Stages, saints and sinners: Each day at the Festival is refreshingly different

2011-07-06 08:07

When the woman you are chatting up in a bar starts tugging at her ear – she’s bored and you haven’t scored. If your arms are crossed during a chat – you are not listening, don’t like the argument or have subconsciously just remembered you have forgotten to turn off the stove.

Gaetan Schmid’s Body Language is a combination of theatre, entertaining lecture and stand-up comedy.

Belgian Schmid takes the audience on a telltale trip from why you say “hi” with your hand held high, to why it’s dangerous to thumbs up in Greece and how your body tells the truth even if the words coming out of your mouth are a lie.

After seeing this show you’ll be analysing everyone you see – starting with yourself and discover that Schmid’s show’s tagline – your body talks and talks and never shuts up – is frighteningly true.

The dictionary of body language came in very handy during a panel discussion on the extremely touchy topic of funding of the arts.

The panel – chaired by Francis Antonie, the head of the Helen Suzman Foundation – explored what the arts represented, what each stakeholder believed was needed. When all the speakers were done it was clear that there is a lot of work to be done.

The panel was made up of Professor Mark Fleishman, the head of drama at the University of Cape Town; musicologist Dr Chats Devroop; head of Business and Arts South Africa Michelle Constant and Sibusiso Xaba, the director general in the department of arts and culture.

In a truly shocking development – the Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile, who was pencilled down to attend, cancelled and instead went to the Durban July horse race.

Perhaps that in itself speaks volumes about government’s commitment to the arts.

However, in the end having Xaba there was probably more useful anyway. He put forward the challenges he and his department face and offered possibly solutions. When arguments got heated it felt as though a point at which to start streamlining the process and fixing the glitches had been identified.

But the proof is in the delivery.

After those two hours, a wind-down was required, so it was off to the Madhatter Coffee Shop, a Grahamstown institution, for a glass of gluhwein (to warm the toes) and a slice of cheesecake (to pad up the body against the cold).

Which is where we met a flying doctor who doubles as a comic and his sidekick, a music teacher, who provides the musical accompaniment.

Then there is the couple who come to Grahamstown every year, met here, got married here and whose hobby, they say, is theatre.

That’s the great thing about the Festival, everyday you see something that enriches your life and talk to at least one person who teaches you something you didn’t know before.

Follow me on Twitter @GayleMahala

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