Voorkamer Festival a darling

2011-09-03 18:21

It’s midday on Friday and Willie Hoogbaard has a Dutch performing artist coming to do a show at his house in Darling at 5pm.

Hoogbaard has no idea who the artist is, or what the show is about, but he’s spent two days painting and cleaning up his RDP house for the audiences who will view the show there over the weekend.

He’s sent his four children to stay with their grandmother and will retire to the kitchen while performances take place until the end of the weekend.

“I’m very excited,” he says. “I’ve got a small house, but the show can take place on the afdak (verandah). I’ve spent the last two days painting it and making it nice,” says Hoogbaard.

He is one of 21 homeowners in Darling, a rural town 75km north of Cape Town, who have made their homes available as venues for the unique Voorkamer Festival taking place this weekend.

Having top local and international artists performing to small audiences crammed into sitting rooms or on verandahs is not the only unique aspect of this festival, which is celebrating its eighth year.

The booking system is also unusual.

Patrons don’t book to see specific shows. A booking is for a “route” – during which they are transported by local taxis to a series of three shows running on any of seven routes.

Says festival coordinator Tasha St John-Reid: “People don’t know if someone is going to sing, stand on their head or bring out some unusual instrument.”

The weekend offers almost as much of a surprise for the performers who walk into the home in which they are to perform an hour before their first show on Friday night.

Actor and stand-up comic Rob van Vuuren is having his first crack at Voorkamer. “It’s a really rad concept,” he says, “I’m looking forward to the challenge and intimacy of it.”

With only 25 people in the audience at each show, he says he will have to adjust his performance, particularly as the audience, when they arrive, don’t know what to expect.

The intimacy and surprise element means performers and audience alike become part of the weekend’s festival.

The small town of 10 000 people literally buzzes over the weekend, with 14 local taxis whizzing audiences around from house to house, restaurants overflowing and farmers in two-tone shirts rubbing shoulders with extravagantly dressed out-of-towners in shopping queues and coffee shops.

“We play music and joke, and everyone talks about the festival,” says taxi driver Johanna Papier.

She says the town is aflutter, preparing for the first set of shows and everyone spends all year looking forward to the festival.

“I enjoy every moment,” says Papier. “I love meeting all the new people who cram into my taxi. I tell them all about Darling as we drive around.

“It brings everyone together. It’s wonderful.”

– West Cape News

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