From Grahamstown 'Wit' love

2009-06-27 00:00

FOR the first time in 15 years, a KwaZulu-Natal play will feature on the main festival programme at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

Wit, written by Pulitzer prize-winner Margaret Edson, is one of several KZN theatre, music and dance productions being staged at this year’s event, which runs from July 2-11.

It was described by The New York Times as an experience “of which legends are made”.

Directed by Steven Stead and starring Clare Mortimer, Alison Cassels and Ralph Lawson, Wit can be seen at the Rhodes Box on July 9, 10 and 11.

The KickStArt Theatre Company production tells the story of a woman with late-stage ovarian cancer, but it isn’t a tearful lecture on how to die. Rather it’s a lesson on how to live, a play about language and ideas, philosophy and religion, at once funny, sad, tragic and life-affirming.

Among those attending the premiere on July 9 will be the playwright, Edson, whose presence, Stead said, is a motivating factor for the cast and crew.

After its run in Grahamstown, Wit will be staged at Durban’s Playhouse Loft Theatre from July 21 to 26 and at The Witness Hilton Arts Festival on September 20.

Other stage productions on their way to this year’s festival include Louise Buchler’s Coming Up Roses, Janet van Eeden’s In-Gene-Uity and Neon Anthems’ Tokoloshe Come Again, all of which will be staged on the Fringe, and Crawl, by UKZN Pietermaritzburg post-graduate student Mandisa Haarhof, a n entry in the Student Drama Festival.

Pietermaritzburg-based Van Eeden said there will be 10 performances of her play, which has been funded with the help of the National Arts Council, at the Masonic Hall from July 2 to 10.

“I wrote the play two years ago … it’s a light, frothy comedy about two women, Jean and Lucy, who adopt the son of their deceased domestic worker and believe love and affection are the only things needed to bring up orphaned young James.

“However, when James turns 16, he seems to turn into someone else and they discover that he has been missing school.

“Worried that he may be wanting to know more about his roots, Lucy and Jean decide to intervene, little realising they are not the only ones trying to help James.”

The play stars Kiara Worth as Lucy, Arifani Moyo as James and Van Eeden as Jean.

Fellow Maritizburger Buchler has also penned a comedy. Coming Up Roses tells the story of three people — Christine, Earnest and Cadence — who have to deal with life’s curveballs, including jail, dead fish, ruby-red stillettos, supermarket aisles and Internet dating.

The play, which stars Buchler, Caitlin Kilburn and Ronald Barbour, will be staged at the Masonic from July 2 to 11.

Tokoloshe Come Again is the latest instalment by Durban-based Jacobs van Heerden and Liam Magner of their popular and funny Tokoloshe chronicles. Patrons can expect plenty of magic, mystery and comic mayhem from the duo when they peform at St Andrew’s Hall from July 2 to 11.

Last but by no means least is Crawl , a physical theatre production that takes a closer look at the painful struggles faced by individuals as they seek to exist freely in their identities, functions, circumstances, expectations and on new ground.

Also expected to make a huge splash at the 2009 festival is singer, dancer and composer Busi Mhlongo, whose music and singing style have never lost their freshness and energy.

Born into a musical family in Inanda, Mhlongo started singing at weddings and church services as a toddler. Since then she has visited Mozambique, Angola, Portugal, and the UK, absorbing different musical styles along the way.

For her show, on Saturday, July 11, she will weave together mbaqanga, maskanda, funk, rock, gospel, rap, reggae, West African music and opera.

On the dance front, Durban’s Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre will be presenting Body of Evidence, choreographed by Jay Pather, in the Great Hall on July 2, 3 and 4.

Pather says the piece ventures deep into the human interior to examine the scar tissue left by memories of violence and pain.

“We are forever negotiating our place in a self-perpetuating wheel of violence,” he adds. “The piece proposes that we dodge and play with violent histories that nonetheless leave indelible scars on the architecture of marrow under a deceptively intact skin.”

For more information about these productions, visit


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