A season for everyone in GrahamstownNational Arts Festival
The 38th National Arts Festival runs from 28 June to 8 July in Grahamstown this year.
Within the broader structures of a fabulous programme, a number of mini-festivals catering for specialized tastes or celebrating deeper partnerships are taking root.
Two exciting new initiatives to look out for this year are a season of solo plays within the Main theatre programme, and the launch of the French Season in South Africa.
After the signing of an agreement between the governments of France and South Africa, The French Season in South Africa comes to life through performances by French artists and companies around the country in the second half of this year. A reciprocal arrangement will see South African work travel to France in 2013. The season kicks off in Grahamstown with the support of the French Institute in South Africa, the Embassy of France and the South African Department of Arts and Culture, and sees a number of productions across several genres premiering.
When French theatre-maker Jean-Paul Delore met South African actors Nick Welsh and Lindiwe Mitshikiza, he knew they were going to find a middle ground through shared curiosities. Their first encounter in Johannesburg was a surrealistic experience at Ster City, an abandoned multiplexed cinema which was the source of inspiration for their work. In their play Ster City, two clowns create a compelling narrative for the past and very strong present of the city and, indirectly, the South African nation.
Other productions include Pudique Acide and Existases - a double bill created by French choreographers Mathilde Monnier and Jean-François Duroure; !Aïa - a transversal work between art, culture, science and traditional wisdom created by the internationally renowned Taliipot Theatre company from Reunion; and two productions by the innovative Cien Non Nova Theatre Company - Vortex and Afternoon of a Foehn. The KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra will also present a concert of fantasy and favourites, celebrating the cultural exchange between France and South Africa with an all-French programme.
Theatre enthusiasts who are fond of solo theatre will enjoy the intimacy of a season of solo plays, which features five productions by some of South Africa’s best known writers, actors and directors.
At the forefront of the solo programme is A Conversation with Pieter-Dirk EISH. In his journey from the old South Africa to the new, political hypocrisy has hardly ever escaped Uys’s perceptive eye. His courage, combined with his talent as a raconteur, has enabled him to tell uncomfortable political truths in a way that even those politicians who are the subjects of his satire have found themselves chuckling. In this unique production, Uys presents his life on stage, ever so transparently.
Mother to Mother is a powerful story of forgiveness and reconciliation, based on the tragic killing of Amy Biehl, and brings together four powerhouses of South African female talent. Adapted for stage by Dr Sindiwe Magona (writer of the original story upon which the play is based), Janice Honeyman (multi award-winning director), and Thembi Mtshali-Jones (celebrated singer, actress and playwright); it is produced by Yvette Hardie (international producer, director and educator).
Actor and writer Omphie Molusi was the first recipient of the Royal Shakespeare Company/Baxter Theatre Brett Goldin Award. His self-penned, one person play, Itsoseng, is set in Itsoseng, a township in the North West province, which means “wake yourself up”. The play is a scathing indictment of government indifference, cynicism and incompetence in dealing with the people of the township. It won a Fringe First award at the Edinburgh Festival in 2008, receiving reviews that opened doors for performances at several international venues.
Set in contemporary South Africa, written by Nick Warren, directed by Jenine Collocott and performed by James Cunningham, Sunday Morning centres on a successful photographer who has his life exactly how he likes it – ordered, neat, and beautifully composed – until the day his girlfriend tells him she is pregnant. In an attempt to process this disturbing information he goes out for a run. Straying from his regular route, he ventures into a strange part of the city where he makes a gruesome discovery that changes everything.
Nicky Rebelo has adapted some of Herman Charles Bosman’s stories to create Jurie Steyn’s Post Office. David Butler again takes on the role of Bosman, as well as some of the eccentric characters that used to gather in Jurie Steyn’s voorkamer (reception-room), which also served as the local Post Office.
Other niches are being explored on the Festival programme this year: The Student Theatre presentations by tertiary institutions around the country have been a rite of passage for much our country’s top acting and directing talent and this year 16 institutions take to the stages in Grahamstown. Forums such as Think!Fest and the independently-run Wordfest - which provide a platform for discussion around topical and pertinent issues and a launchpad for young writers respectively - have become a mainstay of the annual programme.
Bookings for this year’s “11 Days of Amaz!ng” are open. Tickets are available through Computicket. Booking kits are available from selected Standard Bank branches, selected Exclusive Books and Computicket branches from May. For more information on the programme, accommodation and travel options visit www.nationalartsfestival.co.za Also join the National Arts Festival group on Facebook for all the latest news, or follow us on Twitter @artsfestival.
The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, The Eastern Cape Government, The National Arts Council, City Press and M-Net.
About the National Arts Festival: The National Arts Festival, now in its 38th year, has proved its sustainability and has grown to be one of the leading arts festivals in southern Africa. Its objectives are to deliver excellence; encourage innovation and development in the arts by providing a platform for both established and emerging South African artists; create opportunities for collaboration with international artists; and build new audiences.
The Famous Idea
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National Arts Festival, Grahamstown
Web site: http://www.nationalartsfestival.co.za
National Arts Festival
Dates: Thursday, 3rd July 2014 - Sunday, 13th July 2014