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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A man in a tawny, ankle-length coat, grey onesie and maroon slippers is asleep on a chair. Piles of books surround him. On such a miserable, rainy day, I am immediately jealous of his situation. William Harding is about to perform Travels around my Room, a production directed by Sylvaine Strike. He captivates the audience from the start. His rich voice and eloquent speech are a treat to listen to. His diction is like a perfectly cooked chocolate lava cake – oozing with decadence.
Blaise Pascal first uttered the oft-repeated line, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”. Centuries later, the Beatles put a Taoist spin on it by telling us to “arrive without travelling”. The idea is animated in Sylvaine Strike’s Travels Around My Room, a one-man play in which said man undertakes a 42-day journey around his room.
Tobacco and the Harmful Effects Thereof is, so to speak, a metaphor for marriage in this wondrous adaptation of the Anton Chekov play of a similar name. Under the consummate direction of Sylvaine Strike, Andrew Buckland delivers a performance that keeps the audience on the brink of a precipice between laughter and tears for more than one hour.
Gracing (disgracing?) the cover of the Festival programme this year are two fictional creations, one a comparatively recent addition to our satirical landscape, the pugnacious puppet Chester Missing, the other a flesh-and-blood institution, Evita Bezuidenhout, who has arguably eclipsed her creator in the minds of those who seldom visit the theatre.
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