Aardklop pumping with innovation, imagination and creative possibilities

DIANE DE BEER

With arts festivals still being the surest thing for many actors in this country, many of our best plays are premiered at these events before they start touring to mainstream theatres.

This year’s Aardklop (Potchefstroom’s annual festival from 2 to 8 October) while Afrikaans-driven, has many options for everyone simply interested in the arts and tehatre. An understanding of the language helps with a wider choice of course, but here are a few options worth checking.

Innovation is always part of a festival, and one of the most exciting is a one-on-one theatre experience that opens up all kinds of possibilities.

DEURnis is a one-on-one site-specific theatrical production with a very intimate yet cutting-edge and experimental approach. It involves a single audience member  who views three separate dramatic pieces per package (there are four different ones to choose from), with each of these having one performer and one audience member.

Each piece is is approximately 20 minutes long and written for a particular room/space in a house, so as a viewer, you move from one room to the next to see your three chosen plays.

It is the social issues that permeate the different works that affect individuals in different ways depending who you are. And for those who aren’t interested in gimmicky theatre, that’s exactly the trap they have avoided by aiming for excellence and substance in the texts.

“We have been inundated by people interested in writing for this venture,” says Johan van der Merwe, who with Rudi Sadler has started a production company Theatrerocket responsible for this exciting and well-executed concept.

They understand that the control has to be constant to see that everything works superbly. And as they had many plays to choose from, they have managed to execute their strict code.

It’s a fascinating experience, being the only one in the room in situations with a stranger telling a story that is often inclusive (never intrusive) but affects you as the viewer in very specific ways.

This is not a financial venture for the company. With only single actors and audience members, the numbers don’t add up. But because of the way it has been done, the performance experience the actors (at this stage mostly young) accumulate can’t be calculated. And chatting to a few of them in-between performances, they are equally thrilled by how much they are learning in the process. “Each performance is different because of the reaction of the individual viewing,” says one performer.

Having sat through a day of all of the plays (even a cabaret included), it doesn’t matter which package you choose. They’re all extremely well crafted and in sometimes scary ways, fun to experience. I loved it and more than anything, it is a concept with great potential. Personally I can’t wait to see how Theatrerocket is going to grow and expand this novel experiment.

One of their current quests is to find some older actors who want to participate. “It’s been a problem because most of them have families and the money isn’t the motivating factor here,” explains Van der Merwe.

Among the other shows and events to check out, including their searing production of Reuk van Appels, are the following:

  • The visual arts always feature strongly at this festival. With the title Saamklop (roughly translated as togetherness), it deals with South Africa’s rich history of collaboration, community engagement and artistic freedom. The focus is on artistic collaborations and community art projects exhibited together in a curated exhibition that spans many venues. Participants include the Bag Factory, Keleketla Library, The Found Collective, The Dead Bunny Society, NIROX Foundation Trust, The Artist Proof Studios and the Centre for the Less Good Idea, a William Kentridge initiative. A broad range of artworks, including paintings, drawings, videos, live performances, workshops, poetry and experimental new media projects will be on show. It’s worth traveling for. Curator (from Pretoria) Dr Johan Thom highlights the vital, creative role of community projects and artistic collaborations in contemporary South Africa’s art scene.
  • If you haven’t yet seen Pieter-Dirk Uys do either an Afrikaans or English version of his (in essence) life’s story, The Echo of a Noise, tick that box.  “I allowed myself to investigate the story behind the stories,” he explains.
  • A mover and shaker on the musical front, Charl du Plessis has two noteworthy productions. Stemme vir Môre (Voices of Tomorrow) combines the voices of Noluvuyiso Mpofu (soprano) and Bongani Kubheka (bass baritone) with Du Plessis on piano and features opera highlights. With Veertig Vingers (pictured) which points to four sets of hands, he creates a musical storm. Joining him on keyboards are Elna van der Merwe, Albie van Schalkwyk and Pieter Grobler as they perform favourite tunes from the classical, pop, jazz and rock genres.
  • For those who are au fait with the language, some theatre highlights include the Marthinus Basson directed Asem and Melk en Vleis; Dawid Minnaar in Monsieur Ibrahim en die blomme van die Koran; Weerkaats starring Milan Murray; Klara Maas se Hart is Gebreek, ensomeer: Die Vloeistoftrilogie with Wessel Pretorius, David Viviers; Nêrens, Noord-Kaap starring Albert Pretorius, De Klerk Oelofse and Geon Nel; and Elize Cawood and Wilson Dunster in Mike en Mavis (pictured).

There are more details about the festival or shows available at http://www.aardklop.co.za. Tickets at Computicket.

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