Music, theatre and dance

2008-04-08 00:00

THE line-up for this year’s National Arts Festival — the 34th — has been released. The festival runs in Grahamstown from June 26 to July 5.

Speaking at the launch in

Johannesburg, festival director Lynette Marais said that every one of the productions on the theatre programme is a South African premiere and there are seven world

premieres. The music programme features several major events that will probably never be repeated again with the same casts.

Leading the music is the extravaganza, An African Celebration, directed by Janice Honeyman as a tribute to the Standard Bank’s 25 years of involvement with the National Arts Festival. The line-up includes Sibongile Khumalo, Themba Mkhize, the Bala Brothers, Sibongile Mngoma, Zanne Stapelberg (Young Artist Award-winner for Music 2008), the Debbie Rakusin Dance Company, Jannie Moolman and the Standard Bank Jazz Trio — Concord Nkabinde, Shannon Mowday and Mark Fransman who are all Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winners for Jazz over the past three years.

The rest of the music programme includes a celebration of Letta Mbulu’s life in song; a performance from the greatest living exponent of bow songs, Madosini Latozi Mpahleni, who will be joined by the Amici String Quartet; indigenous music; the chamber choir Cantus Africana; the Johannesburg Guitar Quartet; and music from the

classical repertoire including the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, complete with cannon. There is also a strong jazz


In the theatre, Young Artist Award winner Jaco Bouwer collaborates with writer Saartjie Botha in an innovative piece, Untitled, that engages with the silent void between what we feel and what we are able to express in words. Ashraf Johaardien has adapted K. Sello Duiker’s The Quiet Violence of Dreams for the stage while other new South African works come from Michael

Wentworth, whose Waiting is directed by Itumeleng Motsikoe, while from the Market Theatre comes Ten Bush, co-scripted by Craig Higginson and the director Mncedisi Shabangu.

Two iconic figures who fought valiantly against wrongs in the recent past inspired two of the new theatre pieces. Writer/director

Martin Koboekae takes Steve Biko and brings him to life on stage in Biko: Where the Soul Resides, while Nadia Davids’s docu-drama focuses on Cissie Gool, the first black woman to complete an MA in psychology and who served as a Cape Town city councillor before apartheid.

But not everything is so serious. Ellis Pearson and Bheki Mkhwane offer Australia vs South Africa, a rugby team effort with their Aussie counterparts Tom Lycos and

Stefo Nantsou. And there are more laughs in Paul Slabolepszy’s For Your Ears Only, set in an SAfm studio where an episode of The Soul of Sister Serious is being recorded, with all the gizmos you need for special sound effects. Another drama is playing out between the characters behind the microphones. Ralph Lawson directs a cast that includes Michael Richard, Louise Saint-Claire and Slabolepszy.

Dance this year includes Don Quixote with the South African Ballet Theatre and the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Graham Scott. Literary works also inform two of the contemporary dance productions: Romeo and Juliet by Dada Masilo (Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for Dance 2008) and Ozymandias, a collaboration between the Rhodes University-based First Physical Theatre

Company and the John/Allen Project from Tulane University, New Orleans.

There is more international collaboration with two South African dancers and choreographer Vincent Mantsoe coming home from the diaspora with Skin, a double-bill presented by Britain’s Ace Dance and Music Company.

And again, there is humour, this time in Bar Flies, a comedic piece by Roslyn Wood-Morris set in a cocktail bar. Gerard Bester, Rayzelle Sham and Craig Morris portray three love-hungry singles trying to make


Art ranges from photographic exhibitions, including Wonderland, by Standard Bank Young Artist award-winner Nontsikelelo “Loloi” Veleko, to Decade, an extensive selection from the Sanlam art archives. Durban-based Andrew Verster also has an exhibition — Past/Present.

As always, there is a wide-ranging film programme, and a Winter School which will include a first-ever international arts critics’ symposium. Writers from around the world will talk about their work and how they go about it and then lead audience debates after selected shows. The rest of the lecture series covers climate change, China, the international arms trade and youth crime. And, of course, there will be a full Fringe.

Details will be available in the free festival booking kit, available from selected Standard Bank branches and Computicket outlets nationwide from April 30. Booking opens on Monday, May 5. For further information contact 046 603 1103 or visit the website

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