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FESTIVAL DIARY – JUNE 28 (article first published : 2003-06-30)

Day Two dawned bright and clear and the weather stayed kind the whole day. I took in the Berni Searle exhibition in the morning – a fascinating mix of photography and video technology. This exhibition will eventually reach the Durban Art Gallery so those living in KZN should take note.

While the Village Green was reported to be extremely busy, the town seemed much quieter compared to the same time last year. You can usually judge the number of people around by the availability of parking bays!

To be launched at this year’s festival is a new publication by “brand extinguisher” Justin Nurse who is the “man behind Laugh it Off, the David of companies to such Goliaths as South African Breweries and MTN.” (extract from Wordstock, the publication of Wordfest). The new magazine features an attack on corporate monopolies and the theme of monotony. Justin Nurse was sued by SA Breweries for a design lampooning SAB’s branding.

Also launched today was Bushwhacked by cartoonist Zapiro and Bret Bailey’s Plays of Miracle and Wonder (Review on iMumbo Jumbo, his production on the Fringe Festival appears in the festival report of June 27).

Jay Pather and the Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre got a good review from Matthew Krouse (Mail & Guardian arts editor) in the festival newspaper Cue

Cue also reported on an thought-provoking incident - although highly unamusing for the performing companies involved - about a woman who handed herself over at the Cue offices in response to the police warning to festinos about poster snatchers. She maintained that she had admired the designs and inventiveness shown in posters but felt not enough attention was given to this art form and decried the shoddy and slack way in which many of them were presented. So she went about “rescuing” them. Needless to say, she was relieved of the 12 posters she was guarding so preciously!

In the evening, I went to see Artscape and Roy Sergeant Productions’s dramatised version of Cry the Beloved Country which is on the main National Arts Festival programme.

Alan Paton’s best-selling novel has sold millions of copies since it was originally published in 1948. Director Heinrich Reinsenhofer has taken Roy Sergeant’s honest and respectful adaptation of the story and created a compelling and absorbing play. Scenes are beautifully inter-woven, sensitive and acute while the characters are finely drawn. It was a nice touch to incorporate a young schoolboy into the scenario. Studying the book, he wanders through the scenes observing the progress of the story.

Playing the part of Reverend Stephen Kumalo is Joko Scott in a towering and highly moving interpretation of the role – all the more impressive when one discovers that he was originally playing Kumalo’s brother but had to take over the lead role at a week’s notice when Ramolao Makhene fell ill and couldn’t continue.

Matching him is David Muller who Durban audiences will remember from the days of The Playhouse Loft Theatre Company. As James Jarvis he puts in a sensitive portrayal of a man trying to carry his murdered son’s dream forward.

Special mention must also be made of Nhlanhla Mavundla in his dual role of priest and labourer. Roger Dwyer, another ex-Playhouse Company director, is his usual solidly-grounded self as Mr Harrison.

Peter Cazalet has produced a beautiful set which appears at first sight to be a broken down house surrounded by rubble and the likes of discarded bicycles and furniture. With a centre ramp, it allows for many working levels and provides a good focal point for Kobus Rossouw’s evocative lighting design.

The use of video technology effectively provides the device to let the late Alan Paton have the last word.

The production goes on to Cape Town, then moves to Gauteng with the final season taking place in KZN in October. Performances will take place at the Hilton Arts Festival and the Playhouse in Durban. Make a note in your diary right away! - Caroline Smart




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