemporary Cape Town. Directed by Neville Engelbrecht, Ashraf Johaardien’s theatre adaptation of K Sello Duiker’s award-winning novel engages boldly with sexual and psychological taboos.

Village life in Ten Bush is fraught with hazards as love, betrayal, and revenge set a traditional community on course for murder and human sacrifice. This new Market Theatre Production by Craig Higginson and Mncedisi Shabangu is directed by Shabangu.

In Michael Wentworth’s Waiting, actor Phillip Tindisa and multi-instrumentalist Hilton Schilder use dramatic soliloquy and music to tell Jimmy Grootboom’s story. Fate has it in for this South African “Everyman”, but he never loses hope that things will improve. Directed by Itumeleng Motsikoe, Waiting is presented by ’69 Productions in collaboration with The State Theatre.

Free productions on the Street Theatre programme promise a barrel of fun for the whole family. Impisi, scripted by Ellis Pearson and Clive Essame and performed by Ellis and Sdumo Mtshali, uses animal characters and lots of fun and games to highlight the problems of being different and make a plea for tolerance. More African animals feature in Ariadne’s Labyrinth directed by Li Parker and presented by Inside&Out Theatre and Eden Campus Drama. This time the animals serve as teachers and guides to a young girl on the journey to self-knowledge.

Basil Mills’ after-dark spectacle The Flight of the Lightning Bird – Impundulu uses fire, water, light, music and dance to retell stories of Africa’s sky and water spirits.

At The Studio, three hard-hitting pieces speak straight from the hearts of the Eastern Cape’s young theatre makers.

Warders by Fingo Revolutionary Sisonke Movement in collaboration with Bantu Bonke dramatises the plight of young offenders in a corrupt prison system. The Chuculso Cultural Society celebrates the contribution women have made to our nation in a stirring piece titled Amaqobokazana – mothers of the nation. Ubom! Obutsha Youth Company creates Thrash! under the direction of Ingrid Wylde, with input from the Purple Dragon Theatre Company from Canada. They tell of the teenage head of a household who learns the hard way that joining a gang does not guarantee security.

On the Student Theatre Festival, productions by a dozen tertiary education institutions confirm the future of South African theatre is in strong young hands. Whether they are making mayhem, agonising, kicking up their heels or satirising contemporary life, the new generation of thespians displays promising verve.

Filling any gaps in the visitor’s diary, a full theatre line-up on the Fringe programme ensures that each day of the Festival, there’s a range of choices to suit all tastes. The National Arts Festival is proudly supported by The Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, SABC and The National Arts Council. For further information contact 046 603 1103 or visit the website www.nationalartsfestival.co.za

Booking now open at Computicket. Further details are available in the free Festival Booking Kit, now available from selected Standard Bank branches and Computicket outlets nationwide.




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