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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

AT THE PLAYHOUSE IN 2008 (article first published : 2008-01-27)

The Playhouse Company in Durban has announced a wide variety of shows to be presented on its stages this year, catering for the broad spectrum of the communities it serves. Prominent on the Company’s schedule is the first global conference to be held in Africa by ISPA, the International Society for the Performing Arts, in June (watch press for the full programme of events to be released shortly). Meanwhile, two other landmarks on the Company’s calendar will be the annual South African Women’s Arts Festival in August and the Traditional Arts Festival in September. These will be offset during the year by ongoing New Stages productions, many other shows throughout the Playhouse complex, not least the fortnightly Test Driving the Arts lunch hours which create a platform for upcoming artists in the fields of popular and contemporary music, song, dance, poetry and other cross-cultural performance art forms. In the Opera on January 26 at 14h00 is a dazzling display of Chinese performance art and gravity defying acrobatics. Presented in association with the National Department of Arts and Culture in the Playhouse Opera, this features the Yunnan Art Group touring from the People’s Republic of China. Tickets R30 booked through Computicket.

Think Theatre’s staging of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, presented in association with the Playhouse Company is directed by Clare Mortimer, and stars Iain Ewok Robinson in the title role. The production is part of the Playhouse’s 2008 Schools season, and is staged as an aid to learners in KZN studying the play as a matric setwork. Casting includes Michael Gritten, Clare Mortimer, Darren King, Marc Kaye, Adam Doré, Karen Logan, Dylan Edie, Rowan Bartlett and Loyiso MacDonald, among others. Hamlet has two public performances on February 7 and 29 at 19h00. Schools performances are at 09h00 and 12h00 Mondays to Fridays from February 4 to March 7, and at 12h00 only on February 7 and 29. Booking is through Computicket.

Also on the roster for the Playhouse’s schools season, Amagama Amathathu is an HIV Aids awareness puppet theatre presentation scripted and directed by Gisele Turner and Wendy Nell. This Arley’s Workshop creation stars Phumelephi Mthombeni and T-Bone Hlahane with a ‘cast’ of ten hand-crafted rod puppets created by Nell. The play is performed in a combination of isiZulu and English and is suitable for audiences of all ages. Amagama Amathathu runs in the Playhouse Loft from February 13 to 22 with schools performances at 09h00 and 11h00. Tickets R15 pp. To ensure a booking for schools phone Mala Govender on 031 369 9456 as soon as possible as bookings are limited. There will be a public performance at 19h00 on 13 February.

The Playhouse Company and the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra celebrate Valentine’s Day in style with a glitzy Valentine’s Concert in The Playhouse Opera on February 14. Directed and choreographed by Mark Hawkins and conducted by Naum Rousine, this glamorous event promises to be a night to remember with a wealth of musical enchantment and big stage spectacle. The line-up includes Tim Moloi, Pume Zondi, Melanie Lowe, Joseph Clark, popular violin trio, BraVa, and guitar whiz Rowan Stuart, along with a number of leading South African dancers. The evening’s MC’s, celebrity poet Lebo Mashile and Isidingo star Robert Whitehead, will bring a special buzz to the event. The audience is invited to contribute to the occasion by joining the artists in appearing in designer evening wear. Booking through Computicket on 083 915 8000 or the Playhouse Box Office on 031-369 9540 / 9596.

Busi With Love on February 8 is a benefit concert in the Opera in support of the much-loved diva Busi Mhlongo. This features performances by luminaries of song, Simphiwe Dana, Siphokazi and Thandiswa (watch press for more details). K-Kap’s One Among Many, the Chief Albert Luthuli Musical, is due for a run in the Opera from February 20 to March 2. Presented in association with the Playhouse Company and directed by Edmund Mhlongo, the show celebrates Africa’s first Nobel Peace Prize winner with a combination of Gospel and African style music, performed to energetic choreographic sequences.

Handel’s Messiah receives a triumphant Easter Sunday staging in the Playhouse Opera on March 23 in collaboration with the KZNPO. Conducted by visiting Welsh maestro, Owain Arwel Hughes, and staged by Themi Venturas, this features Beverley Chiat (soprano), Vera-Marie Meyer (mezzo soprano), Bongani Tembe (tenor) and Federico Freschi (baritone), with leading Ethekwini choristers under Juan Burgers, joining forces with the Durban Symphonic Choir under Rosalie Conrad for a magnificent musical happening. Book through Computicket.

New Classics, The Playhouse Company’s latest residency programme, will be unveiled in a New Stages premiere season of dance in the Drama Theatre from March 18 to 22. This challenging neo classical work features the choreography of Desiré Davids and combines elements of contemporary, African and Classical styles. It has been created on five leading Durban-based dancers Zinhle Gumede, Liselle Sproull, Louise Fraquet-Golding, Quinton Ribbonaar and Davids herself.

The Playhouse Company’s New Stages shows reflect innovative, cutting edge creativity on our performing arts circuit. Other productions in this series during the first half of the year include, among others, a double bill entitled Twisted Bones and Movers and Shakers, featuring work by Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre and the Durban University of Technology (April 3 to 5): Tree Boy, a searching new piece by Neil Coppen, creator of the award-winning Tin Bucket Drum (April 17 to 19); and the locally celebrated, Azibuye Esezadlula, an engaging Isiqiniseko Arts Project that explores cultural roots through a combination of movement, song and dance.

Another forthcoming attraction set to have audience abuzz is the internationally-lauded production, Curry Tales, scheduled for a season in the Drama from April 9 to 20. Written and performed by Rani Moorthy and directed by Linda Marlowe, this spicy, intriguing look at a life on the culinary front premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 2004 and has since become a run-away hit. On the popular comedy scene, following The Playhouse Company’s sell-out successes with Queens of Comedy last year, a new presentation of Zulu Stand-up convened by Monwabisi Grootboom is scheduled for the Drama on April 25 and 26.

John Kani’s Nothing But the Truth is due to run in the Playhouse Drama in June, featuring two KZN-born stars of stage and screen, Leleti Khumalo and Welile Tembe.

The Playhouse Mobile Stage has a busy season coming up, touring with The Playhouse Company’s new 2008 Education and Development programme for Primary and Senior Primary school audiences entitled Protect Our Environment. Devised and directed by Hamish Kyd, this will tour schools in and around Durban and KwaZulu-Natal from February 11 to 22. Conceived as a 25 minute musical to be performed by a cast of five actor-singer-dancers, the show will feature elements of Hip Hop song and dance as well as comedy to ensure the education content of the show is readily accessible to young audiences. The production will be performed in both English and isiZulu, catering to the specific language requirements of the learners of schools attending the production during the tour. The tour will be accompanied by Keep Ethekwini Beautiful Education Officer June Zondi, who will conduct a 15 minute question and answer session with pupils following each performance. School bookings are via Mala Govender in The Playhouse Company’s Marketing Department on 031 369 9456.

Also on the road with Mobile Stage is an extended tour of last year’s When Rain Clouds Gather. This is set to bring the Playhouse Company’s stage adaptation of Bessie Head’s setwork novel to further schools throughout KwaZulu-Natal. For more details of this Playhouse Company schools tour, set to run from July 14 until August 29, contact the Playhouse Company’s Marketing department on 031 369 9456.

Detailed programme information regarding the 12th annual South African Women’s Arts Festival, to run at The Playhouse from August 1 to 10, has still to be released but exciting components in the festival mix to conjure with include among others, a Cultural Development Trust production entitled Women of Dzonga, an attention-grabbing Battle of the Women DJ’s and Duma Ndlovu’s The Game in the Playhouse Drama featuring an all-star cast of leading TV actors (watch press for the full festival line-up). Building on its burgeoning popularity, the Playhouse Company’s Traditional Arts Festival will again showcase widely popular indigenous performance styles in its two marathon shows, the annual Indlamu Competition on September 21, and the 11th National Isicathamiya Competition on September 27. Both are all-night events that attract dedicated audiences from the all over KwaZulu-Natal.

Further New Stages projects planned for later in the year include a Poetry Festival in the Grand Foyer on September 4, Sister Breyani in the Loft from October 8 to 11, and a double bill featuring the productions Bodies in Space and Umphafa in the Loft from 16 to 18 October.

While a further season of Zulu comedy is planned for 8 November in the Drama, details regarding a new Playhouse production in the Drama in October, as well as particulars of the Playhouse 2008 Festive Season, are still under wraps. More information from the Playhouse Company’s Marketing department on 031 369 9456.




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