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GRAHAMSTOWN OPENS (article first published : 2000-07-2)

Beautiful sunny weather welcomed the opening of the 2000 Standard Bank National Arts Festival in Grahamstown yesterday for this annual event which is to run until July 8. The hospitable Eastern Cape town has once again stretched its resources to the limits – taking in an influx of visitors that can more than treble its population.

I have only seen one play by Fiona Coyne before and in fact, I think she has only written one. Whatever. Born of the Baxter Theatre Centre's new writing programme, her As the Kookie Crumbles was a great success when it premiered at Grahamstown last year and went on to the 1999 Hilton Arts Festival. Fiona's latest, Glass Roots produced by the Baxter Theatre and directed by Roy Sargeant, is on the main festival this year and set to be one of the most popular productions.

Putting in a superb performance – as always – as Mona "the mother from hell", Diane Wilson has some of the best dialogue as she dumps herself on her advertising creative director daughter Jo, spunkily played by Jenny Stead. Gail Reagon is delicious as Verity but the main enjoyment for me was to see former Durban actor James Ngcobo putting in a strong performance as Jo's partner and lover Vuyo. He and Jenny have an amusing seduction scene.

Mona is more than fond of Mainstay and the play's title comes from her unsuccessful attempt to say "grass roots" when somewhat pickled! The accent of the play is on comedy and there are some extremely clever and amusing lines although the mood takes a dramatic change in the second half. If this show comes your way, don't miss it.

Priyardarsini Govind, a Bharatanatyam specialist from Indian, is appearing on the main festival with her production Dance Divine. This charming, elegant and articulate dancer introduces each piece with a description and demonstration of the hand gestures used.

Sad news is that the Teatri Kombėtar/National Theatre of Prishtinė's production of Hamleti directed by David Gothard due to appear on the main frame has had to be cancelled. Due to red tape and travel difficulties, the cast is still in Kosova. This three-hour translation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet in Albanianis is expected to perform as part of the Amasiko cultural programme attached to the XIII International AIDS Conference taking place in Durban next week. Latest news is that all red tape will have been cut by then and Durban will get to see Hamleti.

Watch artSMart for regular reports and brief comments on various productions.




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