Three showcases of important South African work are on offer at this year’s National Arts Festival, 27 June to 7 July 2013: a spotlight on the work of playwright Mike van Graan, acclaimed work from the Market Theatre, and new work produced by the PE Opera House and funded by the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council.
The Market Theatre partners with the National Arts Festival in presenting key historical works.
Woza Albert! is one of the plays for which South African theatre is best known internationally. Its physical style of storytelling has inspired and influenced theatre companies around the world – and it is one of the best examples of agit prop theatre that define South African theatre in all its vibrancy, innovation and humanity. When this production, directed by Standard Bank Young Artist Prince Lamla, opened at the Market Theatre last year it played to sold out houses over a six month season and received glowing accolades at the 2012 Edinburgh Festival.
The Line is the culmination of multi-award winning actor and director Gina Shmukler’s Masters Research on trauma and theatre-making. Set against the backdrop of the South African xenophobic attacks of May 2008, The Line explores the ‘fragility of goodness’ and engages with both victim and perpetrator, whilst investigating what makes good people do bad things and how one crosses ‘the line’ so to speak. The production was nominated for 5 Naledi Theatre Awards in Johannesburg.
Winner of a Scotsman Fringe First Award (2008) at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for his play Itsoseng, Omphile Molusi was the first recipient of the Royal Shakespeare Company/Baxter Theatre`s Brett Golden Bursary Award (2007), which earned the young playwright a life-changing scholarship to study with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon and further developItsoseng. His new production Cadre first played at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre (CST) as part of the World`s Stage Series, is inspired by true events in the life of an activist during and after the apartheid era, and honours all the unsung heroes who died hoping for a better future.
The world has changed significantly since The Island was first performed in 1973, when it was illegal for the three playwrights to meet, let alone collaborate on a rebellious piece of literature. But through the creation of this brilliant two-hander, Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona brought to life a tale that took the world by storm and helped to persuade America to impose sanctions in South Africa. The Island is just as resonant in today’s South Africa as it was when it first appeared – as we are still doing battle in our contemporary democracy for freedom of expression, and how that might be at odds with the dignity of the State. This time around, the play will be performed by a new generation of brilliant actors, in Atandwa Kani and Nat Ramabulana directed by John Kani.
The Port Elizabeth Opera House in association with Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council and the National Arts Festival present a number of performances, at this year’s Festival. The National Arts Festival appointed six dynamic young directors who have been enjoying success on the Festival’s Fringe to work as Creative Consultants on the Port Eizabeth Opera House productions.
Truck Driver pieces together a much-avoided life story in South Africa: amidst the scourge of rampant women abuse, there are men who are good to their women and there are women who are bad to their men. Through Theatre for Development (TFD), the multi-talented and very experienced Nomhle Nkonyeni has brought together a cast of talented artists from Eastern Cape. Zwai Mgijima, whose other work includes Veil which won an Audience Award in the finals of PANSA’s 2012 National Scriptwriting Programme, added his skills in bringing together the narrative of this production. Napo Masheane was appointed as a Creative Consultant to cast a directorial eye on the production.
In 2012 the Port Elizabeth Opera House formed a Performing Arts Company of Eastern Cape (PACEC). Monologues is a series of expressions, written by the actors themselves, based on how one perceives the societal experiences through interpretation of world known theatre theorists and contributors.
Strongly rooted in the theatre traditions of the masters, Monologues in 1st Gear allows for individual character exploration, with a narrative that ambles through a series of scenarios. Monologues in 2nd Gear engages the audience with humour and sheer display of acting sincerity. Each actor penned his or her own monologue and the production is directed through the collective input of the ensemble. Pieter Bosch Botha was the Creative Consultant working on this production.
Cracked Mirror is a miner’s story told through music and humour – an energetic production which reflects on the rise of wildcat strikes by miners and an unenviable notoriety of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, a country that over the years has been sustained by the contribution of migrant workers, and survived off the largesse of neighbouring countries during exilic years. Director Xolani Ngesi has had a successful theatre career appearing in productions by Chris Mann and Janet Buckland (Uthuthula) and Umendi by Mandla Mbothwe and Lara Foot. Author Buntu Mahola comes from a renowned New Brighton tradition and is the younger brother of Mzi Mahola, an Oliver Schreiner Award winning poet and the uncle of Freshly Ground’s Zolani Mahola. Standard Bank Young Artist (2012) Princess Zinzi Mhlongo partnered with this production as a Creative Consultant.
Particularly within times of commotion, desperate to communicate, we devise means using ‘symbols’ to get our inner message across. In classic battles, drums and flags communicated what could not be heard and seen. Flowers have come to speak those words in one’s heart. Depriving earth its beauty to benefit a woman’s heart, Mawawa, a florist, battles to understand his role in the world of lovers and friends who come to purchase flowers from him. Director Xolisa Ngubelanga’s ground breaking play Dinner With Bantu, which won the PE Opera House’s One Act Play competition in 2010, took part at the Market Theatre Community Drama Programme in 2012. This is a collaboration with the Ibhubesi Marimba Band, Shell Road to Fame winners in the 1990’s. The band has performed in Tunisia, UAE and Br azil. Mawawa, a Florist ambles upon sombre sounds of the Marimba. Thenjiwe Stemela worked as a Creative Consultant with this company.
Sleeping Dogs is set at Ndamase Village in the Eastern Cape tests the strength of faith in tradition, and the expected role of a woman to bear an heir and continue the family tradition. What becomes of truth when out of desperation, only adultery can deliver a solution to traditional expectations? The 2012 Baxter Theatre’s Zabalaza Drama Festival Best Scriptwriter winner, Simphiwe Vikilahle, also winner of the Market Theatre Community Theatre Best Play Award 2012, presents Sleeping Dogs for the first time outside Port Elizabeth since it premiered at the Iphulo Drama Festival 2012. Vikilahle’s talent was spotted by the UK-based Swallows Foundation with his highly acclaimed play The Journey, which has also been selected for a season at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. Tara Louise Notcutt was the Creative Consultant for this production.
The Port Elizabeth Opera House Showcase is funded by the Eastern Cape DSRAC and Eastern Cape Provincial Arts & Culture Council (ECPACC).
The 2013 National Arts Festival, Grahamstown will see a focus on the work of Mike van Graan, in a pilot project that will attempt to put the spotlight on a Festival Playwright.
Mike van Graan has been described by the Mail & Guardian as”One of the few practising contemporary South African playwrights able to construct morally complex and dramatically layered scripts dealing with highly controversial socio-political topics…..”. As a sequel to the accolade bestowed on van Graan at the 2012 Standard Bank Fringe Ovation Awards, the National Arts Festival has partnered with the Artscape Theatre in announcing him as the 2013 FESTIVAL PLAYWIGHT in a pilot initiative that will enable the Festival to each year put the spotlight on a significant body of work by a South African playwright.
In association with the Artscape Centre, the National Arts Festival is also proud to present a world premieres of Mike van Graan’s play, Writer’s Block (Directed by Nicky Rebelo, with Jennifer Steyn), which deals with issues of translocation and ‘home’.
Directed by Greg Homan, winner of the Standard Bank Ovation Award for directing this work, Brothers in Blood is an explosive drama about Jewish, Muslim and Christian relations set in Cape Town in the late 1990’s against the background of PAGAD’s activities against crime and the drug trade. Brothers in Blood won the 2010 Naledi Theatre Award for Best Play.
Addressing themes of universal importance in a fast-paced, poetic and theatrically engaging manner with a mixture of humour, drama and satire, Panic is performed by Siv Ngesi, directed by Heinrich Reisenhofer. An avid surfer, a lover of nature and an idealist, Thando is caught between living a very good life based on the extractive industries from which his family benefits, but which also contribute to climate change on the one hand, and, on the other hand, acting to mitigate the effects of climactic variables on the environment, on political and economic stability, and mostly, on people.
As a human and family drama, Rainbow Scars is both funny and thought-provoking. As a metaphor for South African society, the play confronts some of the key contemporary tensions between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’, the ‘born-frees’ and those burdened by the past, between a non-racial elite and an overwhelmingly black underclass. Rainbow Scars is directed by Lara Bye, director of the hit show, London Road, and features the leading South African actress Terry Norton, Mbulelo Grootboom (2013 Fleur du Cap winner for his role in Just Business) and introduces a new talent, Kertrice Maitesa.
With his penchant for successfully combining the personal and political in incisive social commentary, there is no doubt that this season of Van Graan’s plays will captivate our audience imagination.
The 39th edition of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown will take place from 27 June to 7 July 2013.
The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Eastern Cape Government, Department of Arts and Culture, National Arts Council, City Press and M Net.