What I recommend …

2013-06-28 11:06

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Not sure what to queue for at this year’s Grahamstown National Arts Festival? Starting with playwright Mike van Graan, we ask theatre personalities which shows they’re planning to see.

Mike van Graan - Playwright

Mike is one of South Africa’s most prolific playwrights and cultural activists. He was a strong voice in the anti-apartheid movement, and socio-political relationships are a strong focus of his plays.

At Grahamstown -The National Arts Festival is launching the Festival Playwright initiative this year, and Mike is the first. He’ll be taking an incredible five plays to the Fringe, which is where directors of fringe festivals around the world go to find new, innovative work.

Brothers in Blood focuses on prejudice and preconceptions of race and religion; Rainbow Scars is an often-humorous look at present-day relationships in the modern South African context; Panic, with Siv Ngesi, is a satire about climate change; The Devil’s Child challenges notions of good, bad, right and wrong; and Writer’s Block looks at issues of home and translocation.

He recommends … ‘Nicholas Spagnoletti and Louis Viljoen. They’re both interesting directors – being a director, I mostly watch out for directors.’

Nicholas Spagnoletti - Writer, director

By day, Nicholas earns his living in the digital world – but his real love is theatre. He has slowly and surely worked his way towards being a ‘theatre-maker’. He owns Alexander Bar in Cape Town with his partner Edward van Kuik, and they recently added a 44-seat theatre upstairs which runs some of the city’s most interesting work.

At Grahamstown - His play Special Thanks To Guests From Afar is about South African friends who meet at a wedding in Germany after not seeing each other for a long time. Why Germany? Because he got sick of watching South African plays set in ‘the same little square of the Karoo’.

He recommends … ‘Neil Coppen, an interesting writer, designer and director. He does really ambitious projects, with large casts.

Jon Keevy is also interesting – he writes and directs and was at the Brighton Festival in May with his play A Girl Called Owl.’

Louis Viljoen -Writer, director

Louis describes himself as ‘a certified dealer of bile’ on his blog, and wrote the play The Bile Boys. But it is funny bile. He also wrote The Verbalists and The Frontiersman, and his latest, Champ, was this year’s winner of the Fleur du Cap Theatre Award for best new South African script.

At Grahamstown -  Champ will be part of the shows Artscape is taking to the festival, and is not to be missed. It’s about three actors struggling to hold on to their dignity while working in children’s entertainment – and then they encounter the kid from hell.

He recommends … ‘Oliver Booth, one of the actors in Champ. I’d definitely endeavour to see his stand-up comedy set. He’s a funny, very goofy fellow. I also recommend The View, written and directed by Philip Rademeyer. It’s a heartbreaking play and the writing is top-notch.’

Neil Coppen - Playwright, writer, director and designer

Multi-talented Neil’s latest play, Abnormal Loads, won the Naledi Theatre Award for Best New SA Script 2012. It’s also taught at a host of universities and schools. He is artistic director of Think Theatre Productions.

At Grahamstown - Although Neil won’t attend this year, he’s written a play for the Umsindo Theatre Projects group in Durban called Secrets from The Drawer, which he describes as a ‘moving, dark, magical-realist riddle of a play that draws inspiration from the work of Federico García Lorca and the hit TV series Six Feet Under’.

He recommends … ‘The wonderful Anthea Moys, who won this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist Award for performance art and is cooking up a big, bold collaborative community piece. I also loved The Epicene

Butcher, starring the inimitable Jemma Kahn, which I hear is back at this year’s Fringe. If you haven’t caught it already, put it on the must-see list.’

Jon Keevy - Writer, director, designer, production manager

Jon is another jack of all trades on the theatre scene. He’s been participating in the National Arts Festival since 2006.

At Grahamstown - Two of Keevy’s works will play at Grahamstown

A Girl Called Owl and Get Kraken, an underwater adventure story told in a comic book style performance. Get Kraken is directed by Kim Kerfoot.

He recommends … ‘Lance Herman, who’s a great musician with an excellent command of his guitar and folk style, but he brings a cerebral spin to the work that sets him apart. I’ll also be looking out for Joanna Evans, a recent graduate. I was deeply moved by her final university production.

Oliver Booth - Comedian, actor

Oliver recently graduated in theatre and performance from UCT and is a recent addition to the local comedy scene.

At Grahamstown - Champ, in which he acts, will be playing at the festival, and he’ll also perform his one-man stand-up show called Booth’s & All.

He recommends … ‘Rob van Vuuren and Martin Evans – I find them both hilarious.

I also want to watch Karen Zoid and Dan Patlansky, and Mike van Graan’s play Panic, as it stars my friend and producer Siv Ngesi. I’m also keen to see Angel Blythe Campey, a comedian doing her one-woman show at Grahamstown.’

Philip Rademeyer - Writer, director and academic

As co-founder and creative director of theatre company Rust Co-Operative, Philip and his partner Penelope Youngleson recently took their show The View to the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, where they won two awards – Best New Script and Intercultural Dialogue.

At Grahamstown - The Rust Co-operative is taking two shows as part of the Cape Town Edge platform – The View, about a young gay man who finds himself in a hermetically sealed pod in space; and Expectant, a one-woman show about the role of a white woman in today’s South Africa.

He recommends … ‘Genna Gardini. I think her work is interesting because of her beautiful use of language. I’m also looking forward to Hearts & Eyes Theatre Collective’s production My Name is Rachel Corrie, under the direction of Jaqueline Dommisse.’

Anthea Moys - Performance artist

Anthea won this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist Award for performance art (a new category), and has been in Grahamstown since April creating a number of pieces that specifically relate to the town.

At Grahamstown -The work to be shown here is called Anthea Moys vs The City of Grahamstown. In it, she’ll compete with the town’s artists, intellectuals and athletes in a series of contests held over numerous days.

She recommends … ‘My fellow award winners. I am very curious to see what they’ve prepared for the festival. I also want to see Untitled #310, a piece by Jill Richards. I’ve seen a couple of her pieces and absolutely love them.’

Lance Herman - Musician

Lance is a Cape Town musician with the bands Fly Paper Jet and Ginsburg & Herman. Eliezer is his first solo project.

At Grahamstown - Eliezer is minimalist songwriting and performance that involves neo-folk style, guitar and vocals, with ‘art sensibilities that resemble Leonard Cohen, José González andNick Drake’.

He recommends … ‘Shane Cooper, a great allrounder, jazz player and electronic music producer. Also Rus Nerwich, a vivacious character and great saxophonist filled with joy, and love, for music and his instrument.’

Joanna Evans - Writer, performer, director

Joanna won a director’s award for her final university production at UCT. She has a love for absurdist and post-modernist writing and tragic drama.

At Grahamstown - She wrote and is directing The Year of the Bicycle, a humorous exploration of loneliness, longing and shame in childhood.

She recommends … ‘Killing for Profit by Julian Rademeyer at the Thinkfest: like many South Africans I have a strong emotional connection to the issue of rhino poaching, but I also find it difficult to engage with [it] because the situation does seem so hopeless.’ Also Tara Notcutt, who will direct Thom Pain by Will Eno.

Jemma Kahn - Actress, designer, director

Jemma, who studied fine art and drama at Wits, lived in Japan for two years studying the art of kamishibai, a form of traditional street theatre that includes storytelling, performance and illustration. The Epicene Butcher, a kamishibai piece, received rave reviews from local audiences, and is going to the Edinburgh Festival.

At Grahamstown - The Epicene Butcher will celebrate its 100th performance at the festival, and Jemma will also make her directorial debut with The Last Show, also written by Gwydion Beynon.

She recommends … ‘Anthea Moys. I’m going to try and watch as many of her matches as I can – her work is wild.

Mary Sibande [Standard Bank Young Artist award-winner for visual art] also does cool work. Go large or go home!’

Genna Gardini - Writer, poet

Genna is a Cape Town-based poet whose work has been published locally and internationally. She won a Standard Bank Encore Ovation Award for Wintersweet last year.

At Grahamstown -Her play Scrape, about a woman whose skin begins to absorb everything she comes into contact with, will play at the Cape Town Edge at the festival. It’s directed by Gary Hartley and stars Amy Wilson.

She recommends … ‘Robert Peter Haxton, who directed my play Wintersweet. Also Joanna Evans, who is one of the most interesting young theatre-makers working in Cape Town. She writes and directs all of her own material, which is usually unlike anything else.’

Angel Blythe Campey Comedian

Angel (her real name) was awarded Breakthrough Comic at the Fugard Fest of Comedy in 2011 after only four months of doing stand-up.

At Grahamstown -This will be her first time at Grahamstown, and she’ll be presenting her first one-woman show, Yes, Really, Angel, produced by Siv Ngesi and directed by Nik Rabinowitz. She’ll also appear in Cape Comedy.

She recommends … ‘Siv Ngesi. I’m looking forward to his much-anticipated original dramatic one-man show, Panic. I’m also excited to see Heavy, a show featuring stand-up comedian KG, directed by Rob van Vuuren. He’s the next big thing in local comedy.’

Jaqueline Dommisse - Director

The artistic director of Hearts & Eyes Theatre Collective, Jaqueline has a fascination with puppetry and visual theatre. Her work often focuses on the NGO and community theatre sectors.

At Grahamstown - My Name is Rachel Corrie is a play about the 23-year-old American campaigner who was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer during a protest in the Gaza strip.

She recommends … ‘Prince Lamla [Standard Bank Young Artist award-winner for drama]. I will definitely try to see Asinamali because I’m always intrigued to see the work of the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards. Also Gavin Krastin, who is taking his performance art piece Rough Musick, and Zondwa Njokweni in Song & Dance – she’s awesome in this kak-funny play.’

Rob van Vuuren - Actor, comedian, writer, dancer

Rob needs little introduction as one of the country’s most versatile theatre personalities. He acts, writes, dances and directs and is a well-known face on the local comedy scene.

At Grahamstown - He will be premiering his new one-man comedy show, WHATWHAT, co-host Pants on Fire with Martin Evans, and act in the psychological thriller The Three Little Pigs, which will be going to the Edinburgh Festival after the festival. He’s also directing KG’s one-man stand-up show Heavy.

He recommends … ‘James Cairns, who is doing an adaptation of The Snow Goose, which will premier at the festival. Also Gary Thomas, a guitar virtuoso who also composed the music for The Three Little Pigs.’

The Grahamstown National Arts Festival takes place 27 June to 7 July.


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