A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

festivals
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

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

NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL: THEATRE (article first published : 2008-04-2)

A super-abundance of world-class performers and a record number of premičres are striking features of the Main Programme for the National Arts Festival which will take place in Grahamstown June 26 to July 5 2008.

“A gathering of all these incredible artists all in one place, at one time, for ten days,” said outgoing Festival Director Lynette Marais, “makes you aware of the richness of the talent in South Africa. Normally these performers are dispersed across the country and, increasingly, the world. But suddenly, at the Festival, they are all together here in Grahamstown.” At this huge annual cultural reunion, audiences catch up with the latest of the best and artists catch up with each other. “You saw it first at the Festival” is a slogan that has never been more apt than this year: every single one of the productions on the theatre programme is a South African premičre and there are seven world premičres.

Multi-skilled Jaco Bouwer is one of the most exciting figures on the South African theatre scene at the moment so it was no surprise when he was announced as the 2008 Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for Drama. He collaborates with writer Saartjie Botha in an innovative piece, Untitled, that engages with the silent void between what we feel and what we are able to express in words. Unable to tell the grown-ups what she feels, the plucky pre-teen heroine of I, Claudia (played by Susan Danford) reflects on the dilemmas of life in the space between child and woman. The audience peeps into her secret hidey-hole where she tries to make sense of the adult world. “Blissfully funny … charming and heartbreaking,” said Toronto critics. Kristen Thomson’s award-winning script is directed by Lara Bye.

Further down the road to adulthood, the central figure in The Quiet Violence of Dreams is one of the new generation of educated young Africans trying to find their true self amid the social and psychological hazards of a contemporary urban environment. The script was adapted for the stage by Ashraf Johaardien from the award-winning novel by K Sello Duiker.

Two other new South African plays make poetry from the tougher side of existence. In Michael Wentworth’s Waiting, directed by Itumeleng Motsikoe, the main character is born destitute and endures a succession of accidents and disasters with a fortitude that affirms the resilience of the human spirit. Poignant saxophone notes amplify his dramatic monologue. Fortitude wraps like a protective garment round a gifted young girl who is the nexus of the swirling action in The Market Theatre’s production of Ten Bush, co-scripted by Craig Higginson and the director Mncedisi Shabangu. Trapped in a spiral of reveinge, witchcraft and human sacrifice, is she to pay the price for wrongs that were committed before her time?

Two iconic figures who fought valiantly against wrongs in South Africa’s recent past inspired two of the new theatre pieces for Festival 2008. Writer/director Martin Koboekae takes the heroic Steve Biko and brings him to life on stage as an intelligent and supremely likeable medical student in BIKO: Where the Soul Resides. In real life, the subject of Nadia Davids’ docu-drama Cissie, presented by the Baxter Theatre, belonged to a prominent Cape Muslim family. Cissie Gool was the first black woman to complete an MA in Psychology and she served as a Cape Town City Councillor before apartheid. The script is alive with anecdotes and cameos about her personal life and the social circle she mixed in: Olive Schreiner and Mahatma Gandhi were house friends.

No programme would be complete without tweaking the funny bone. Ellis Pearson and Bheki Mkhwane never fail to hit the spot with their blend of story-telling, physical acuity, side-splitting humour and deeply serious message. For Festival 2008, they present Australia vs South Africa, a rugby team effort with their Aussie counterparts Tom Lycos and Stefo Nantsou.

There are lots more laughs in Paul Slabolepszy’s For Your Ears Only. The funny man who observes current day South Africans so acutely takes us into a SAfm studio where an episode of The Soul of Sister Serious is being recorded, with all the gizmos you need for special sound effects. Another drama is playing out between the characters behind the microphones. Ralph Lawson directs a cast that includes Michael Richard, Louise Saint-Claire and “The Slab” himself.

The free outdoor performance programme for 2008 is given over entirely to magical African stories. Basil Mills’ Flight of the Lightning Bird – Impundulu, conjures up tales of the sky and water spirits with lights, music, dance and fire. Wise animal guides aid a young person through successive life stages in Ariadne’s Labyrinth. Director Li Parker uses a combination of choral work, drumming, movement and physical innovation to tell the story. Ellis Pearson and Sdumo Mtshali conjure up a cast of animals in a seriously fun piece, Impisi. Ousted from the pride, an injured lioness learns the power of positive thinking from two unlikely new friends: ugly, lame hyena, and bumbling, sight-impaired rhino.

At The Studio, high-energy Eastern Cape groups strike sparks with their stage presence. Using physical comedy and clowning as their weapons, The Fingo Revolutionary Sisonke Movement and Bantu Bonke tackle the iniquities of our prison system in Warders. The ladies of the Chiculso Drama Group from Libode celebrate the contribution of public figures like Miriam Makeba and Brenda Fassie in AmaQobokazana – Mothers of the Nation. UBOM! Obutsha Youth Company collaborates with The Purple Dragon (from Montreal) in Thrash! , a compulsive music drama about youths tossed in the maelstrom of township subcultures.

In the Student Theatre programme, 12 participating groups present a cross section of theatre on the frontiers of creative experimentation. They are all beautiful in their energy and youthfulness, all exploring the meaning of life (often with humour), all scrambling for a place in the main theatres of tomorrow.

The 34th anniversary of the National Arts Festival Grahamstown takes place from June 26 to July 5 2008. It is proudly supported by The Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, SABC and The National Arts Council.

Further details are available in the free Festival Booking Kit, which will be available from selected Standard Bank branches and Computicket outlets nationwide from April 30. Booking opens on May 5. For further information contact 046 603 1103 or visit the website www.nationalartsfestival.co.za




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart