Category: Drama

Carina Nel from VNA Productions performs in ‘Suster’ at the B2 Arena, Monument, Lucas Avenue, Grahamstown, 09 July 2015, at the 2015 National Arts Festival. ‘Suster’ is the sequel to the 2014 award winning “Smaarties’ written by Jannes Erasmus and directed by Quintin Wils. Photo: CuePix/Pearla Berg.

This is a difficult review to write. While Suster excels on a number of counts, certain elements in the work make it an ambivalent experience overall.

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Khaya Kondile performing in Interplay at the NG Kerk Hall in Grahamstown on 9 July 2015, at the 2015 National Arts Festival. (Photo: CuePix/Hlumela Mkabile)

Interplay, which features an almost all-Joza Township cast, uses the Xhosa tradition of storytelling to educate one another about the benefits of the Internet, but I wish the cast would have studied acting and staging.

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Warona Seane delivers a performance of quiet authority in Tin Bucket Drum. Photo: CuePix/Jeff Stretton-Bell

The musician sits stage right. He is surrounded by instruments: a triangle, wind chimes, cymbals and a huge tin bucket. There are a line of pedals on the ground at his feet, to control the sound of his warm red acoustic guitar. He plucks and strums, smiling genially at passing audience members.

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Every moment where you can watch a play or show at a festival that deals with a sensitive subject matter without it becoming a simplistic victimisation narrative is like being a deep water diver coming up for air.

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Iconic musician Michael Masote is a guest of honour at the opening of Masote’s Dream, at the Transnet Great Hall, Grahamstown, 10 July 2015, at the 2015 National Arts Festival. Based on Masote’s biography, the play is about how he pursued his dream to become a violinist in the face of penury and South Africa’s racist apartheid regime. Photo: CuePix / Jane Berg.

This show is good: but don’t trust me, trust the man himself. Shortly after the South African premier of Masote’s Dream, Matlhaela Michael Masote, on whose life this musical is based, wept, saying the play reminded him of how far he – and we as a nation – had come.

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Performers in Medea on 9 July 2015 at the National Arts Festival. The fresh take on Euripides’ classic tragedy aims to tell Medea’s story in a more current context, primarily intended to be relevant to women of today. (Photo: CuePix/ Amanda Horsfield)

While the efforts of the production must not go unrecognised, we found it slightly difficult to enjoy the play beyond what it was – a contemporary adaptation of the classic Greek tragedy.

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Buhle Nkomo performs in The Girls. The Girls is an international award-winning drama that centres on the 139 girls who were
abducted on October 9th, 1996 from their boarding school in Uganda. Photo: CuePix/Pearla Berg

The international award -winning production,  The Girls, is a devastating  retelling of the abduction of  one of the 139 school girls from  Northern Uganda in 1996. The  play also refers to the many women abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria last year Thirteen years after her abduction in Aboke in Uganda,  schoolgirl Ann manages to  escape in the chaos created  during a helicopter attack by  the Ugandan army.

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Josephine Peka and Mkhabela Thabo in Enough is Enough at the 2015 National arts Festival in Grahamstown. (Photo: CuePix/Sithasolwazi Kentane)

Several student directors – all of them women – are presenting work at this year’s Festival that deals with the complexities of gender and sexuality.

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Close to 200 people queued up for this year’s free performance of Woza Albert! Many were turned away. It is a tribute to director Peter Mitchel and his team that this quintessential anti-apartheid play still draws audiences like ants to syrup.

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Marcel Meyer as the Prince of Denmark,  and  Mathew Baldwin  as Guildenstern in The Tragedy of Hamlet at the Rhodes Theatre, Grahamstown, 06 July 2015, at the 2015 National Arts Festival. Abrahamse & Meyer Productions brings this new rendition of the tragedy as performed by the crew aboard The Red Dragon off the East Coast of South Africa, one of the earliest recorded performances of Hamlet, in 1608. Photo: CuePix / Jane Berg.

The minimalist stage holds a board to represent a ship surrounded by water. The backdrop is clear plastic. The stage suddenly darkens and six sailors appear, discussing a play about the tragic Danish prince, Hamlet.

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