A selection of some of the best photographs taken by CuePix photographers in 2012 – selected by the CueOnline team.
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Richard Lothian (Gettysburg, Trains) and Alex Tops (Absolucy, Lost in the Stars) star in Cooked – one of the most sold out acts of 2012’s National Arts Festival. The Follow Spot Production show features Lothian as a chef filming the pilot for a new cooking show and Tops as the cleaner-turned-impromptu-chef’s-assistant.
My trip to the penis farm begins, as these things often do, over good chicken schnitzel and bad red wine. We’re sitting outside the Theatre Café, eating lunch. A friend notices one of the Festival posters on the wall. It’s tickle-me pink and subtle as sex — of a big, bare-chested, be-thonged macho man, beckoning with his thrust-forward pelvis: “You want some of this? Come over and see.”
“This” would be Phallus, a Fringe exhibition on the power of the penis.
“C’mon, let’s go,” my friend says. Is he serious? Yes, apparently. “Okay,” I reply. And I mean it. I’d had my fill of actual art. Brett Bailey, Athol Fugard, puppets, tears. Time for some trash.
So, an hour later, we’re speeding down the R67 towards Manley Flats. And that’s when I first began to regret the decision.
A 20-kilometre drive for penises? We know it’s called Fringe, but this is excessive. What if we get lost and have to ask for directions? “Excuse us, hi. We’re looking for the dick show. Do you know where that is?” As if there was anyone on that dirt road to ask. It’s Eastern Cape bush; nothing but goats. But the drive at least is beautiful – wide open expanses, silent, still, sublime. Finally, we see the sign for the Yellow Piano Inn. That’s the place. We pull up. The car stalls. I’m reminded of an old movie quote (from what, I can’t remember): “Why is the car stopped?” the passenger asks. “It’s frightened,” the driver replies. That’s pretty much us.
There is nothing, nobody, in the general vicinity. The gate to the inn is closed. Where were we? What is this? Who’s there?
“Suck it up,” I think, and chuckle. So I open the gate, and we pull through, park, and walk towards the inn. Still nothing. And that’s when we see it. Our saviour. Our beacon. The glorious lighthouse to our floundering ship. A massive thorn-bush statue: thick, erect, surging towards the sky. Relief floods in. We know we’ve arrived. Everything will be OK.
And it is. The Yellow Piano Inn isn’t, as we feared, some death hostel luring sex-obsessed festival-goers to their doom. It is exactly as the pink poster promised.
The innkeeper, an Afrikaans man, is charming, funny, older and odd. “So what’s the inspiration for this?” I ask. “Well, the phallus,” he replies, as if it was the most obvious thing.
He has spared no expense in tricking out the premises. Candleholders are testicular-shaped. Two stones lie at the base of every cactus, every tree. We order cake for lunch. It arrives with a penis-shaped cookie, covered in whipped cream. Sketches of men in various positions of pleasure cover the walls. There are photos, too, with great titles: Boning, for a man with a skeleton embracing his lower half; Tea-Bagging, for a man bagging tea; The Family Jewels, for a man holding a metallic penis. We snigger. You can’t help it.
Everyone’s a teenager inside; this let that out. And it gets you thinking: what is this symbol of strength – and why, if we wanted to, could we see it everywhere we go?
We exhaust the exhibit and finally leave. To our surprise, somewhat reluctantly. And that’s the miracle: Phallus is good – for an afternoon, for a break, for a fright, for a laugh. And for some leftover penis cookie. Which isn’t any good, but still fun to eat.
This weekend Grahamstown will be bursting at the seams with extraordinary creatures. “The tortoise – that’s our fault,” said music teacher Gareth Walwyn, who has been spending his evenings in an echoing warehouse, carefully crafting Skollie, a musical tortoise the size of a small swimming pool, made from recycled materials.
Rumour has it that Athol Fugard doesn’t like seeing his plays when they’re directed by people not named Athol Fugard. But in 2000, he broke that rule to see a production of The Road to Mecca at a tiny theatre not far from his part-time home in Southern California. It was supposed to be pretty good. It was. “When the curtain came,” said Stephen Sachs, its director, “Athol was overwhelmed and delighted with the work that we had done.” Sachs and Fugard went out that night, where they bonded over talk of the theatre.
The lights flicker on the stage of the Thomas Pringle Hall, illuminating two dancers in white. Shortly afterwards, the audience is guided to the monument foyer where another dance piece unfolds – inside a shack. Re-Fresh is an experimental piece of choreography that uses unconventional spaces, culminating inside cars in a parking lot.
Theatre is kind of an excuse to do whatever you want,” said actor Michael von Bardeleben, who plays one of the most disturbing characters at this year’s Festival – if it’s framed in the right way, of course. Von Bardeleben plays a post-apocalyptic madman in Discharge. Part of his job description is to strip naked and flog himself with a tape measure. In a later role, he dementedly demands information from the audience, then decides whether they can stay in the shelter or perish in the apocalypse.
It is always a bit hard to classify my father. Some call him a communist, others an anarchist, but I would say ultimately he is a pacifist,” said Patrick Watkins during a review of The Universal Clock: The Resistance of Peter Watkins, a documentary film about Peter Watkins and the making of his most acclaimed film, La Commune. Patrick is at the Festival representing his father’s work.
He wiped charcoal off his face, smiled at his chipped, charcoal-stained nails. “Being a writer is so much neater, all you have to do is sit behind a computer,” said writer and director Neil Coppen, who will now be adding set designer to his CV after collaborating with Malcolm Purkey and Craig Higginson in the production Little Foot. Being asked to design the vast set and costumes was, says Coppen, like being placed in a playpen – so many ideas and materials with which to work.
Everyone should experience Festival at least once in their lives, but there are those who make it an annual ritual. Danny Nel, who calls himself a “professional festival-goer,” is one such individual. Dressed in a grey parka, red beanie, comfortable walking shoes and carrying a backpack, he is the picture of someone who knows his way around a festival. His long grey hair is pulled back into a ponytail. He pulls out a wad of tickets, bound together with an elastic band.
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