All the fun of the festival

2010-08-07 00:00

WHETHER you’re after serious drama or fancy having your funnybone tickled, this year’s Witness Hilton Arts Festival has it all.

Running from September 17 to September 19 at Hilton College, the festival’s premiere production this year is Dada Masilo’s Swan Lake, which partners traditional tutus and Tchaikovsky’s famous music with dialogue, infused throughout with the spirit of Africa.

In her column in The Star, dance afficiando Adrienne Sichel said of the production, which comes to Hilton following a successful run at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown: “Her take on the hallowed ballet, in which she dances Odette, is filled with comic gusto, gyrating pelvises and swishing tutus; but it is also flooded with pathos and compassion. Masilo’s agonisingly beautiful Swan Lake is an African homophobe’s worst nightmare and a dance lover’s delight.”

Twenty-five-year-old Masilo is one of South Africa’s most exciting contemporary dance talents. In recent years, she has made her name as both dancer and choreographer, having received the 2008 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance. Her recent, highly praised full-length works include Romeo and Juliet (2008), Carmen (2009) and now Swan Lake (2010) where, in Grahamstown, it received standing ovations at each performance.

Masilo says: “Swan Lake is a work that does not take itself seriously all the time. My aim was to make it fun, sad, strange, quirky and interesting. Most of all, I wanted it to be beautiful. Because I love and respect ballet I did not want to ‘send up’ Swan Lake, but I wanted the freedom to play, especially when it came to the narrative, music­ and movement vocabulary.”

Another Grahamstown heavyweight heading to the midlands is Neil Coppen’s exquisite Tree Boy, which examines the relationships between three men in ’60s­ South Africa.

After the death of his mother, 12-year-old Benjamin Sprout and his father Arthur, a postman, are forced to relocate from their rustic property in the mountains to a burgeoning mining town in the Transvaal. And, as Arthur retreats further into the paralysis of liquor and memory­, young Benjamin is forced to seek solace in an overgrown forest on the fringes of the town where he encounters an enigmatic elderly gardner named Archibald Drupe.

Tree Boy, which stars Ron Smerczak, Michael Gritten and Luc Haasbroek, enjoyed a sell-out run on the main programme of this year’s Grahamstown festival and is one of the must-sees at this year’s Hilton Festival.

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