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.

NAF, GRAHAMSTOWN, JUNE 29 (article first published : 2008-07-1)

Every year, there is a different fashion of hats in Grahamstown – this time it seems as if it is the year of the multi-coloured Peruvian knitted woolly cap with its dangling ties. A very sensible style of headgear for this weather because at least it keeps your head and your ears warm!

Today saw the regular media get-together and it was tinged with a certain sadness this year as we said goodbye to Lynette Marais who is retiring as festival director after 20 years. Her position will be taken by Ismail Mohamed but she will still remain close to the festival - as CEO Tony Lankester quipped “She’s got our numbers on speed dial!”

Standard Bank has supported the National Arts Festival for 25 years and for a considerable period, the bank had naming rights. Standard Bank is still one of the major sponsors with the Eastern Cape provincial government, National Arts Council and the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund but now tends to concentrate on specific projects such as the Young Artist Award Winners and the Standard Bank Festival for Jazz which now incorporates the Standard Bank Youth Jazz Festival.

Celebrating its 25 years of sponsorship, Standard Bank presented a splendid concert featuring several past and present winners of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award. The production was directed by Janice Honeyman (a Young Artist Award winner in 1982) and her surefire feel for comedy and a theatrical presentation meant that the concert became a fast-moving, humorous and glorious celebration. It was superbly held together by the incomparable Janine Neethling as Musical Director. Former Durban actor James Ngcobo, now based in Johannesburg and carving his name as a director as well as a tv actor, was the genial and amusing host.

The line-up was certainly impressive. Heading the star-studded line-up was acclaimed diva Sibongile Khumalo whose every appearance is a delight, particularly when performing with Themba Mkhize in one of his own compositions, Inner Peace. Sibongile Mngoma sang O Mio Babbino Caro with a sensitive piano and guitar accompaniment.

Appearing alongside them was this year’s winner, Zanne Stapelberg. Making no secret of her advanced pregnancy, she breezed through Barcelona with Zwai and Phelo Bala and Nicholas Nicolaidis. That baby is surely going to come out bursting with song! While Barcelona was an undoubted highlight of the programme, the same foursome had the audience in fits of laughter with their rendition of Largo al Factotem from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.

What a treat to have three Young Artist Award Winners forming the Young Artists’ Jazz Trio with Concord Nkabinde on bass guitar, Shannon Mowday on sax and penny whistle and this year’s Mark Fransman seated at the piano. The Debbie Rakusin Dancers pumped up the tempo with their foot-stomping Boots & Tap and the Cantus African Choir impressed with their discipline and harmonies. Accompanying musicians were James Grace on guitar, Rob Watson on drums and John Hassan on percussion.

Eight years ago, well-known duo Ellis Pearson and Bheki Mkhwane were performing their show Squawk at festivals in Monterey and San Diego in the US. By some fortuitous chance an Australian duo, Tom Lycos and Stefo Nantsou of Zeal Theatre were performing their production Stones at the same festivals.

The two sets of actors met, saw each other’s work and discovered a synergy between them. However, they were only to meet again four years later, this time at a festival in Calgary. Ideas were thrown around about working together but nothing came of it. It was only in 2006, when Tom and Stefo were commissioned by the Sydney Theatre Company to write a new play that their “wild idea”, as they called it, started to take off.

The play’s concept outline dealt with nationalism, sport, media panic and racism. The resulting production Australia vs South Africa premiered at the Wharf 2 Theatre in Sydney last year in July.

As one entered the theatre, it was a very different Ellis and Bheki that greeted us – well, hardly greeted, they were going as seriously heavy security guards whose steely glare encompassed the whole audience daring to misbehave at this major match between Australia and South Africa.

What follows is the usual Pearson-Mkhwane mayhem but this time with a lot more muscle and dramatic content as the four actors pool their resources in what is a highly amusing production. Particularly delightful were two interchanging taxi rides – one carrying the South Africans away from the stadium from which they’d been evicted after Bheki’s character had “hijacked” the Australian emblem – and the other carrying the Australians as they raced to get to the stadium before the match starts.

I particularly liked the way the actors handled the various news commentaries as well as producing all the other sound effects with their own voices. There was a moment of horrified disbelief as Ellis’s fans watched their icon (as an embittered former South African now living in Australia) launch forth into hate speech, until they reminded themselves that he was acting!

Referring to Margaret von Klemperer’s review in Cue, the front page headline reads: “A cheery swipe at racism”. Australia vs South Africa certainly didn’t hold back on reminding us that racism is rife elsewhere as well as the fact that there’s always someone wanting to make a lot of money out of sport and any other kind of news associated with it!




 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