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GRAHAMSTOWN FRINGE (article first published : 2002-06-15)

Themes range from African heritage to Afrikanerdom and antenatal classes, and whether it's rock opera, cabaret, or plain old song and dance you're after, it can be found on the Fringe in of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown from June 29 to July 6.

Heading the cabaret line up, young Port Elizabeth singer and dancer, Debra Engelbrecht will delight audiences with her award winning solo cabaret On My Own. Directed by theatre veteran Marléne Pieterse, Debra will be singing standards from a wide range of writers from Cole Porter and Irving Berlin to Sondheim - "a mixture of blues, jazz and a touch of Monroe".

Extravaganza features the best of Aaron McIlroy and Lisa Bobbert from previous sell-out successes. This rock 'n roll fiesta will include highlights from Sex, Bugs and Rock 'n Roll, The Loser, Revenge of the Pink Panties and Abba Maniacs. In the 2002 version of Belly Laughs, Lisa will be wearing an inflatable 'tum' but the antics, the advice and the athleticism of this husband and wife antenatal team is a must for anyone who has even considered having children!

Graham Weir, accompanied by acclaimed musician, Sven Goldin, bears all in his wacky new show How Graham Weir has Accidentally Managed to Stay Alive. This comedy-cabaret, directed by Megan Choritz, promises a wealth of zany stories from Graham's multi-faceted life and will feature several new songs by this versatile singer/composer.

KwaZulu-Natal is the subject of two thought provoking theatre pieces in the music theatre line-up. In uShaka KaZulu - The Gaping Wound, writer-director Bongani Linda makes a spirited appeal to the ancestors of King Shaka to forgive KwaZulu-Natal; and in Which is Which - Kanjani? The Bhekuzulu Theatre Workshop looks at the mysteries and marvels of love and Zulu marital traditions. Both pieces use vibrant song, dance and praise poetry to communicate their messages.

Current and community issues are highlighted in several Fringe productions and themes range from crime to destitution, unemployment and AIDS. A / Part Love, a light-hearted musical, addresses the needs of the unemployed in South Africa and looks at the conflict between the traditional and progressive ways of life. It is performed entirely by untrained people from informal settlements whose magnificent voices, humility and dedication will refresh even the most cynical of theatregoers.

Dance to the Future takes a look at the challenges and choices faced by the youth of today. Featuring vibrant gumboot dancing, singing and sheer enthusiasm, and based on real-life experiences, it is performed by the Boys Town Theatre Ensemble. Hope of Unity, choreographed by Nozipho Nguse and performed by youngsters from the Setlaga Community Project, integrates the different African dance forms in its appeal for all of us to work towards harmony and unity.

Zimbabwe Ruins, a rock opera performed by the band Mann Friday, takes audiences on a young man's journey through hope and despair when he realizes he must leave his home country and seek a future elsewhere. Told through alternative folk music and narration, with projected imagery, all the songs are composed and performed by Mann Friday.

State of the Heart, Amanda Strydom's acclaimed production, tells the story of a love affair between an Afrikaner meisie and a 'Rooinek' when these relationships were taboo in South Africa. Directed by Ian Roberts, Amanda Strydom's stunning voice and her equally effortless acting abilities culminate in a production that takes you on a wonderful, sentimental journey that captures the passion of love and the power of hope, while gently poking fun at the Afrikaner.

Kevin Feather's Doowah Boys have had a makeover! The new line-up of good- looking guys includes Byron-Lee Olivato and Mortimer Williams (from African Footprint), Jennis Williamson (the new kid on the block) and old-timer Percy Smith. The Doowah Boys 2002 is a musical exploration of the Boy Band phenomenon over the past 50 years and guarantees excellent singing and harmonising, plenty of comedy and audience participation.

The 2002 Fringe cabaret and music theatre line up is a dazzling display of talent and offers something for everyone. Book now through Computicket. The National Arts Festival is proudly sponsored by the Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank and the National Arts Council, with support from Shamwari Game Reserve.

For more information on the National Arts Festival programme, visit the official Festival website at www.nafest.co.za or get extra info on www.myzone.co.za




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