National Arts Fest: early favourites

2012-03-29 09:49

From ballet to a bunfight with Brett Bailey and everything in between, it’s almost time for the National Arts Festival. GAYLE EDMUNDS picks a few early favourites for her diary

With the Cape Town City Ballet and performance artist extraordinaire Steven Cohen on the same programme, what else could it be but the line-up for 2012’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown? asks Festival head Tony Lankester, at this week’s launch.

And the beefed up performance art programme is what’s got culture vultures in a froth – after all, both Brett Bailey and Cohen will be at the festival this year with Exhibit A and The Cradle of Humankind respectively, both of which have already been seen in Europe.

Cohen makes his first appearance at the festival, along with his 93-year-old co-performer, Nomsa Dlamini, and those familiar with his body of work will know that this is likely to be what festival folks debate over their late night Glühwein.

As always, there is so much, it’s impossible to sort it all in a sitting, but here are a few of the things I will be lining up to buy tickets for:

» Dance – the Standard Bank Young Artist winner for dance, Bailey Snyman has used Andre Carl van der Merwe’s novel Moffie as his inspiration. His piece, which he calls a dance-play, explores the trials gay people in the military face.

The big crowd pleaser as usual is likely to be The Cape Town City Ballet’s Giselle, while the Durban-based Flatfoot Dance Company is presenting Southern Exposure, which looks like one worth diarising.

» Theatre – This year’s Shakespeare is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not one of my favourites – I prefer blood, guts and treachery – but as it’s done by the guys who did last year’s The Tragedy of Richard III, I will be interested to see how Puck and company are reimagined.

The one I am looking forward to is last year’s Standard Bank Young Artist winner for drama Neil Coppen’s new work, Little Foot.

Billed as a “boundary-challenging, multi-media event”, he has been hard at work with dramatist Craig Higginson and director Malcolm Purkey to create it for quite some time. You can see Coppen’s Abnormal Loads, which debuted at the festival last year at the Market Theatre from April 11.

Also, this year’s drama winner, Princess Zinzi Mhlongo is making her writing debut with Trapped, which will go straight from Grahamstown to Austria, where she will join three other young theatre makers to show off her work.

A new addition to the theatre programme is A Season of Solo Plays, these feature such luminaries as Pieter-Dirk Uys, as well as the likes of Omphile Molusi, who will bring his one-hander Itsoseng to the festival, which played at Dublin’s arts festival last October.

» Music – Kelebogile Boikanyo, the Standard Bank Young Artist winner for music, shares her magical voice with those who haven’t been lucky enough to hear her sing yet.

A jewel of South Africa’s opera scene, enjoy her while you can as she’ll probably be whisked off to foreign climes soon. The ever popular festival concert conducted by Richard Cock is entitled Louis Armstrong and Friends.

It’s a good idea to get tickets for this one early as it sells like hot cakes.

The Standard Bank Jazz Festival too features a crowd-pleasing line-up with Mango Groove getting the party started and Loyiso Bala joining in.

Sibongile Khumalo, another former Standard Bank Young Artist winner back in 1993, is back this year, and Cape Flats rapper Jitsvinger’s collaboration with Kyle Shepherd promises a jazz/hip-hop fusion.

There’s far too much to mention – but watch this space because as we get closer to the festival City Press’ 7 arts and entertainment supplement will carry all you need to know to make your festival a humdinger.

Tickets go on sale in May and booking kits are available from Standard Bank, Exclusive Books and Computicket then.

» Check out Charl Blignaut’s story on Stephen Cohen’s The Cradle of Humankind and Athi-Patra Ruga .

See page 3 of City Press on Sunday for more about this year’s festival.

» Follow Blignaut on @SA_poptart
» Follow Edmunds on Twitter @GayleMahala. Follow City Press: @City_Press

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