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FESTIVAL DIARY – July3 (article first published : 2003-07-4)

After the beautiful sunshine of the last six days, today was bitterly cold and raining. “Welcome to the rest festival weather!”, regular festinos from KZN were chortling at their fellow Durbanites all wrapped up like Eskimos. The sale of jerseys, anoraks, raincoast, gloves and hats went up considerably and I’m sure that the shows did bitter business as people were forced indoors.

I headed for the St Aidan’s Conference Centre to see Bush Tale presented by the Windybrow Theatre. I particularly wanted to see this as its director Walter Chakela had been my director in the Playhouse Company’s production of Maru many moons ago and I really enjoyed his clear and concise direction.

Bush Tales is set in 1986 when a chance meeting between a philosophical black labourer with an extensive vocabulary and a strung-out Afrikaans female white teacher would hardly lead to a relationship and Martin Koboekae and Lee-Ann Shepherd give strong, spunky and enjoyable performances in this bitter-sweet tale. There are some delightfully amusing moments but the plot is a bit illogical and we never really get to hear what she’s hiding from but perhaps this is better left to the imagination.

In the evening it was time to attend the long-awaited South African premiere of Greig Coetzee’s Happy Natives. The title comes from Greg’s response to his “growing concern that theatre from Africa presented outside of Africa” either deals with “wretchedness”, “triumph over adversity” or “happy dancing natives”.

Played out against an impressively simple but effective set which looks like a miniature apartment block made of plastic beer/soft drink crates, Greig and his co-star Sello Sebotsane take on a number of characters in a story that deals with two actors who play the corporate ad-men “gumboot-dancing-Zulu-lions game” when commissioned to present a short entertainment piece.

Both performers are excellent in their various roles. Greig is a delight as the fervently PC and “new South African” female client and the loutish gun-toting neighbour. Sello plays the new black man in the neighbourhood advocating mealies being grown in the garden and the slaughter of goats to invite his father’s spirit to his new house. He was an absolute scene stealer as the maid, Prudence.

Watch out for a more extensive review. Happy Natives is coming to Durban, the Hilton Arts Festival and Pietermaritzburg (see Drama pages).




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