Posts Tagged ‘neil coppen’

Nat Ramabulana and Janna Ramos Violante perform in The Imagined Land at Vicky’s, Grahamstown, 10 July 2015, at the 2015 National Arts Festival. The Imagined Land is a new play by acclaimed writer Craig Higginson in which a famous Zimbabwean novelist, modelled on Nadine Gordimer and Doris Lessing, is confronted by her biographer with difficult memories from her past. Photo: CuePix / Jane Berg.

The National Arts Festival pretty much reflects the theatre scene as a whole. There is still not enough black theatre, and there are not enough black audience members. It’s largely a matter of economics but it’s also related to artistic will.

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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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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.

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This was an opening with a difference; halfway through the first performance of Abnormal Load (just as the cast were ascending the rather impressive mountain which dominated the stage) the place was plunged into complete darkness. The venue manager handled the situation superbly – keeping everybody calm, evacuating the almost full theatre and then keeping those who waited patiently in the foyer informed of developments.

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