CHRISTINA SCHILD: The Great Field has been closed off and exams forgotten; the National Arts Festival is just around the corner. Being the 40th year anniversary, the official programme may be bursting, but there is equally as much on offer in terms of the ‘town’ programme. From classic comedic acts to face-melting music, be prepared to go big this year.
Here is a personal run-down of our recommended events and the best of Fest.
MICHAL-MARÉ LINDEN: Curlitiza and Sonop took first place at this year’s Serrie finals. The finals were held on 19 May and residences performed for judges in both the Amphitheatre and Aula.
Six men’s and six ladies’ residences took part in the final but it was Curlitzia with their lifeguard theme and Sonop, who presented a unique 1900s Bohemian Paris-themed performance, that beat out the competition.
ELLEN HEYDENRYCH: Rhodes alumnus and winner of the 2007 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance Acty Tang is back at Rhodes with his new physical theatre piece, Hunger. This highly energetic work explores the themes of power and oppression and seeks to tell a political story through the language of dance.
Under Tang’s direction,the piece was produced by the First Physical Theatre Company (FPTC) and Rhodes University Drama Department. The performance included a diverse cast of performers from first-year level to full-time members of the FPTC and used an eclectic mix of vibrant dancing, rock music and gospel.
Jena Ascough: Fairy-tale and nursery rhymes are notoriously morbid, filled with abusive mothers (and stepmothers), cannibal witches who live in candy cottages, grandmother-eating wolves and, my personal nightmare, a creep named Wee Willy Winky who runs around knocking on children’s bedroom windows in the dead of night to tell them to go to sleep.
David Mann: The Rhodes Drama Department’s annual Theatre In Motion event was cancelled tonight due to heavy rains flooding the main theatre and damaging electrical equipment.
According to Theatre Administrator Robert Haxton, the consistent heavy rains throughout the afternoon and early evening caused water to enter the main theatre.
ERENE OBERHOLZER: The University of Pretoria’s drama department is bringing the worldwide cult musical Bat Boy: The Musical to local audiences this week.
Based on the book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, Bat Boy tells the story of Edgar, a half-boy half-bat who finds himself amongst people for the first time after being rescued from the dark, lonely cave he has been living in his whole life.
Director Anitra Davel transformed the original American rock musical into a South African context to bring it closer to home.
Chelsea Haith: National Arts Festival attendance numbers were down in 2013 but NAF CEO Tony Lankester is unconcerned. The results, announced in a press release on 11 July, are less than the record-high of approximately 260 000 attendees in 2012 but are nevertheless “reassuring and sustainable”, according to Lankester.
The number of attendees for 2013 was 211 701, only 7 000 people less than in 2012. 2012’s numbers reached a record high, with 20 percent growth in audiences since 2009. This is a “healthy trajectory … for the economics of the arts” said Lankester.
Chelsea Haith: Fireworks, a parade and half-price tickets saw the 39th National Arts Festival wrap-up a successful run on 6 and 7 July.
Highlights of the Festival were Karen Zoid and Dan Patlansky in Concert on 5 July, the ballet Hansel and Gretel by the Johannesburg Youth Ballet , The Amsterdam Ensemble’s performance of Mahler’s 4th symphony with Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Award Winner, soprano Runette Botha, the late night Jazz and Blues Café at the Lowlander and Mary Sibande’s exhibition The Purple Shall Govern.
Chelsea Haith: Every year the National Arts Festival features as one of its main events hurricane force winds and rain that lashes you from the side. The Festival and Grahamstown are known for the rainy weather that had held off thus far in winter but which has now hit with a vengeance.
Festival-goers were not brought down by the rain and wind on 5 July. The Village Green tents filled with the shoppers who ordinarily wander the Great Field as the afternoon drew towards dark. The streets were filled with the same crowds, people moving between venues at a leisurely pace, seeming to enjoy the drizzle and camaraderie.
With the final weekend of the National Arts Festival ahead, the conversations have shifted from, “What will you be seeing?” to “What have you seen?” and “Did you enjoy fest?”