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NAF FREE EVENTS (article first published : 2005-05-20)

Five productions on the Street Theatre programme of the National Arts Festival head up a sizeable list of free events which mean all comers can get involved over the festival period in Grahamstown from June 30 to July 9. “The ‘arts for all’ credo is high on our agenda,” says Festival Director Lynette Marais. “Free events draw everyone into the Festival’s charmed circle – especially people on a tight budget. Free events also help educate new audiences to develop a love of the arts.”

Four of the Street Theatre pieces will have performances in the city as well as out at Nombulelo Hall in Grahamstown East.

The nation’s soul brothers, Ellis Pearson and Bheki Mkhwane, are to present their latest high-energy piece. Titled What About Me? “Can me be swallowed up in us?”, it poses the question to a selfish generation.

Popular stage hypnotist Stef Juncker will get the whole family involved in The Great Escape – his laugh-a-minute stunt-fest which tells the story of that king of escapologists, Houdini.

Ex/Change is a new production from the Art of the Street Project. Some 25 youngsters associated with Grahamstown’s Eluxolweni Shelter for street children offer a new perspective on life on ‘the other side of the tracks’. Rhodes University’s Aylwyn Walsh directs and members of Ubom! (Eastern Cape Theatre Company) to provide extra vuma.

Vuka! Vuka! (Wake Up!) tells of a group of street children who journey through a frightening mythical world in search of a better life. This is a collaborative piece between Het Waterhuis (The Netherlands), Eager Artists (Durban), NDLOVU (Mpumalanga), RYDO (Limpopo), SOS (Diepsloot, Gauteng), SYDS (Johannesburg) and TVAAP (Limpopo).

The Mama Africa Theatre Company comprises a group of youngsters from Soweto Kliptown Youth (SKY) and French theatre professionals, Neusa Thomasi (director of the Compagnie des Contraires), Eric de Sarria (an actor from the Philippe Genty Company), and French visual artist Arnaud Rabier. They present two shows, The Story of Aywa and Memories of the Struggle. Festinos will be welcomed into Aywa’s world by a three-meter high puppet and will get the chance to participate in puppetry, gumboot dancing and pantsula workshops as well as witness some graffiti performances. Memories of the Struggle tells stories from daily life in Kliptown, bringing the hard times, the dreams and the aspirations vividly to life.

Other free events during the National Arts Festival include a wealth of exhibitions both on the Main and the Fringe programmes. Brendhan Dickerson’s dramatic fire performance sculpture on July 8 at 18h00 and the Sounds Crazy electronic music-making machines both promise to be sensational in the deeper sense of the word!

Richard Cock and the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra will offer an hour-long interactive ‘Introduction to the Orchestra’ session. The New Music Indaba programme includes two free concerts of electronic music from Africa as well as a free performance by top ensembles of work produced during the composers workshops.

The Transnet Truck enjoys enormous popularity offering a programme throughout the day of music and light entertainment. The nightly Sundowner Concerts where Fringe artists present a short teaser advertising their shows has been one of the highlights of the Festival for the past 30 years.

All day every day of the Festival, craft inspirations from far and wide are on display to buy or eye at the Transnet Village Green and Church Square. Watching the passing parade at these buzzing precincts is a theatrical experience in itself.

Free Booking Kits for the Festival are available at selected Standard Bank branches and Computicket outlets. Booking is at Computicket. Further information on 046 603 1103 or visit www.nafest.co.za

The Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, the SABC, the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and the National Arts Council are the proud sponsors of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown.




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