Category: Featured

Lulama Gawulana performs with South African Jazz Classics at the Standard bank jazz café venue in Grahamstown on 9 July 2015, at the 2015 National Arts Festival. Gawulana was joined on stage by Sakhile Simani on trumpet and Donné Dowlman on bass guitar. (Photo: CUEPIX/Niamh Walsh-Vorster)

I was highly critical last year of the Standard Bank Jazz and Blues Café venue. It was an acoustic disaster, and had zero atmosphere. Reassured that this year’s venue (Saints Bistro in High St) was a very different story, I ventured forth on Thursday night to hear a quartet of Eastern Cape musicians pay tribute to our South African jazz heritage. I was, I must confess, familiar with only one of the musicians: trumpeter/ flugelhorn player, Sikhele Simani, and that only recently, when he impressed with his beautiful sound and good taste in Siya Makuzeni’s band at DSG Hall. (Drummer Lloyd Martin was not originally billed in the NAF printed programme).

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Pierre de Vos. Photo: Aaliyah Tshabalala

A legal scholar blogging about constitutional law  doesn’t sound like a riveting proposition in  a digital media space already congested with  talking heads. Think again. Unlike many self-styled  editorialists, who arrive at the big debates of the day  with an arsenal of adjectives and little else, University  of Cape Town scholar Pierre de Vos brings something  far simpler to the table: the law.  He understands it intimately. In  anticipation of his Think!Fest talk, Cue asked De Vos why  he started blogging about a three letter  word that, for better or worse,  is a part of everyone’s daily life.

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Andrew Buckland on stage playing Ivan, a smoker who is giving a lecture about the harmful effects of smoking, at the St Andrews Hall in Grahamstown on 2 July 2015, at the 2015 National Arts Festival (Photo: CuePix/Hlumela Mkabile).

Andrew Buckland has been a fixture of the annual arts carnival in Grahamstown for yonks. Now aged 61, Buckland had wowed audiences with his remarkable prowess as a physical actor and mime. last year, after a run of playing down and outs finding solace in a bottle, he appeared in an oddly titled play directed by Sylvaine Strike. Bucklands’ performance in Tabacco and the Harmful Effects Thereof, which returned to Festival again this year, is revolutionary. Buckland’s turn as Ivan demonstrates new depth and vulnerabilities in his range as an actor.

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Rob van Vuuren performs in The Very Big Comedy Show on 9 July 2015 at the National Arts Festival.  Van Vuuren performed alongside other well-known South African comedians.  (Photo: CuePix/ Amanda Horsfield)

You know you’re in the right place when Rob van Vuuren is the safest comedian in the house.

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Matthew Field, guitarist with pop band Beatenberg,  performs in a concert in the Guy Butler Theatre at the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, 08 July 2015. (Photo: CuePix/Harold Gess)

“They said it was sold out, but I didn’t really imagine it. So, I’m dealing with it now.” Matthew Field, the singer and guitarist of Beatenberg, looks a little bewildered, the lights in his eyes, his face locked in that slight frown he always makes when he sings.

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Daniel Friedman performs in Deep Fried Man Kills in Scout Hall in Grahamstown on 3 July 2015 at the 2015 National Arts Festival. Deep Fried Man Kills is a one man show musical comedy. (Photo: CUEPIX/Kate Janse van Rensburg)

Analysing stand-up comedy can feel a bit like describing dance steps to someone over the telephone. It’s unavoidably pedantic, and comedy criticism that doesn’t just transpose the jokes like reusing a teabag, is difficult to do.

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Rachael Neary, Roberto Pombo and Joni Barnard perform in Father, Father, Father, in Grahamstown on 6 July 2015, at the National Arts Festival. In this quirky and menacing fantasy, three sisters are locked in a basement awaiting their father’s return. (Photo: CuePix/Mia van der Merwe)

A ‘father’ for each character, Father, Father, Father! is a dark comedic physical theatre piece evocative of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

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Soprano Magdalene Minnaar and Jose' Dias on piano. Photo: CuePix/Mia van der Merwe

In a programme that drew inspiration from nocturnal music and varying states of darkness, soprano Magdalene Minnaar and pianist Jose Dias explored a wide range of repertoire that exhibited control over a myriad of pianissimo states. While Rachmaninov’s Eti Letniye Nochi and Richard Strauss’s Cäcilie received appropriately sensuous, fervent renditions, most of the programme was situated in dimly lit colours of wavering nightfall.

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Conrad Koch is the ventriloquist behind Chester Missing, one of South Africa’s better-known political analysts. Like most comedians in this country he talks about race – a lot. Missing, his new show at the Festival, is filled with barbs about colonialism and racial profiling, mostly delivered by Chester, a racially ambiguous puppet. Koch, though, is white, and deeply aware of it. Shortly before his opening performance on Wednesday night, which also featured two additional puppets, neither as funny as Chester, he sat down with Cue to talk about trolls (the virtual ones), satire, and white audiences not quite getting what he’s about.

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Peter-Dirk Uys revives a familiar old crocodile for his show A Part Hate A Part Love. Photo: CuePix / Jeff Stretton-Bell

People go to see Pieter-Dirk Uys for the same probable reason they go to see the pyramids and the Parthenon: they have been there a very long time; and everyone else is going. And, like those other venerable ruins, you know what to expect, and you know you are seeing history.

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