A truly established arts festival

2013-08-15 00:00

THE Witness Hilton Arts Festival is celebrating its 21st birthday with a feast of theatre, music and art at Hilton College from September 12 to September 15.

This year’s flagship production, Solomon and Marion, comes to the festival after performances at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland and sell-out success in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

In Lara Foot’s two-hander, which is being staged in the Grindrod Bank Theatre, Dame Janet Suzman and Khayalethu Anthony play the roles of an ageing and heartbroken woman and a young man — two people from opposite ends of South African society, who are thrown together by circumstance.

Marion has watched her life drain away. Children and husband gone, she ekes out an existence in a country utterly transformed. But it’s the only home she has.

As the new South Africa prepares for the Soccer World Cup, old divisions and suspicions seem as deep as ever, and the “intruder” she has been expecting, dreading and needing, arrives.

Through delicate and careful story­telling, the audience is moved from darkness to hope, as two injured souls search for redemption in a fragile, post-apartheid South Africa.


Other must-see productions heading to the festival.

• Morris Panych’s award-winning black comedy, Vigil, starring Graham Hopkins and Vanessa Cooke. The play offers a funny, painful and poignant look at contemporary relationships.

• Crazy In Love is devised and performed by Andrew Buckland and Liezl de Kock under the direction of Rob Murray. It tells the tragicomic story of a father and daughter in search of his missing bride and her mother.

• Hoss, produced by the Eastern Cape-based Ubom theatre company, pays homage to the Western movie tradition. The play stars Andrew Buckland and is directed by Rob Murray.

• Doubt, A Parable is a provocative and gripping story of suspicion and suspense, starring Fiona Ramsay, James Alexander, Faniswa Yisa and Janna Ramos-Violante, with direction by James Cuningham, set design by Vaughn Sadie and lighting design by Tina le Roux. Set in 1964, the play centres on a priest suspected of misconduct.

• Rainbow Scars is Mike van Graan’s latest drama. In the play, Ellen Robinson (Jenny Steyn), a suburban mom, adopts Lindiwe Robinson (Kertice Maitisa), a “born-free” orphan. Fast-forward to 2012. Something happens that not only challenges the mother-daughter relationship, but brings to the surface the scars of a country still struggling to heal its divided past.

• One Woman Farce, starring Louise Saint-Claire, tells the story of the Hodgkins family who try to adapt to the arrival of Granny, a spirited woman who is young at heart and appreciates an early morning brandy.

• Writer-director Greg Homann directs the hilarious Pirates of Penzance, which features five actors and a piano.

• The List, starring Susan Danford, tells the story of a woman who keeps her life in order by obsessively making to-do lists. When a friend requests a favour, she adds it to her list, but forgets to deal with it. Her mistake has tragic consequences.

• The Epicine Butcher and other Stories for Consenting Adults features Jemma Kahn in a hilarious and utterly original production which uses the Japanese storytelling art of Kamishibai.

• The Line is a stunning two-hander written by Gina Schmukler that examines the xenophobic attacks in Alexandra township in May 2008. It was nominated for five Naledi awards and is one of the most thought-provoking works produced this year.

• Phobic, starring Glen Biederman and Jenna Dunster (Abnormal Loads), is a new work by Ramos-Violante (Mein Soldat, Callum’s Will).

local is lekker

There are a host of Durban-based productions headed to Hilton College for this year’s festival.

They include:

• the madcap fun of Rise of the Insanity League, starring Ben Voss (Beauty and the BEE), John van de Ruit (Black Mamba, Green Mamba) and Aaron McIlroy (The Loser, @Work);

• Greg Coetzee’s Rhymes With Orange;

• Jacobus van Heerden’s hilarious Superchop;

• Frank Graham, who takes a nostalgic look back at Springbok Radio in There Was A Time...;

• the Actors Unemployed Company’s side-splittingly funny Guide to the Theatre; and

• the enthralling Gothic mystery, The Erl King.

Another must-see is writer Gcina Mhlope, who will be delighting young and old with her unique storytelling ability.

And, for fans of the Annie Robinson and Paul Spence’s dinner thrillers, they will be presenting The Strange Case of the North Coast Sugar Baron at the Felur de Lys Club.


For the little ones, there will be two performances by Pedro the Music Man. The first, One Person, One Note, is an interactive production in which instruments, such as the Mtshingo flute, Kundi harp and Makweyana bow, and the principles of traditional African music are introduced. The second, Thulani and the Rabbit, is a musical storytelling show.

Other treats include:

• Dr Pocket’s Ocean Commotion in which Bogie and Ned (Van Heerden and Clinton Small) go on an ocean adventure and meet fantastical creatures along the way;

• Pietermaritzburg City Orchestra’s performance of The Nutcracker, which is based on the famous ballet by Tchaikovsky, and tells the story of a little girl, Clara, whose uncle gives her a toy nutcracker for Christmas.

The story will be brought to life with puppets and sets by Creative Madness, operated by members of the AUC. Award-winning actress Clare Mortimer delivers the narration.

If you were lucky enough to see director David Plank’s The Snowman last year, you’ll realise what a treat awaits.

For two days before the main festival begins, primary and high-school pupils will get the chance to enjoy a selection of plays in Jongosi. Schools wishing to participate should sign up as soon as possible via e-mail at thea

tre@hiltoncollege.com or sh@hilton




The festival has a range of music on offer, whether you love classical recitals or are partial to a sassy cabaret.

Pietermaritzburg-based pianist Christopher Duigan will be presenting his popular Music Revival concert series, sponsored by Parklane SuperSpar.

There are 10 different concerts on the programme, including a jazz night with Dutch pianist and composer Mike del Ferro, backed by 2009 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz, Kesivan Naidoo, on drums, Mike Campbell on bass and Mike Rossi on saxophone.

Also worth booking for.

• Janine Neethling and sisters Bridget Rennie Salonen and Lizzie Rennie, whose recital Trio with a Twist includes original classical works written for flute, viola and piano by Maurice Duruflé and Reynaldo Hahn, and surprising arrangements of well-known South African melodies.

• James Grace (guitar) and Bridget Rennie (flute) present an intimate programme of flute and guitar music, including Suite Buenos Aires by Argentinian composer Maximo Diego Pujol and Mario Castelnuevo-Tedesco’s virtuosic Sonatina for Flute and Guitar in Duo Zomari.

• Echoes of Paris offers music lovers a programme of French café music sung by Camille Favre-Bulle from Paris, accompanied by Martmarie Snyman (piano), Sergio Zampolli (accordion) and Werner Spies (bass).

• Music for a Sunday Morning features The Holy City, Panis Angelicus, Ave Maria and a selection of hymns led by the Hilton College vocal ensemble.

•  Baroque 2000 presents a programme of rarely performed music by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Von Biber (1644-1704), Johann Rosenmueller (ca.1619-1684), Joseph Johann Fux (1660-1741) and Antonio Vivaldi’s Summer, from his celebrated Four Seasons.

• Gypsy and Tango in Vienna is presented by the popular Kerimov Trio and Federico Freschi. The programme includes Vienna City of my Dreams, Monti’s Czardas, The Swan, La Cumparsita and O Sole Mio.

• Joanna Frankel, the new concert master of the KZNPO, presents The Virtuoso Violin. Duigan accompanies her at the piano.

There is also the popular Last Night of the Hilton Proms with performances by festival favourites Grace (guitar), Freschi (baritone) Duigan (piano), Pietermaritzburg-born soprano Bongiwe Madlala, and the Maritzburg College 150th anniversary choir, who will lead the audience in the traditional favourites Land of Hope and Glory, Rule Britainnia and Jerusalem.

Duigan will be giving a free concert at noon on September 14. The concert is sponsored by Marriott, the income specialists.

magical music

Those wanting to enjoy a music revue, cabaret or light music should book for A New Day, a show starring Evan Roberts, Shelley McLean and Melanie Roberts, who will be performing everything from Sting to Bruno Mars, Adele, Billy Joel, The Carpenters, Elton John, Rihanna, Pink and Michael Bublé.

Other must-sees include the Indie-folk duo Digby and the Lullaby; the Hilton College music department’s This is Africa; Darren King’s Wo-Man, which is full of musical favourites that are normally sung only by women; and Anthony Stonier and Karen Campbell-Gillies in Va Va Vegas.

There is also a host of free live music around the campus.

In addition to the music and theatre performances, festival goers can enjoy Mindscape: a series of lectures, debates, movies and workshops covering a variety of themes.

• arts@witness.co.za

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