LOCAL MUSIC SHOULD MAKE OUR WORLD GO ROUND AND EVERYONE SHOULD BE PAYING ATTENTION

It was almost luck that I got to catch two musical documentaries at the recent Silwerskerm Fees. Musical prophet Danie Marais pointed the way and it was an extraordinary morning of two remarkable musical documents anyone interested in local music should try to see. Sadly, even at this festival, the attendance for these two searing films on the way music is used and abused was dismal – not even the local press seemed interested. DIANE DE BEER reviews and reveals more about MUTANT and DIE ONGETEMDE STEM:

Mutant pictures: Christian Imraan

Die Ongetemde Stem pictures: screen grabs

Mutant (directed and conceived by Lebogang Rasethaba and Nthato Mokgato) isn’t for the fainthearted. The Festival guide describes it as an intimate portrait of one of South Africa’s most outspoken and controversial artists and the turbulent, dangerous world he lives in.

I’m not in a position to dispute that, but I was gripped from beginning to end by what is described as an exploration of the rapper Isaac Mutant’s roots in the notorious violence-stricken Cape Flats of Cape Town, as well as his current situation.

This is an activist with a voice, articulate and angry yet reasoned when he explains that while he hates white people, he doesn’t want to kill them. “I just want to live or I would be like the evils I’m trying to fight.”

And he is coming from his reality, living in what he describes as “freedom” in a shack on Hangberg with the affluent Hout Bay and the harbour staring him in the face.

“I just want to live and I suppose everyone just wants to live,” he reinforces.

Still living in a country where apartheid determines lives, Isaac was directed by his sister, who saw him struggling with his anger, to turn to music. “Vent your anger into music,” and while many of his peers describe his lyrics as “hitting the nail too hard”, this is someone who is commenting on the life he lives and the one he experiences every day.

With his music he informs, he speaks his mind; and if democracy isn’t there to protect and nourish at least those dreams, what is the struggle for?

As another artist remarks, she doesn’t necessarily agree with what he is saying, but she admires Mutant for speaking his mind. Agreed!

And for those far removed from this world, it is an education, perhaps a harsh one, but in the separated worlds we still live in today, it’s invaluable. Are we just going to push people who are suffering away and hope the problem resolves itself, or do we at least engage and listen and hopefully understand and embrace?

As a representative for farmworkers explains: When one farmer dies, the world takes notice, but the deaths of farmworkers on a weekly basis are ignored. “Whose life is more valuable?” she asks.

 And that is what Isaac Mutant is fighting for. He might say things that those of us who are privileged don’t want to hear, but the least we can do is listen.

Isaac Mutant fighting for freedom

Or, as the man himself notes: “Let’s not talk, just give it back, give it all back. Everything that was taken away.”

We’re talking about a system which classified people along racial lines. And in those times, this mixed race man was considered black. It’s something he has identified with all his life.

But now, in this new country, he feels he is being shifted along racial lines once again. No longer is he considered black, now he has to identify as coloured.

And these are just some of the issues on the line. And the reason that Mutant has to be watched and Isaac Mutant has to be listened to.

Isaac Mutant in discussion with friends

The film is still on a festival run and has recently been  submitted to Netflix and Comcast for potential licensing deals.

The next festivals to screen it are: Blackstar Film Festival (USA); Rock This Town (France); and

Musical Ecran (France).

On a very different note yet with many of the same issues Die Ongetemde Stem takes a hard and uncompromising look at the Afrikaans music industry and the racial imbalances that still persist almost 30 years into our democracy.

Fraser Barry, Jolyn Phillips and Churchil Naudé, all who have been sidelined.

One would think that especially when people have a language in common, inclusion would be a given particularly  with our past. I was shocked, for example, to hear that someone like the articulate Churchil Naudé who uses his music to express particular feelings, still feels side-lined.

 Even if his music is not going to slot into some sections of Afrikaans music, that’s true of many singers, black and white, or are we still in this new  century going to judge on colour? Surely not?

Revolutionary rockers The Gereformeerde Blues Band in their hey day.

In this new era, rapidly becoming old, everyone writing and performing in a particular language should be embraced. And as the documentary points out, this battle was fought many decades ago by Johannes Kerkorrel and the Gereformeerde Blues Band when they broke through the boundaries of traditional Afrikaans music, which was often translated from European songs and determined by a self-imposed vanguard of elders.

But let Riku Lätti tell the story: “It came to us almost completely by accident while we were busy filming interviews and live performances by a multitude of mostly, but not exclusively, Afrikaans singer-songwriters as Die Wasgoedlyn. 

“Die Wasgoedlyn was a project that originated because I realised that the Afrikaans music that I liked and the Afrikaans music that received airtime and public attention could not be further apart.  I discovered, partly by virtue of being an Afrikaans music creator myself, connected and known to many other creators of original Afrikaans music, and partly because I started the investigation, that there is a magdom (please let’s submit that word to English dictionaries) decent Afrikaans music that for the lack of a better term could be referred to as Alternatiewe Afrikaans.

Arbiter of Afrikaans music the volk should hear; Anton Hartman

 “So Alternatiewe Afrikaans becomes a huge category from hard rock, punk, industrial, electronic, to all the way gritty folk and darker country, hip-hop, Goema, Afrikana (think old-school (and thought of as inappropriate by the Afrikaans music police) boeremusiek like Die Briels en Koos Doep).  Basically every kind of Afrikaans music that you wouldn’t hear on commercial radio stations.   Those are all the styles that I have a personal affinity towards, but never got to hear unless you actually go to the concerts of these musicians and go to see them personally. 

Some of the vocal participants in the documentary.

“Many of my favourite Afrikaans artists I set out to go see personally. I asked them if I could record their music with my mobile recording studio sommer at their homes or wherever we had the good fortune to be.  I released hundreds of these tunes and you can go listen to them if you search for Wasgoedlyn on youtube or itunes, or spotify. Basically, wherever you listen to music online. 

“These recordings by the original artists have a stripped down quality to it, a rawness, a cut- to-the-bone grainy atmosphere, that the environment provides, since these tunes where not recorded in pristine soundproof studios (Go listen to Wasgoedlyn Volume 1 – 3 online you will hear what I mean).”

As David Kramer also reminded us in the documentary (and live as part of the too small audience), Afrikaans was appropriated by the white elite while the origins of the language lay within the brown communities. And again, that was the problem for those who had the power to decide what would be played at the SABC.

Either way, the thing that should in this new millennium be the motivator, is the riches that the different communities bring to the language. We are a country that should be embracing all our artists because our diversity adds to the richness that will then emerge on our stages, in our literature, in our music and on our canvasses or in our sculptures.

We have tried separating and proved that it doesn’t bring solace to any particular group. It is our diversity that brings strength as this documentary shows so magnificently! And even the recent Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees again showed how the diversity on the stages added to the stories and songs that enveloped and enchanted audiences.

And that is what Die Ongetemde Stem celebrates.

It will be shown at a South African, Australian, New Zealand film festival in May in Melbourne but also online at: 

RONELDA S KAMFER’S KOMPOUN WILL LEAVE YOU SHATTERED BUT THE BRILLIANCE WITH WHICH SHE WRITES IS LASTING AND WILL BLOW YOUR MIND

As a fan of Ronelda Kamfer’s gut-wrenching poetry, I was excited by the announcement of her first novel, Kompoun (Kwela). There’s something about her writing that holds you in its thrall and instinctively I knew that whichever way she chooses to tell a story, I will be on board. And having declared my subjectivity, I, DIANE DE BEER and the author speak our minds:

Ronelda S Kamfer

With Ronelda S Kamfer you know from the first sentence the kind of story you’re about to drop into.

And if you want to know what’s happening in literature in this country, you have to read this one. As an award-winning poet, this is her first novel, but she says that she doesn’t view the writing in any way as different.

“There was never really a shift. To me the boundaries between poetry and prose are superficial. I felt the story would benefit from a longer form. I wanted to capture more detail than I usually would. 

 “The main differences were the technical aspects of writing a novel. Basic things like ensuring continuity and providing geographical context, etc. But I tend to keep a lot of notes anyway.

“ And that helped. With Kompoun (the title, which is explained by a dictionary entrance on o the word in the front of the book), Nadia and Xavie had a notebook, the landscape had its own notebook, and my feelings had its own little section in a bigger notebook.

“I had a very clear idea of all the different elements that would make up the book eventually,” she explains

The brilliance of the writing and the story lies in the way she catches life, colours it in so many different shades and textures that you have to keep your wits about you, and also tugs constantly at any emotional toughness you think you have.

You should know by the end of page one whether you can stomach this one and if you do, you will be gloriously enriched on many different levels. But believe me, it’s tough.

The young Nadia explains that her Uncle Empty is actually oraait. He hits his wife, but she has too few nice adults in her life to write him off. And right off the bat you take the first hit.

Telling the story is Nadia and she alternates with her cousin Xavie as they reflect on their childhood.

Readers not familiar with Afrikaaps but also the way Ronelda tells the story, will have to pay close attention when reading Kompoun. It is  heart-breaking and often shattering in its pain, yet completely compulsive – and brilliant.

Ronelda’s choice of young narrators also determines how you experience the story. “We are children for such a short time. But it’s a time of our lives where we’re most ourselves in many ways,” she says. “ It’s a beautiful moment, before we start to compromise bit by bit.

“We are more selfish in little ways, but less selfish in the ways that matter most. When we’re children, we are less averse to risk, and that makes us more open, more forgiving and more honest.

“Most adults are calculating and closed off to some extent. Self-preservation becomes the dominant theme in our lives.

“Their resilience in the face of life’s disappointments made the children the ideal storytellers because the story to a large degree is about the struggle to retain your innocence and the desire to live freely, openly and honestly.”

And this is perhaps further explained in the dedication in the front of the book: All the women, who had to say sorry, even when they weren’t sorry

Musing on the difference between the novel and poetry, she felt that the novel required more stamina and concentration for a longer stretch of time. “I get bored very quickly, so my mind would trail off to other things. With poetry everything moves faster. And every new poem feels like its own thing even if it’s part of a collection.

“With the novel I was always aware that every part is a piece of the whole. That’s one of the reasons perhaps why I had to break the book down into these short fragments. So that every chapter could feel like a little project. It kept me engaged. I will always write poetry and I will continue writing novels, but I’m sure I will write other things as well.”

One of the riches of the book is the language but it also restricts the readership as your Afrikaans has to be good to get a grip on the Kaaps. But if you do, it’s like music to the ear.

And for Ronelda, it is who she is and how she expresses herself, as she explains:

“The language is very important, because the story spans across generations and different geographical spaces. It was important to represent all the different variations of Kaaps, whether it was Plattelandse Kaaps or the way it’s spoken in the Western Cape.

“Kaaps is also a very visual language, that relies a lot on metaphors. My mother died 10 years ago and my grandmother a year ago and I see the way they used language as part of my inheritance.

“With Kompoun I managed to come up with some phrases that felt like it came from their mouths. And that is probably one of the most satisfying things for me.”

And for those of us who read it, the way the language is used is such a huge part of the story, as often it hits its target with a speed and velocity that catches you unaware – but has double the impact. It’s simply not translatable.

It has been said that it feels like an autobiographical story, but when you ask Ronelda about the objective of the story, she says it was the book itself.

“I write things because I feel compelled to write them. It’s not a reaction to anything nor a statement. It’s really just the manifestation of a desire. I wanted to see these places and these characters in literature, so I expressed that,” she says.

And that’s  precisely why you are drawn into the lives of these children from the start. In a South African context, it is a familiar world, perhaps harsher than many of us might imagine, but something we can understand.

I have found that the thing that excites me most in any book is originality. They say there are only a few stories to be told, but it is the way the story is told where the creativity lies. That’s true for Ronelda as well.

“I love books and films and music that give me an adrenaline rush. And I get that rush from hearing a truly original thought, or seeing something beautifully observed or understood.

“My aim as a writer is the same as my aim as a consumer of art. I want the reader’s heart to skip a beat.”

And that mine did from start to finish!

I was fascinated by the way I experienced Kompoun. While the story is devastating and, the lives of the children, especially Nadia’s beatings, emotionally and physically painful, the book is powerful rather than painful, as if  by telling the story and not hiding from the truth, the children reclaim their power.

“I think Kompoun is the first book I wrote without any rage; the characters might be fighting but the story is not about rage. For me, it is about profound loss and we have all lost.

“ It is not about whiteness or patriarchy or violence. These things are a product of loss but I understand how someone might read into that first. I think it has to do with empathy, and how you relate to the unfairness of the lives of the characters.

“In some people this need to empathize causes that almost knee-jerk reaction, to look for reasons and to allocate blame. I do that all the time, but I am learning to process things slower and sit with my feelings longer.”

And then she concludes with what she wishes for readers.

“It was important to me that the experience of reading the book would conjure more than just sadness in the reader. These are strong characters who have things they believe in. I felt the character’s rebelliousness was integral to the book.

“It’s not a book about being defeated, it’s a book about emotional and psychological revolution.”

That is exactly what stays with you throughout the reading. This group of cousins, children all at the time, looked out for one another and were born into a generation that decided it was time to talk. And that made the difference. And does similar things for the reader.

If you think you might understand it and get to grips with Kaaps, no one tells a better story about these people and their lives than Ronelda S Kampher. May she never stop telling her stories – it doesn’t matter whether in poems or novels or any other way she comes up with. I will stand in the front of the line.

YOU CAN EXPERIENCE THE FOOD PARADISE CREATED BY SAVVY CHEF ELZE ROOME IN DIFFERENT WAYS

When someone so accomplished in the cuisine universe shares her food stories, you listen. Her adventures are many as she shares everything she learns while moving around in different hospitality ventures. DIANE DE BEER visits her current spot Tashas on Menlyn Main:

Pictures: supplied by Tashas

This was the best of worlds. I was having a late lunch with chef-patron Elze Roome at Tashas, Menlyn Main, sampling her new menu in tapas style, while listening to her latest food adventures.

It’s been five years since she and her brother Wally opened this little corner of heaven where people are endlessly drifting in and out and platters of food come streaming past anywhere you sit in the room.

There’s nothing better than have the one who came up with the menu also make the selection of whatever you are going to have. Elze’s favourite (coincidently like mine) has always been the Levant and when she had to introduce her trademark to this particular Tashas, the region was an easy one.

“I’ve always liked the combination of spices,” she says and agrees with me, that a close second is Thai food.

I first met Elze when she was executive chef at Brasserie de Paris following their move to Waterkloof in their iconic Karel Jooste home. With the owner (who also happens to be Elze’s aunt), these two presented me and a couple of friends with many memorable evenings of sheer delight.

The one was an Easter dinner (bunny ears deluxe included) on their magnificent rooftop with food that was quite extraordinary and night skies that stole all our hearts.

But also the dinner led by Elze, when the Brasserie recently decided to close its doors, was quite spectacular. Fortunately for fans, they quickly opened again with new management after only a few months of closed doors and the reports out there are good. Similar ambience and food as before.

In typical Brasserie style, the farewell (if brief) dinner was done with many of the previous chefs slipping in for this one extravagance to celebrate the restaurant and everything it stood for.

Chef patron Elze Roome and Tashas, Menlyn Main.

But since her stint as fine-dining chef, Roome has travelled the world. First she spent some time in France where she trained as patisserie chef and on her return she was courted by Tashas as executive chef and product developer.

She was not easy to lure, but Natasha Sideris was determined. She is obviously someone who knows how to spot talent and once she has, she wants you as part of the Tashas team. Which is exactly where Elze has been this past decade.

It’s been an adventure and much of that time was also spent in Dubai where she helped with the establishment of the first restaurant in the emirates. In Dubai, they now have the fine-dining Flamingo Room, the Avli which is Greek inspired, the Galaxy Bar which has been named #45 in  the world’s 50 best bars, with four Tashas restaurants- one in Abu Dhabi.

So watch this space. The Tasha empire is expanding … constantly.

In the process, Elze gave her heart to Dubai. If you ask her about the attraction, she distils it to the constant buzz. “Both Paris and London are sleepy towns in comparison,” she says as she explains how this desert city is always on the hop.

For this foodie, that’s part of the attraction. Anyone who has watched anything on food in Dubai will know that they have attracted many of the world’s top chefs. “It can take you easily an hour just to scroll through Uber Eats,” she says.

She also likes the idea of night or day, anything you want or wish to do is probably available. And, she says, the people are super friendly. It probably helps being part of the Tashas team which also provides her with a very special place at the Dubai table. After all, the brand has firmly established their credentials in a very short space of time.

One of her most recent Tashas adventures has been developing the recipes for the very smart Tashas Inspired: A Celebration of Food and Art.

The production team was identical to that of the previous book, Tashas Timeless Café Classics, but this was a much more expansive book with Elze focussing on the food side specifically. “We had many team meetings about the way to go, how to approach the book and what the end product should be,” she noted. But in the end, the food was really inspired by Natasha’s food memories.

“She wanted to reflect her food memories by way of her travels and her favourite cities and flavours,” explains Elze and obviously when it came to the Greek side of things, the family was very specific about the food, the presentation and how they do it. After all, this is how Tashas evolved into what it has become today.

It is a franchise but from the start, even in the early days, visitors to the different restaurants knew that each one had its own flavour and if you visit the revamped Hyde Park Tashas Le Parc today, the cake section has been another Roome-inspired  creation.

The book too is something else. It is as much a lifestyle extravagance as it is a food journey as we go from New York deli to Greek taverna. And in typical Tashas style, even though this is a high-end cookery/art book, Natasha hopes it will sit as easily on the kitchen top as it does on the coffee table. In other words, appreciate the art, luxuriate in the lifestyle and travels to get to this continental style cuisine, but also get your hands dirty and start cooking.

Here’s one of my favourites from the latest cookbook extravaganza.. It is an easy salad/accompaniment and it points to the layering of tastes and textures:

Tashas yummy coriander couscous.

CORIANDER COUSCOUS

Caramelised onion, feta, handfuls of fresh herbs and couscous make for a full-bodied flav ourful dish that can be a salad on its own or a side dish.

Couscous

4 cups cooked couscous (I use the bigger sized couscous, but that’s a preferance)

Herb paste

1 onion, caramelised in olive oil (love that they tell you that)

4 spring onions, chopped

2 red chillies (optional)

4 tsp cumin seeds, crushed

80g shaved almonds toasted

120 extra-virgin olive oil,

Plus extra for drizzling

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

120 g feta cheese

Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Herb paste

20 g flat-leaf parsley

20g dill

20 g coriander leaves

10g tarragon

10 g mint

150 ml olive oil

Herb paste Blend the herbs and the oil to a smooth paste in a food processor or with a stick blender.

Couscous  Put the cooked couscous in a serving bowl and stir in the herb paste, onion and chilli, cumin, almonds (keep some for the garnish), olive oil and lemon juice and zest. Mix well and season to taste. Cut the feta into thick slices and arrange on top of the couscous. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and garnish with shaved almonds and parsley.

KLEIN KAROO NASIONALE KUNSTEFEES PROVES THERE’S NOTHING TO MATCH LIVE THEATRE

The youthful purity of innocence with Wilhelm van der Walt in Ek, Anna van Wyk.

What joy to attend the first of the arts festivals with the re-opening of the annual Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) on 29 March 2022. The programme was fantastic in spite of short notice with the pandemic holding everyone to ransom and artists and audiences alike seemed to trip the light fantastic in what felt like new-found freedom. DIANE DE BEER reviews her best of the best  ̶  because of course, there was more…

PICTURES: HANS VAN DER VEEN

Dancers Grant Van Ster (left) and Shaun Oelf (right) with (centre) Dean Balie (narrator).

It was when watching the magnificent Karatara that I truly realised the impact of the past couple of years without live theatre.

Personally, live theatre is where the emotional impact of a performance can truly take me to another place – and that’s magical. Karatara is one of those, a production of the KKNK.

It is all about the feeling and the way the story about the catastrophic fire in Knysna in 2018 is told. In this instance, artist Wilken Calitz came up with the concept and handed that to actor/director Gideon Lombard. They have  a strong working relationship, and it shows.

It’s the choice of performers (dancers Shaun Oelf and Grant Van Ster and actor Dean Balie, all who show their versatility brilliantly), the soundscape put together by Lombard that envelops and tosses you this way and that, and the combination of the powerful choreography, text and lighting.

The versatility and vitality of Karatara.

The devastation of a fire that completely destroyed communities had huge impact at the time – and then disappeared like  lightning from the consciousness. Not only does the piece play critically with the way the powerful manipulate the limitations of the powerless, but it also reaches back into the past to tell a very particular tale about the grotesque greed that determined and devastated the lives of others, and which still has consequences today –  as was so damagingly laid bare by this particular catastrophe.

Terminaal 3 with (left) Edwin van der Walt and Carla Smith and (right) Anna-Mart van der Merwe and Stian Bam.

As we have come to expect, director Marthinus Basson produced two very different plays, both with extraordinary theatrical reach. Terminaal 3 would have played at the cancelled 2020 KKNK and was revived with Basson introducing us to the Swedish playwright Lars Noren.

It’s the originality of the piece that delivers the knockout blow. It takes a while to get to the crux of what is happening in this particular waiting room with two couples, one young (Carla Smith and Edwin van der Walt) and waiting to deliver their first baby, the other older (Anna-Mart van der Merwe and Stian Bam) waiting to confirm that it’s their son who has died.

The couples don’t interact, but their stories hauntingly reflect and bounce off one another. The puzzle is revealed as the four individuals all seem to be fighting for their particular  lives – not in unison but uniquely alone.

Again it is the way the story is told and played with remarkable aplomb, the discomfort of the viewer as specific dilemmas are discussed and discarded, and the almost clinical way in which life and death are juggled. It’s the way we think we can plan our lives, the curve balls that have to be manoeuvred and manipulated, and in particular how both writer and director scramble our thought processes.

The visual splendour of Ek, Anna van Wyk.

And then there’s the homage to Pieter Fourie, a founding member of the KKNK with Ek, Anna van Wyk. This is Basson’s second time round with this play and as someone who celebrates the courage that Fourie displayed with his writing, which first appeared in the darkest days of apartheid, he also acknowledges the durability of the work, which is as relevant today as it was then.

Carlo Daniels and Wilhelm van der Walt are part of an exciting ensemble.

A fearless Tinarie van Wyk Loots plays the title character surrounded by a fantastic cast starting with Carlo Daniels,  Dawid Minnaar, Geon Nel, Wilhelm van der Walt, Gideon Lombard, René Cloete and Albert Pretorius as the interrogator.

Patriarchy is being explored and exposed, something that hasn’t shifted all that much since the play was written – and not because many of us haven’t tried. In this instance, Anna has no choice  –  and we can point to many examples in our daily lives that show similar patterns.

It happens to be the horror of the Afrikaner male in this instance, but we all know this is a universal issue and many of the ills in today’s world are the result of those previously all-powerful men refusing to let go – and whom the world enables … still.

The emotional breadth of Tinarie van Wyk Loots.

It’s a magnificent production from the Basson vision, the performances led by a heart-wrenching display by Van Wyk Loots and valiantly supported by the rest of the cast. I could watch it on a loop … over and over again.

As she always does, Antoinette Kellermann enchanted with Antjie Krog’s engaging poetry in die oerkluts kwyt. Compiled and directed by Frieda van den Heever who previously had such success with Die Poet, Wie’s Hy?, and again showed her delightful sensibility and approach, which seems to hold everyone on stage as well as the content in the most delicate balance.

Kellerman and Krog both celebrate their threescore years and ten in 2022 and this is not their first coming together on stage. Krog has translated a couple of texts with Kellermann in the lead, Koningin Lear being the last. But these are truly her own thoughts and words as she describes a life lived in a topsy-turvy world. She is a woman from this harsh but fabulous continent and she speaks her mind, yet often in jest even when speaking hard truths.

Kellermann shifts all the theatrics aside as she engages with the text in almost conversational tone. She allows the words to drive the performance with Krog’s poetry taking centre stage.

With what is fast becoming her trademark ingenuity, Van den Heever added a musical element and one that magnificently enhanced rather than detracted. Ancient Voices, consisting of the duo Lungiswa Plaatjies and Nimapostile  Nyiki, was one of my discoveries of the Festival. They also participated in the experimental Lucky Pakkie (Lucky Packet) with music and instruments that are from Africa, and with content that is performed in a way where meaning is self-explanatory.

But also their presentation and personalities are reflected in their performance and colourful presence.

The stylish Dineke van der Walt at the Opening of the Visual Arts at the Festival.

On the art side, curator Dineke van der Walt has become hot property for the festivals and it is easy to see why. She has a contemporary touch and is innovative with her presentations, which offer a wide range of art often unfamiliar even to those of us who try to keep in touch.

Two installations by the towering Mary Sibande as the Festival Artist set the bar high, but exhibitions like that of Karin Preller’s Beyond Memory (in which she uses family movies and portraits as her starting point), the fabulous use of fabric in the Van der Walt curated Rich in Fibre and Nkensani Rihlampfu’s magnificent display of An Orchestrated Reality (with ropes made from canvases) all held their own.

It also proved Van der Walt’s majestically illustrated point that art can emerge in many different ways and mediums – quite extraordinary.

Though very different in style and performance, Nataniël and Emo Adams both soared in their professional approach not often achievable when presenting musical shows on this grand scale at festivals.

Stories and  songs combined powerfully in the fabulously sparkling showman’s Prima Donna, the KKNK’s celebratory opening production showcasing Nataniël’s wit often laced with wisdom and some of his favourite songs with his original arrangements.

The Adams onslaught comes in silky-smooth style with music through the ages as he captures and gently spoofs musical favourites in cunning combinations to capture a real South African flavour – with a huge wink at everyone.

Both of these acts – pure class!

Sima Mashazi in full swing in Afrika Blues.

And staying with stylish voices, if you ever spot the name Sima Mashazi on a musical programme, catch this woman with the spectacular voice. She brings emotional depth to music sung in a local language you might not understand but the feelings tell it all.

I haven’t even touched on the hugely successful Lucky Pakkies which was an extension of the previously popular Uitkampteater. In similar fashion, these short experimental plays gave especially young artists the chance to play and audiences the opportunity to fast-track if they wanted to see a selection in different variations. It can easily be extended for a few years.

And watch this space in the not too distant future for more on Karoo Kaarte, which is a fascinating exploration of Oudtshoorn and its people … one that could and should be replicated around the country.

Here are this year’s nominees for the Kanna Awards which will :

Best debut production (music or theatre)

  • Die halwe huis
  • Karatara
  • Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Terminaal 3

Best theatre production

Op Hierie Dag
  • Karatara
  • Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Op hierie dag
  • Terminaal 3

Best music production

  • Emo Adams and Take Note
  • Nataniël: PRIMA DONNA
  • Anna Davel: 21

Best contribution to the visual arts

  • Karin Preller for the exhibition Beyond Memory
  • Dineke van der Walt as curator of Rich in Fibre
  • The artist Nkensani Rihlampfu for the exhibition An Orchestrated Reality

Slurpie Prize: best upcoming artist

Marinda Ntantiso in Op hierie dag
  • Janion Kennedy for his performance in Op hierie dag
  • Marinda Ntantiso for her performance in Op hierie dag
  • Conradie van Heerden for his performance in the short-piece Om skoon te wees
  • Adriaan Havenga for his performance and text in the short-piece Om skoon te wees

Best actress

  • Antoinette Kellermann for die oerkluts kwyt
  • Tinarie van Wyk Loots for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Carla Smith for Terminaal 3
  • Anna-Mart van der Merwe for Terminaal 3
Marlo Minnaar in Die Halwe Huis

Best actor

  • Marlo Minnaar for Die halwe huis
  • Wessel Pretorius for Kiss of the Spiderwoman
  • Stian Bam for Terminaal 3
  • Edwin van der Walt for Terminaal 3

Best supporting actor

  • Carlo Daniels for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Wilhelm van der Walt for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Geon Nel for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Albert Pretorius for Ek, Anna van Wyk

Best supporting actress

Nomapostile Nyiti and Lungiswa Plaatjies in die oerkluts kwyt
  • The Ancient Voices: Nomapostile Nyiti and Lungiswa Plaatjies for die oerkluts kwyt
  • René Cloete for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Marinda Ntantiso for Op hierie dag

Best director

  • Neil Coppen and Tiffany Saterdaght for Op hierie dag
  • Marthinus Basson for Ek, Anna van Wyk
  • Gideon Lombard for Karatara
  • Marthinus Basson for Terminaal 3

Best theatre design

  • Op hierie dag – Zietske Zaaiman, supported by the company
  • Ek, Anna van Wyk – Marthinus Basson
  • Karatara – soundtrack and design by Gideon Lombard

Excellent literary contribution

  • Frieda van den Heever for adaptation of die oerkluts kwyt from the work of Antjie Krog
  • Ricardo Arendse for the newly written text Die halwe huis
  • Tiffany Saterdaght and Neil Coppen, with contributions from Janion Kennedy, Hannes Visser, Theo Witbooi and Danny B, for the text of Op hierie dag

Best children’s or youth theatre

  • Pietersielie en Roosmaryn vertel stories
  • Liewe Heksie en die rolskaatse

Coligny Laer Om Skoon Te Wees

Best Lucky Pakkie production

  • Coligny Laer
  • Ruby en Roach – ’n animasieprent
  • Om skoon te wees
  • Onder in die bad

kykNET SILWERSKERM FILM FESTIVAL’S EXPANDING EMBRACE DRIVES ITS SUCCESS

The short film Leemte en Leegheid was both an audience favourite and winner as the Best Short Film.

It was time to celebrate at the 10th kykNET Silwerskerm Film Festival following some sidestepping during the pandemic and hectic lockdowns. But they’re back and it appeared as if many filmmakers of both full length and short films benefited from the grace period to sharpen their skills and their scripts. In the long run, this has been a festival that has added potential and punch to the local film landscape. DIANE DE BEER takes a look at her personal 2022 favourites:

The power of storytelling was again in evidence at this year’s 10th celebratory Silwerskerm Film Festival held at Camps Bay’s Bay Hotel at the end of March.

It has always been my experience that the arts is one of the best ways to get to know one another, especially in a country as diverse as ours and (because of our horrific history) still divided in so many ways.

But with different communities sharing their stories, we are invited into different spaces, some familiar and others not so much.

Perhaps the more extreme example is Down So Long, a story set in Hangberg, the settlement in Houtbay so many hoped they could wish away. It is too visible a reminder of the inequalities so rampant in our land with the more affluent Hout Bay directly facing this more struggling offshoot

And yet, that’s not what the film is about. It’s the story of Joseph Mabena who lives with his wife Doreen and their children and spouses and grandchildren in their overcrowded house. When he is injured in a workplace accident, he is offered a substantial amount of money as compensation for the loss of an eye.

But it doesn’t take long for him to see exactly what is happening at home. There’s a sudden rush of affection as the family rallies in the hope of turning their lives around with this unexpected windfall.

Mabena’s eyes are opened, he sees through their deception and arrives home with a new girlfriend.

Scenes from an enthusiastic cast and crew in the powerful and revealing Down So Long.

What makes this such an exciting venture is that the filmmakers wanted to work with what they viewed as  “invisible people” and, by telling their stories, give them a voice.

Workshopped productions are perhaps more easily done in theatre, and here it is especially intriguing, as the cast was comprised of both professional actors and participants from the community who could bring validity to the script.

It’s yet another way of giving voice to the voiceless, and the screening was particularly enchanting because of the excitement of those who had participated. They might not have the acting experience but they came from this place, know the people and could recreate the feeling of what the people and the place represented. “It’s a way of working with the community who represent the lived experience,” said one of the director/producers.

That is the real value of the piece. The camera was used in observational fashion and those of us watching could get a real feel for the place. As entertaining as it was, it is also hugely educational, a true gift.

The Barakat family with Vinette Ebrahim (centre) the heart of the story.

Barakat, a film that deservedly walked off with a clutch of prizes, also deals with a specific community, but this time it is a professional cast telling the story of a Cape Flats Muslim family, who are experiencing their own trauma, trials and tribulations.

This particular community has often been presented with a political backdrop and usually by others telling their stories, but this time, it is just another family going through their own stuff while showing us a lifestyle of a particular community who isn’t usually featured in this fashion.

In interviews, director/screenwriter Amy Jephta acknowledges that she wanted to tell a story about a normal family, their joys and struggles, in this instance that of a Muslim widow Aishee Davids (Vinette Ebrahim) who gathers her family to tell them about her engagement to a Christian suitor.

With four sons, this isn’t going to be easy and this is the journey Jephta (and her co-writer Ephraim Gordon) takes us on.

It is the way the story is told (often with gentle humour), the excellent cast led by a magnificent Vinette Ebrahim (who received the Best Actress award) and the superb production values (deservedly winning them Best Screenplay, Best Original Soundtrack (Kyle Shepherd), Best Production Design and Best Supporting Actress for June van Mersch).

The storytelling sweeps you off your feet as you are invited into the heart of this close-knit yet squabbling family, who has forgotten all about their blessings and are focussed on their individual needs. Bakarat means blessing, and that’s exactly what this left me with while watching. We live in a country where for far too long certain voices and stories were ignored.

By acknowledging who we are, our stories embrace the riches which have been neglected, and we all benefit.

Another filmmaker I’ve been watching the past couple of years is Etienne Fourie and this time (as he explained at the post screening discussions) with the appropriately OTT Stiekyt, he truly made the film he wanted to make. And it shows. It’s a scream in many different ways.

First off, he obviously has an imagination which runs riot, and with drag queens (a whole clutch of them) running the show, he could afford to go wild.

Different looks from Best Actor Paul du Toit in Skietyt.

But he does his homework and gets all the building blocks ready before starting a shoot. He has put together a dream cast of young actors. Start with Paul du Toit (who won Best Actor) who plays an actor who joins a failing drag club to save his marriage, and that line should already say enough. He needs money to pay the bills and his wife (Cintaine Schutte) is unaware of his dilemma.

A transformed Albert Pretorius in Stiekyt winning him Best Supporting Actor Award

The club hosts a handful of drag queens played by actors who are tough to recognise in their extravagant costumes, colourful coiffure and knock-‘em-dead makeup, but this camp coterie drives the film in most joyous fashion.

Combine all that with the acting quality of Albert Pretorius (who won Best Supporting Actor), Wessel Pretorius, Carlton George, Jacques Bessinger (in fact the full enselmble) and you already have a winner.

But everything isn’t a laughing matter, as the story unravels in full blooded gory fashion when a killer suddenly emerges in spectacular style. It is that kind of film. If you buy into the premise, you could just die laughing. But I will keep watching this particular screenwriter/director whose movies all seem to pay homage to cinema in a most original fashion.

His films keep you watching and I can’t wait for the moment he strikes gold.

Short films play a huge part in this particular film festival, and this is where future filmmakers start emerging. They’re fun to watch as they are plentiful and give you an idea what stories are being told and what talent is out there from cinematographers to composers to actors – and of course directors and screenwriters.

Many of our most promising directors dabbled in this particular section before they tackled a full-length film.

Ivan Abrahams and Lida Botha in Leemtes and Leegheid

For the first time the audience favourite, Leemtes en Leegheid, was also the winning short film. Starring real-life husband and wife team Lida and Johan Botha, its a stripped yet emotional story that deals with grief as an elderly couple come to terms with the inevitable. A stunning portrayal of ageing, loss and battling with loneliness.

In sharp contrast, Skyn deals in contemporary sass with a young woman who is desperate to escape the drudgery of her own life by imagining a different starring role. The story stars the talented Carla Smith, who also wrote the script winning her the Best Actress award as well as a prize for the Best Ensemble with co-stars Albert Pretorius, Wilhelm van der Walt and Greta Pietersen.

It felt young, had energetic punch and gave Pretorius a very funky make-over to boot.

Scenes from Verstikking; Nagvoël, Sporadies Nomadies, and Twintig Tone In ‘n Hangkas;

Other short films that impressed were Aan/Af rewarding Marlo Minnaar with a Best Actor award; Bergie by Dian Weys, who showed you could make impact in 7 minutes; Nagvoël, which told a cool superhero tale; Sporadies Nomadies, which explored the estranged relationship between a father and daughter; the wacky Twintig Tone In ‘n Hangkas; an intriguing Verstikking; and out-of-competition’s Die Vegan en die Jagter, which turns stereotypes on their head.

A scene from the heart-wrenching Lakutshon’ Ilanga

Something else to look out for is the Bafta-nominated Lakutshon’ Ilanga, which deservedly won an Oscar in 2021 in the Student-Academy section. It is a heart-wrenching local story of a young black nurse in 1985 apartheid South Africa who is trying to fend for her young activist brother. It is inspired by a true story, so many of which still have to be told, and reminds us of how far we have come and how long the road still stretches up ahead.

Both Karen Meiring (former KykNet channel director and founding member of the Silwerskerm) and Jan du Plessis (MNet content director) were honoured with Exceptional Contribution awards for their extraordinary service through the years.

And their input will keep giving to this festival, which in the past 10 years has had a huge impact on the local film industry – and it keeps expanding and embracing, which is a big reason for its success.

For more detail on the festival and the films and where they can be seen, go to www.silwerskerm.co.za.

All the shorfilms that premiered at the 10th Silwerskerm Film Festival are now available on DStv Now and Dstv Catch Up. The feature films will be on DStv Box Office, or released theatrically:

Gaia: Limited theatrical release:

CAPE TOWN: The Labia: 22, 23 April – https://www.webtickets.co.za/v2/event.aspx?itemid=1514006081

JOHANNESBURG

The Bioscope: 23, 28, 29 April – https://tickets.tixsa.co.za/event/special-screenings-of-gaia

DStv BoxOffice: From 22 April

boxoffice.dstv.com (no subscription needed)

Beurtkrag: DStv Box Office release – 16 June 2022.

Indemnity: Ster Kinekor theatrical release – 12 May at Ster Kinekor Theatres.

Vlugtig: DStv BoxOffice until 25 April 2022.

Down so long: Coming soon to DStv BoxOffice. Release date to be confirmed.

Stiekyt: Coming soon to DStv BoxOffice. Release date to be confirmed.

SYLVAINE STRIKE’S FIREFLY AND KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN MARK STUNNING RETURN TO LIVE THEATRE

Sylvaine Strike, director/actor/playwright and any other creative word one can dream up, currently has two major plays running – the one, Firefly,  at The Baxter’s Flip Side Theatre until April 9 and the other, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, at the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees with the last show on April 1. DIANE DE BEER reviews: 

I was blessed to see both productions with the one at the start and the other at the end of a run. Cape Town’s Baxter Theatre heralded a strong emergence of theatre in this period where many of us are still holding our breath, and the Strike double whammy is a theatre-starved public’s salvation.

The bewitching Firefly, which as one of the first Covid-19 impacted productions saw light of day as a Woordfees digital production, made a magically mesmerising transition. I had lost my heart earlier to the filmed production and was excitedly inquisitive at how that particular story – with many filmic tricks up its sleeve – would translate and transform on stage.

But this particular creative quartet (Strike, Andrew Buckland, Toni Morkel as director and Tony Bentel on piano) are the perfect combo. This is their theatrical landscape. Give them a stage and they will start telling stories in such an imaginative way, it becomes a visual feast.

Firefly with Sylvaine Strike and Andrew Buckland. Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht

Because they have all worked together, they understand each other’s strengths, and Morkel could stretch that piece of string intuitively with fantastically imaginative and explosive pyrotechnics.

Buckland and Strike are a brilliant blend of artistry with an instinct for detail that holds your attention gently yet persistently. Storytelling is their forte, aided by the fact that they have an endless supply of tools to draw on to embellish a wink or the final lift of a foot to express and underline the tiniest emotion.

It is theatre at its best when it has you smiling from start to finish because of the artistry, the wizardry of the production, the perfection of the coupling, and just the sheer audacity of the storytelling.

Firefly with Sylvaine Strike and Andrew Buckland. Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht

No matter how or why, just immerse yourself and see what happens when Saartjie Botha commands two artists to give her a production in the purest style of theatre.

If you have seen the digital version that’s  a bonus, because to witness how one story can be told in such magnificent splendour in two completely different approaches is truly special and quite rare. The one had all the bells and whistles and worked like a charm. But here, with Strike and Buckland live on stage with just themselves to grab hold of their audience and cast that spell, the essence of theatre comes into play – and again I willingly lost my heart.

Add to the two artists on stage, the magnificence of Wolf Britz’s set and props as well as starstruck-inducing lighting and the keyboard genius of Bentel’s soundtrack that holds every emotion so thrillingly in a familiar yet completely Bentel-constructed composition.

If you want to see how the best make theatre with their instincts, intuition and imagination, don’t miss the sparkling Firefly. Yet don’t think for one second that the miracle unfolding on stage didn’t come with buckets of blood, sweat, tears and ENDLESS talent. Part of the theatrical trickery of this foursome is to present something that is this skilled as seemingly effortless.

It’s brilliant and personally I hope to see this travel around the country casting its spell throughout. We are desperately in need of this kind of adult fairy tale in these tumultuous times.

And then there’s Strike the director in Kiss of the Spider Woman, a play she has always wanted to do and again, perfect for these times.

Casting the vibrant acting duo Wessel Pretorius and Mbulelo Grootboom was genius in itself and created fireworks from the start. Their styles suit the different characters of the two men trapped in a confined space which doesn’t only inhibit their bodies and movement, but also their minds.

And with the same impact that theatre has on our welcome release from the strictest lockdown rules, these two escape into an imaginary world to release their anguish, which is difficult to avoid in this cruelly confined and claustrophobic space. If they want to survive this ordeal, they have to find a way to caress their minds in a mindful yet almost mysterious and magical way. Storytelling is the obvious solution and with Pretorius’s Molina someone who has long ago created a world where he can live out his fantasies, he is the perfect conduit for playwright Manuel Puig’s escapist fantasy.

Watching these two men in a dance of deliverance in a fight for a freedom that can only be obtained through their imagination is enchanting and with these past few years still part of our daily minds, we understand what is missing in our lives with the total absence of this kind of artistry. Puig’s Kiss masterfully underlines the impact of the theatrical when lives could become meaningless.

Molina has a few props as he cunningly fabricates feminine style with anything he can find but more than anything, it is his feline movements and the visual aphrodisiac that in this instance is the result not only of their imprisonment but also the way that Molina penetrates the more stoic Valentin’s being.

How could they not turn to one another, reach out and finally hold and nurture the other’s vulnerability in a space that is relentlessly cold? Nothing matters, our prejudices dissipate and the only thing that gives meaning is the humanity of the other.

With Strike’s razor-sharp eye and precise direction, Mbulelo and Pretorius’s complementing acting styles as well as their individually contrasting physical presence hit all the right boxes.

While the play runs without interval for two hours, it is mesmerising, never letting go.

I was transfixed.

WHEN VOICES AS STRONG AS PEDRO ALMODOVAR AND MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL GET INVOLVED THE LIVES OF MOTHERS SHINE WITH GREAT STRENGTH

The universe of mothers is something everyone has plenty to say on. But take two storytellers with the gravitas and sparkle of Pedro Almodovar and Maggie Gyllenhaal, who seamlessly slides from actor to director, and you have two extraordinary films with casts that make the stories come alive. DIANE DE BEER reviews:

The great thing about a new Pedro Almodóvar movie is that it is like coming home. It’s about the colours and the characters, the way he tells his stories and the choices he makes. From the start I’ve been a fan.

And because I haven’t yet been back to brick-and mortar-cinemas, I have to depend on what is offered to me. DStv’s Box Office could not have made a better decision than adding Almodóvar’s latest film PARALLEL MOTHERS to its line-up. Not in a million years did I expect that! (The run is finished, but try streaming it somewhere else)

Like the name suggests, it is about mothers but that is about the only thing in this film that is predictable. The rest is like a crazy Almodóvar adventure which makes twists and takes turns to make your head spin. In typical Almodóvar fashion, it’s a story of humanity and even if wild, not that improbable that you can’t take your emotions with you on this ride.

There’s so much that made me happy. I want to live in an Almodóvar world, the way he dresses his people and his rooms, his landscapes and the faces he peoples his films with. All of these appeal to me and take me to a place where I can wallow for a couple of hours.

And then there’s the magnificent Penelope Cruz. She has never done better than in an Almodóvar movie. They get and trust one another and as she grows older, she has also let go and allows him to push her where he wants her to go.

It’s the story of two unlikely mothers-to-be, the one a 40-something and the other just out of her teens (Milena Smit). Together they give birth to their first babies but because of their circumstances, their lives and the outcomes are completely different. And yet they connect through these circumstances that bind them together in a completely fantastic fashion.

Being Almodóvar, there’s also a political thread that runs through the film that plays out both visually and emotionally in a way that rips your heart out. You wouldn’t want it any other way though.

From the leader of the pack, Cruz, to the young Smit, and another Almodóvar regular, Rossy de Palma, they all climb into their characters and before long you’ve forgotten this is only a movie. Don’t miss it, and especially if you don’t know this Spanish filmmaker’s films, have some fun in his world.

And hopefully you have Netflix to access the acting phenomenon Olivia Colman’s latest exposé of feelings in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut, THE LOST DAUGHTER, based on the short novel by Elena Ferrante. It’s also a film on motherhood but in this instance coming from a completely different place – and I’m sure on all counts, many women will identify.

I was almost a newly-wed when I decided not to have children. At the time and as I grew older, the fact that I had taken that decision and wasn’t dictated to by perhaps an inability to have children (don’t know, I never tried!), was often disturbing to others. I was called selfish, asked what I would do when I was old and so forth.

And what this film deals with is also a motherhood topic that isn’t often discussed or publicly explored. The title The Lost Daughter already opens many different possibilities, but what is really at the core here is the inability of some women to easily fall into the mothering role. It isn’t that they don’t love their children or even had an unhappy childhood themselves, it simply doesn’t come naturally to everyone. But in our world today (and that before and after us, I suspect), motherhood is sacrosanct.

In Gyllenhaal and Colman’s extraordinary hands and made with an extremely sensitive yet startling vision, the story unfolds in delicate yet dramatic fashion. It takes a while to find your way, especially if you don’t really know what the film’s about. But from the start it grips you as red herrings unfold and tumble out all over the place.

However, yearning, it seems, is the great motivator here. When you discover something in others (and on full frontal display) that you have lacked, it can do strange things to you head.

More than anything though thanks to the teaming of these two talents, it is the unusual story that turns this into such a tour de force. It’s difficult to believe that there are still such taboo topics so part of our everyday lives.

Everything is also enhanced in the film universe by the diversity on all levels that is growing and unfolding by the day. The more stories that are told from different perspectives, the better and more probing our films will be. And in that way, hopefully touch us more deeply, as both these films do so magnificently.

Parallel Mothers is available on DStv Box Office until 1 April 2022, and The Lost Daughter was on local release.

FIREFLY GLOWS WITH WONDER AS A CLUTCH OF ARTISTS CELEBRATE THE MAGIC OF LIVE THEATRE

Pictures taken off the screen by directors Toni Morkel and Jaco Bouwer during the film shoot:

The Countess Pafanesca in the Vodka Tango

When you are excited by the group of artists who have  come together to make theatre, sparks can fly. And that’s exactly what can happen with the first live run of Firefly, a production that was created to celebrate live theatre. DIANE DE BEER speaks to a few of the artists involved:

Theatre fans are blessed with the latest Sylvaine Strike, Andrew Buckland and Toni Morkel collaboration as they bring last year’s Ferine and Ferase (which was filmed by Jaco Bouwer for the Woordfees digital programme) to life on stage – as it was originally planned.

This is the second time this trio have combined their creative talents (the first was in the much lauded Tobacco and the Harmful Effects Thereof) even if the roles have been switched. In the newly named Firefly, Sylvaine and Andrew are acting together with Toni directing for a run at the Baxter Flipside from 24 March to 9 April  at 7.30pm nightly, with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm.

Sylvaine Strike and Andrew Buckland at play.

The initial name was derived from two chemical components luciferin and luciferase, which exist in a firefly’s bum and make it glow, explained Sylvaine. “So one without the other can’t make light, they have to be together to glow. Lots of fireflies in this show.” And that is why it is now called the more familiar Firefly.

The play was first created on commission by head of the Woordfees Saartjie Botha in September 2020, three-quarters of the way through the first tough lockdown. The idea was to create something that would show audiences why theatre is unique and exciting. Saartjie didn’t want a big set, she didn’t want audiovisuals, no multimedia, only pure theatre. “We want body and craft and what the actor is,” was the instruction.

Because of lockdown, they started writing remotely through October, November and December, and in mid-January last year met in a rehearsal room with their director. With Tony Bentel on piano, they began to develop the story on their feet to find a common language between Sylvaine and Andrew, who both have very specific styles. But when this trio are tasked to make theatre, that’s exactly what they do.

It’s all in the telling of the tale.

They discovered and developed a mutual style for the two actors largely based on clowning duos. Think Laurel and Hardy, for example, that kind of world, very much a nostalgic, romantic story where they play three different characters each, with the narrators the main characters called … Ferine and Ferase. They have a backstory of their own, which they tell as travelling players of Bucket’s End. It’s a time of magic and wonder which allows you to sit back, be transported and dream, a luxury in these times.

“It’s beautiful, it’s very physical, it’s gorgeously costumed with each a standard clowning costume that transforms into a couple of things,” Sylvaine embroiders.

Every detail tells a story.

From the start it was meant to play on stage and they had a short trial run with a 45-minute version. But this all had to take on a different hue when live changed to digital and they spread their special brand of fairy dust.

The full play was filmed with Sylvaine enchanted with Jaco’s extraordinary transformation from stage into film, shot in studio, all in black and white, inspired by old movies. And those of us lucky enough to have seen it, agree.

It was delightful to witness how they adopted and adapted for the new medium with all the elements colliding and fusing.

 And now they’re back on stage and it will be marvellous to be experience yet another transformation. Personally, I can’t wait!

Crafting a clutch of characters with craft and creativity.

Sylvaine and Andrew make perfect sense together and then to have the extraordinary Toni Morkel directing is genius.

As she has often been directed by Sylvaine and performed with Andrew, she was terrified yet thrilled when asked but she trusted her instincts because all three of them know one another well and understand each other’s particular theatre language.

“I’m very excited to do it live,” says Toni, who has just started with rehearsals again. These are two actors who know how to act with their whole being and she finds herself smiling as she watches them go through their moves. “I’m living my dream,” says this consummate theatre maker.

The great difference between the screen and stage version is most specifically the sets. The two actors with their costumes and imagination have to construct their world on stage. And while it is sometimes frustrating to remember what they could do on film, the stage version is what they envisioned from the start.

“We wanted to create a play that would travel easily and anywhere – whether we had lights, curtains, even a stage,” she says. And knowing what they have achieved in the past together and individually, this is not an impossible ask. It has always been part of their theatre ethos, and while it might have been initiated by a scarcity of funds, it also focused their imaginations magnificently.

Andrew Buckland and Sylvaine Strike in Firefly.

“I know their world, their physical ability and strength and how they work,” she says about the process. “What we are relying on is good old-fashioned storytelling.”

She does have two more aces up her sleeve with Wolf Britz again making magic with his wondrous lighting and he has a few more tricks in the bag. And there’s Tony Bentel’s wizardry on piano. “I can’t help but gush when speaking of his astonishing ability. He has a world of music in his body,” is how she explains this gifted musician who accompanies the two actors live.

“For any section of the play, he comes up with five or six different musical suggestions and because he is adept with improv, he can embellish what the actors are trying to express at any moment. I am constantly in awe of what he has arranged musically.

“I am blessed,” she says.

And so are we. With these dynamic artists, expect fireworks in Firefly!

Strike is currently receiving great praise for her direction of the modern classic, Kiss of the Spider Woman, currently on stage at The Baxter. (see in another story on the blog)

Presented by the Baxter Theatre and Toyota SU Woordfees, in association with The Fortune Cookie Company, Firefly runs at the Baxter Flipside from 24 March to 9 April 2022. Ticket prices range from R150 (during the week) to R170 (on weekends) and can be bought online through Webtickets or at Pick n Pay stores.

For discounted block or schools booking, charities and fundraisers, contact Carmen Kearns on carmen.kearns@uct.ac.za or call her on 021 680 3993.

THE KLEIN KAROO NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL IS CELEBRATING ITS RETURN WITH DIVERSITY

With Covid-19 still a part of our lives, the uncertainty of live events is constantly hovering. Will it or won’t it? That’s the question on everyone’s mind as each event or festival comes into play. And while dates have to be juggled and last-minute plans put into play, this year’s Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees has come up with an exceptional programme in any circumstances – but especially now. DIANE DE BEER spotlights some highlights of this year’s KKNK which starts at the end of the month:

I can still remember hearing the news about the first Covid-19 lockdown at the 2020 Woordfees and while all of us were devastated and slightly bewildered, none of us realised quite the impact it would have on our lives – and the arts.

This was to be our last arts festival in a couple of years and the effect of that on the lives of artists who need live audiences has been disastrous.

Nataniël’s Prima Donna opens the festival.

There have been brilliant innovations in the intervening years and the word hybrid will fortunately become part of the festival landscape to broaden their audiences as well as capturing theatre on film for those who cannot attend a festival but would love to see productions.

And yet, nothing will compare with the real thing, which is why the announcement that 2022’s Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) will be happening from 29 March to 3 April was received with such joy.

Not only are they back, but the programme is something to cherish, especially in these haphazard times where everything has to happen almost on the trot. But as they suggest in their big reveal, “even in its slightly smaller format, the festival acts as a fuse for the explosion of productions and experiences to be presented by heavyweights in the South African arts industry!”

“This year’s festival is truly overflowing with exceptional programming in celebration of the KKNK’s return to Oudtshoorn, while retaining the quality that makes festivalgoers get in their cars and drive to Oudtshoorn annually,” says Hugo Theart, Artistic Director of the KKNK.

He isn’t just boasting  –  two of my personal favourites, Nataniël and director Marthinus Basson, are leading the way with their productions.

Nataniël’s Prima Donna, a debut show, will be opening the festival on Monday evening (March 28) and part of the excitement of the production is that he will sing a bunch of his favourite covers, all of which he has arranged himself. Add to that a collection of his fantastical tales, and those attending will be starting their festival with a bang.

Basson will be presenting two plays, Ek, Anna van Wyk, in memory of, and to honour Pieter Fourie (the first CEO of the KKNK), who recently passed away, starring Tinarie van Wyk Loots and Dawid Minnaar, Albert Pretorius, Carlo Daniels, Wilhelm van der Walt, Geon Nel, Gideon Lombard and René Cloete, and internationally acclaimed playwright Lars Norén’s Terminaal 3 with Anna-Mart van der Merwe, André Roothman, Edwin van der Walt, Carla Smith and Stian Bam. Both will delight festival connoisseurs.

Three iconic female artists further enhance the star line-up with the internationally acclaimed Mary Sibande this year’s Festival Artist and the double celebration of Antoinette Kellermann and Antjie Krog’s 70th birthdays in 2022 with Kellermann creating magic in the words of Krog in die oerkluts kwyt.

The picture tells its own story of Neil Coppen’s storytelling in Op Hierdie Dag

Other new scripts at the festival include Die halwe huis, a one-man show written by Oudtshoorn resident Ricardo Arendse, with another Klein Karoo local, Marlo Minnaar, in the lead, with Lee-Ann van Rooi as director; the promising Agulhasvlakte by young playwright Herschelle Benjamin with Kanya Viljoen as director and Wilhelm van der Walt, René Cloete and Kay Smith on stage; while another Oudtshoorn production Op hierie dag forms part of the KKNK Karoo Kaarte project, which will be the heart of the festival this year, showcasing Oudtshoorn residents’ various talents. Theatre couple Lida Botha and Johan Botha, who have relocated to this region, will be directed by the exciting playwright/director Neil Coppen and visual arts curator and facilitator Vaughn Sadie.

Mbulelo Grootboom and Wessel Pretorius in Kiss of the Spider Woman. Picture Fiona McPherson

Nêrens Noord-Kaap, following its success on television, returns with Geon Nel, Albert Pretorius, and De Klerk Oelofse; while the Sylvaine Strike production Kiss of the Spiderwoman featuring Wessel Pretorius and Mbulelo Grootboom; Spertyd honouring deceased Elsa Joubert, with the phenomenal Sandra Prinsloo in the lead and the return of Oscar en die pienk tannie, directed by Lara Bye, complete a very strong line-up.

Looking for something unusual, dance enthusiasts can book for Karatara with dance group Figure of 8 – the 2020 KKNK Young Voice Prize recipient, who joins forces with Dean Balie and director Gideon Lombard.

If you’re in the mood for something light, comedies include Transpirant with Bennie Fourie and Schalk Bezuidenhout – who can also be seen in Schalk sing sleg; motormouth Marc Lottering in his stand-up comedy show Uncle Marc; Adriaan Alfred in Adriaan Alfred Live; Lizz Meiring in her solo show Kameras, konserte en kleedkamers; Marion Holm returns with Holmruggery; while Koos Kombuis, Dana Snyman and Erns Grundling, as well as Pietman Geldenhuys and Lyntjie Jaars from the Oppiestoep TV series, entertain audiences with their storytelling ingenuity.

Making music, David Kramer Vanaand, a solo show for Kramer, and Amanda Strydom with Nostalgie are the two evergreen performers who have performed at every KKNK.

Kombuis, Dana Snyman and Erns Grundling, as well as Pietman Geldenhuys and Lyntjie Jaars from the Oppiestoep TV series, entertain audiences with their storytelling originality.

Coenie de Villiers and André Schwartz

Coenie de Villilers and André Schwartz, both on piano, team up for a celebration of their work. Karen Zoid followers will be thrilled that she performs in an acoustic and more intimate show, and Emo Adams and Take Note bring the flavour of Cape Town entertainment to the Klein Karoo.

Six of the country’s well-known guitarists will be together on one stage in Kitaarkonings, with the  gentle muso Louis Mhlanga playing in Afrika Blues.

Another highlight is The Music of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber with Lynelle Kenned, André Schwartz and the Stellenbosch Symphony Orchestra presented on the Celebratio pomegranate farm outside Oudtshoorn, where Spoegwolf 10 Jaar also takes place. Other contemporary shows include Elvis Blue, Luna Paige, Rocco de Villiers, and Anna Davel.

For classical music enthusiasts a special recital of Beethoven and Beyond with the well-known American pianist Gustavo Romero is included on the programme.

Those familiar with the “out of the box” theatre concept will know that this is something to watch. This time it is called Lucky Pakkie Theatre, which means you will be going for a lucky packet stage version of the popular musical chairs game… Be ready for loads of fun. Three Lucky Pakkie packages will cater for all ages, from younger viewers (Melkbaarde) to older viewers (Sagtebaarde), and adult viewers (Hardebaarde). Each mystery round of entertainment will last 15 minutes.

Last but not least is the Visual Arts programme, curated by the innovative Dineke van der Walt, which for example includes the colourful Mapula creations, all of which can be viewed in the familiar  Prince Vincent building.

Joylyn Phillips (second from right) in Bientang also rewarded with Kunste Onbeperk Young Voice award.

The festival has honoured individuals in the industry since its inception, and this year’s four exceptional people include playwright Jolyn Phillips receiving the Kunste Onbeperk Prize for a Young Voice (she can be seen in the debut production Bientang); Nic Barrow, one of the founders of the KKNK and the individual who planted the seed for a festival in Oudtshoorn, is honoured for his contribution to the KKNK; and the ever-popular and exceptional Frank Opperman (to be seen in Ek Wens, ek wens) who is awarded the Kunste Onbeperk Prize for Interpretation.

Frank Opperman in Ek wens, ek wens, also honoured for interpretation with Kunste Onbeperk prize.

Ticket sales are open and accommodation can be booked through LekkeSlaap at www.lekkeslaap.co.za/akkommodasie-naby/kknk, or kknk.co.za/verblyf-lekkeslaap/.

Interested festivalgoers can get more information by subscribing to the KKNK newsletter, following the KKNK on social media, or visiting www.kknk.co.za. Feel free to contact the festival office on 044 203 8600 or send a WhatsApp message to 065 285 2337.

The KKNK will follow a vaccination mandate, but terms and conditions for exclusions apply. More information is available at www.kknk.co.za.