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

If you haven’t yet seen Sylvaine Strike’s wondrous Firefly, Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre is presenting another season from May 19 to June 11. It’s a once-in-lifetime theatrical experience with two seasoned artists stepping into the magical world of storytelling in a way that plays with your imagination in the best possible sense. If you want to know more, see below. This is the story written when they first stepped onto stage following covid:

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 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. Firefly was written by Sylvaine Strike and Andrew Buckland and devised for the stage by the full company (Andrew, Sylvaine Toni Morkel, Tony Bentel) and directed by Toni Morkel with Tony Bentel on piano..

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 (2021) 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!


PICTURES: Fahiem Stellenboom

Liza Grobler Festival Artist and the winner of the art prize captures the essence of her Karoo which constantly changes.

Art has always played an important role at the festivals, with the Klein Karoo National Festival one of my favourite viewing venues. DIANE DE BEER tells you why:

It has to do with the place, because they have easy access to different venues and spaces, but perhaps because of the length of the festival, it has also meant that you have time to meander and really take note of the art.

Another reason might be the more recent introduction of curator Dineke van der Walt. Her choice of themes and artists has been unusual, varied and always presenting a large number of artists who I had no knowledge of.

That doesn’t necessarily mean anything except that I don’t pay enough attention during the year and the festivals mean that artists from around the country are on display.

Curator Dineke van der Walt on one of her many walk-abouts. Picture: Hans van der Veen.

This year was no exception and I was lucky enough to catch one of Van der Walt’s walk-abouts which for this art fan is always a bonus and a learning experience. Sometimes the artists or the curators are around and do the talking, but other times, Van der Walt told the story. Keep this one in mind for the future.

This year’s theme very aptly was Hide and Seek: Reimagined Histories. It’s about taking a much wider and more representative look at the world. For far too long, stories have been told from a specific vantage. It has long been time to fling open those doors and allow the light in. We all gain from a wider and more honest perspective – on every level.

There are too many artists and  venues to include here, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t many more worthy of a mention. Simply that I had to make a choice, and for the moment, these were my picks.

Two stood outside of the parameters of the St Vincent Building which exhibited most of the art. Another well-deserved extension of Karoo Kaarte, was yet again a fantastic example of how art can include a much wider audience as well as introduce participants to a new way of expressing themselves.

 Collages and narratives feature strongly in this project and this time they were displayed in full view of everyone in town because at some point they would have passed these beautifully illustrated windows and stopped by to see what was happening.

The pictures best tell the story that is one that should just keep on running. Here are some of the collages in the building where they presented daily workshops.They had many contributions and one they cleverly slipped into the exhibition space was the way they re-imagined children’s games from the past ,which some of us might remember like kennetjie, skaloeloe, drieblik and gaatjie. These were then explained in a pamphlet with instruction-driven drawings to show the way. It’s also another way of appealing to the youngsters attending the festival.

The other was a series of site specific installations which apparently were meant to be quite hidden, but for hurried festinos it might have been a hazard rather than an adventure.

Three derelict buildings were selected as the backdrop for Norman O’Flynn and ONE. with the trio of installations titled Transparent. The idea was to lift these structures, which have probably for many years gone unnoticed, out of their environment by applying a quite ordinary yet eye catching pattern.

What they were hoping to achieve was to show the way society deals with issues like poverty, inequality and violence in a community, by turning a blind eye.

It was a wonderful exercise apart from the difficulty in finding especially one of the installations. The point about hidden had already been drawn by picking these structures all on the edge of society.

Art is enough of a niche not to add obstacles to further shift it closer to the edge.

Kanna for Best Presentation – visual arts, sponsored by Absa: Liza Grobler – Inkommers, laatkommers & laatlammers, as well as the Droom installation”:

And then moving inside to be enveloped by the colourful explosion of the Festival Artist. Liza Grobler dabbles in many different ways of making art. With the title Inkommers, laatkommers en laatlammers, this recent Oudtshoorn inhabitant was clearly stating her case.

From her side, there’s an exuberance, an energy and enthusiasm that’s catching. She targets the imagination not only with her variety of work but also with the way she invites you to engage with her art.

Stringing along while playing with your mind.

There’s a playfulness that’s engaging and yet her work is loaded with meaning if you take the time to explore and engage. And here the title took you by the hand and pointed the way.

As did her outside installation with the word DROOM in eight different languages. She also encourages others to dream by having workshops and including other Oudtshoorn creatives to collaborate.

Another artist’s work that grabbed my heart was titled Untitled: the Dumisani Mabaso Retrospective. I was immediately bowled over by the work, the emotional impact, the diversity, the way Mabaso moved from one visual look to the next.

Only then did I wonder about the artist and why I had never seen or perhaps noticed his work before? He was a painter, a master printmaker and a jazz musician, and all of these influences played a role in his art.

His approach was gentle but, living from 1955 to 2013, his art spoke to the time and the conditions of the disenfranchised and disaffected. And he never stopped. His was always a fight for the poor and the working class and for their emancipation.

A trio of Mabaso sketches that reminds of costume portraits with their delicacy.

This retrospective resulted from consultations with the Mabaso family by the William Humphreys Gallery about the importance of underlining his importance and contribution to South African art.

We are the richer for this inheritance.

Two other notables include the work of Johan Stegman who was very articulate in explaining the title of his exhibition: ‘n Goeie dag vir ‘n Slag.

It’s all about the one who writes the history and from where it is interpreted. Rather than argue the facts, he  takes the battle of Blood River, the legendary fight between the Voortrekkers and the Zulus, and investigates it from different angles with the idea that this will offer different perspectives.

Included are other works which immediately point you to the way his mind works.

In another grouping, Is ons nog ‘n ding, he smartly invited Lawrence Lemaoana to co-curate with a title exploring the use of the term Afrikaner which can be used or abused by white Afrikaans artists to explore their shared needs and desires.

The white artists’ lager only gains huge perspective when the work of a few outsiders is included, in this instance that of Lemaoane and his wife, Mary Sibande. You cannot find a more powerful art couple to make this point.

The worth of any work only comes into play when it is compared with others.

As already said, there are many other exciting examples, and the engaging and provocative approach of the art at this year’s festival again contributed to many conversations, in general and in particular, that is what it is meant to evoke.


The Head and the Load is about Africa and Africans in the First World War.

That is to say about all the contradictions and paradoxes of colonialism that were heated and compressed by the circumstances of the war.

It is about historical incomprehension (and inaudibility and invisibility).

The colonial logic towards the black participants could be summed up:

“Lest their actions merit recognition,

Their deeds must not be recorded.”’

The Head and the Load aims to recognise and record.


Pictures supplied

SHOW: The Head and the Load


COMPOSER: Phillip Miller


CHOREOGRAPHY: Gregory Maqoma

PROJECTION DESIGN: Catherine Meyburgh


SET DESIGN: Sabine Theunissen


And the magnificent cast and musicians – with the African premiere dedicated to the original narrator Mncedisi Shabangu who sadly died last year.

DIANE DE BEER reviews:

And the top introduction by Kentridge gives you a pretty good idea of the load the artist, in many different disciplines, (and when not, he brings in others of his ilk) had in his head.

If you’re the one watching, it might just blow your mind. And if you’re familiar with his work, there’s much you will recognise as he often works with the same artists and combines original music with references to the period and composers of the time as well as texts, movement, shadow play and lighting.

You see a body marching in the distance (they use backstage for the performance because they need that length of space), and just the way he moves already tells you he is a dancer. But not any dancer, one of the best, Gregory Maqoma.

That’s how it runs all through the performers and the musicians. When I hear the brass sounds used in this specific way, it reminds me of the cacophony Emir Kusturica used in his war drama Underground to capture the sounds he associated with war.

And Philip Miller and Thuthuka Sibisi work similarly. They transformed traditional African songs as well as quotations from composers from the time of the war like Ravel, Hindeman, Satie and Schoenberg. It’s varied, as they mimic the different sections of the story, and the way the musicians and the singers use their voices is spectacular.

Just think of wind instruments. They’re used here in the true sense of the word. It’s as if the wind witnesses and blows silently through the space.

But let’s start at the beginning when the show starts. Performers have silently been slipping in and placing themselves inconspicuously in specific spots. And almost in one fell swoop, the giant screen, the lights and the cast come to life.

The audience, in touching distance, are instantly scooped up and almost thrown into the story and the action.

In one spot there’s the most exquisite Vermeer scene with bold Kentridge drawings and sketches, all heightened by the wonderful and magnified shadow play, while individual performers have all, as if magically wound up, started moving. And then the narrator starts with the tale.

Everything is part of the fabric, the texture, the mood and essence of the whole. It’s like a giant storytelling extravaganza yet this has no fairy-tale ending. There’s melancholia and war mania, and there’s the feasting on the foot soldiers as they are put to battle almost deliberately as war fodder. In one of the war reels, the African participants displayed in uniform are barefoot!

Kentridge puts the spotlight on World War One, but this time, he tells and shows it all. This he wants to record. And in full Kentridge splendour, he unravels and reveals everything he wants you to know. With this grand theatrical flourish he imprints the pictures and performances in your mind.

Having waited for Covid restrictions to be lifted to see the production, it has become even more relevant with first the Russian invasion of Ukraine and now also the frightening war in Sudan.

It’s impossible to take all the individual flourishes in and yet, it is an immersive theatrical experience which will linger and almost lay you low. But then the sense of wonder, the way of revealing the relentless horror and the sheer scale of the endeavour, are what keep swirling in your head.

Gauteng is blessed to have Kentridge in its midst and to witness this astounding theatrical avalanche so brilliantly composed and performed, which is – sadly –  as relevant today as it was in 1918.


It is the playfulness, the sense of joy in artist Marinda du Toit’s work that first captures the imagination. But there’s much more than just laughter involved in what she describes as sculptures. They’re unusual, have a life of their own and if you listen carefully, they will tell you a story. DIANE DE BEER takes a closer look:

A colourful bunch

I lost my heart to Marinda du Toit’s sculptures the first time I saw them. She started three- dimensional work 17 years ago and I have always known her work would evolve.

There have been small changes along the way, and my most recent addition was a big one, an   installation of a kind which features in my kitchen and brings me great joy.

Since she moved to the Cape a few years back with Covid thrown in-between, she has been missing from our galleries for some time. But she’s back with So gemaak en so gelaat staan (loosely translated as Was made like this, so stays like this) at the Association of Arts, Pretoria from tomorrow (Saturday, April 22) until May 6.

She describes the latest work as a stripped figure which can still read as a character, but it becomes a tree or a branch which is still in the process of growth.

“In 2019 I had an exhibition of heads and dolls (Poppe en Koppe). In my studio, I have a cupboard with drawers and in the one drawer, I keep the heads of dolls. I rarely use these heads, because there’s such a clichéd meaning to it with the Chucky dolls and the Walt Disney movies, but I kept them nevertheless.”

And she had a lot of sticks outside, because she is constantly making fences, working with sticks or harvesting sticks in Simonsberg amongst the alien growth. So she had a lot of sticks in stock.

She wanted something different (“go a little bit mad”, she says), so she put a lot of heads on sticks. “Some people thought it was extremely weird and some people loved it.”

 And personally, she started falling in love with the stripped figure and the stick in hand that becomes something else; a weapon, a symbol, a crutch or anything you want to imagine. “We use sticks all our life, daily – think of brooms,” she explains.

So she started exploring the stick stories.

The magic of Marinda du Toit’s work (Artistic Photography)

She had to develop a way of presenting them neatly, standing upright, but how to assemble them, how to transport them, all became part of the puzzle. After many tries with cement and other  methods, she developed the Escher-like leaf base, which also represents growth, or mulch and getting rid of aliens, and leaving it in the ground for new growth, “all these different metaphors,” she says.

“I can’t actually say what these sculptures mean, I just love them. I think it’s an ode to old toys, the era of plastic that’s gone, but we sit with it now, so let’s play. It’s playful, it’s a parade, a performance dance and celebration. It’s simply play, play, play!

Marinda wearing her heart on her sleeve (Picture: Artistic Photography)

“I just want to have fun and joy, there’s so much trouble and sadness.”

The new work differs from her previous, mostly individual pieces in that the pieces are stripped with no arms and legs, no recognisable figure, and she views it as much more of an installation than before, as well as more abstract.

The use of multiple colours is new and vibrant and personally I feel it has a stronger fairy-tale quality than before. It draws you into a narrative with storytelling becoming an active invitation.

She explains her desire to be joyous. “It happened within myself after recovering from cancer, many issues followed by therapy, troubles, a rocky road and healing. Then came Covid and no money.”

The pandemic was a major turning point for her. She and fellow artist Diek Grobler commented on  the first 100 days of lockdown with postcards and multimedia, which was fun and gave them a voice. They found a way to engage the support of people who still buy and love art. And, she feels their success also followed because what they did was accessible and affordable.

Those first 100 postcards saved her life. “I then used all my savings, did one or two commissions, had fantastic clients who took care of me, and that was when all the paraphernalia and the fluff got stripped from my work.”

She discovered the essence of living and the essence of her art, which was how it manifested in the new work.

“It was all about being simplistic, being honest, being playful, being stripped, being real.”

She was also bored with the “poppe” which she felt she was almost turning into a mass-producing exercise and she became dissatisfied with the quality of her work. She felt driven by her monthly budget, what she needed to sell rather than inspiration.
 “Then you become flat, there’s no meaning, you’re just a machine.” It’s something I think every artist has to battle, with Covid heightening that kind of hysteria.

Pocket-sized poppets. (Artistic Photography)

Her response was to challenge herself with other projects and proposals and her work again started growing and evolving, but it was a difficult time.

Now she’s lost her heart and she can’t wait to show the new work. “It creates a challenge to look differently at objects and find new meaning in objects I selected or adapted,” she notes.

What she did was change the application rather than the object, which means she had to find meaningful objects.

And voilà!

 It’s not as if fans of her work will not recognise and find some familiar figures at the exhibition. They can still construct and put together their own stories as they gather the Du Toit characters in a way that makes sense individually.

Who can resist an invitation to have fun?


DIANE DE BEER reviews:

MASTER CLASS by Terrence McNally

Director: Magdalene Minnaar

Cast: Sandra Prinsloo, Alida Scheepers, Brittany Smith, Tylor Lamani and José Dias

Venue: Montecasino’s Pieter Toerien Theatre

Dates: Until April 2

THIS is Sandra Prinsloo’s time.

Having recently seen her performance in Florian Zeller’s Moeder and now this revival of Master Class as Maria Callas in a mentorship rather than singing role, her range is astounding. For the past few years, she has been touring mainly in solo shows and it’s been a joy to have her back with ensemble casts, still reigning supreme.

If you’re expecting a Callas double, you will be disappointed, it’s not that kind of performance even though there are hints and gestures to pay homage. 

This one’s all about the process, how to become an artist and if you’re blessed by the theatre gods, you’re shown the finer points by La Divina. That’s where the focus lies, in the script and the performances.

Prinsloo turns into the fading yet never diminished star in front of your eyes. With a voice that’s dropped an octave, an attitude that displays both wisdom and wit and an accent to add to the theatricality of the piece, you’re swept into this world.

Alida Scheepers with Aandra Prinsloo in Master Class.

McNally cleverly fashioned a play that’s as much about becoming an artist as being on stage, and then he centred it around one of the world’s most dramatic divas, one who seemingly turns a master class into something that’s as much about her as it is about the students.

But in the process, she reveals as much about the artist as she does about the woman. Even at that time when social media wasn’t yet part of the publicity machine, the great ones couldn’t find anywhere to hide. Perhaps at a much slower pace, but eventually the stories would come out. This is why the reminders of her and Ari Onassis’s turbulent love life have impact.

And even if all of this adds flashy flesh to the McNally text, at its heart, it is a treatise on  the making of a true artist. All the other shenanigans, as Callas implies, are mere sideshows. But you have to pay attention to making an entrance, having a look, to understanding and investing in every word you sing and more. Everything comes together in a performance that will have you holding the audience’s attention, which is exactly what Prinsloo does in the persona of Callas as she chastises her young students when they perform with what she perceives as too much charisma and not enough care.

Master Class with Sandra Prinsloo and Tylor Lamani.

They hardly have the chance to utter a note before she destroys what might have been the smallest sign of an ego with shattering disapproval and a sharp gesture to underline her disdain. And then comes the command to sing again. Those who can’t stand the pressure are bitingly rebuked and if they still have any aspiration left, the performance is less assured.

The supporting cast, from José Dias (also musical direction) as the unperturbed répétiteur to the three courageous singers brave enough to face the harsh sometimes hysterical disdain of the tempestuous tutor, are a good foil with McNally introducing a dash of diversity with a trio of types from the nervous ingénue (Scheepers) to the self-assured poseur (Smith) and the cheeky, almost dismissive tenor (Lamani). Their singing is another highlight of the performance.

Master Class with Sandra Prinsloo and Brittany Smith.

I wasn’t sure of the flashing way the memory reels of Maria and Ari were introduced and found it quite disruptive. Perhaps loadshedding also had an impact. And perhaps Callas and Prinsloo would have been better served in another costume, one more suited to a master class.

But in the end, Prinsloo’s performance is the one that stuck as she made sure that the way Callas served her art was always at the forefront of her performance. Talent is obviously the X factor of great artists, but without blood, sweat and tears and an unwavering and selfish dedication to your art, few will achieve the ultimate prize.

That’s what Callas knew and delivered both on and off stage and what McNally so masterfully captures in Master Class with Prinsloo persistently reaching for perfection.

For bookings:


From the title of the book bottelnel breek bek, the warning signs are there — this is not going to be an easy read.

But because I have been following Dianne du Toit Albertze’s career for a long time, I knew this would be worth the battle.

In a digital interview, she tells me that the story found her rather than her discovering what she wanted to write about. “I needed to write about people who were braver than me because it was Covid and I needed something to save me,” she says.

That’s where she found Dora and Whashiela, who came with their own heaven-sent gifts. And their strong appearance was probably driven by the fact that “as a trans person, I don’t find many heroines in the books I read. I also don’t see them at festivals or on television. Especially not in my mother tongue,” she notes.

In her own way, she wanted to show Afrikaanse moffies that they shouldn’t let go of their dreams  —  “Moenie jou tong oppie highway verkoop nie” is how she says it bluntly and beautifully. “Nancy is waiting, we need to make and take our own space.”

Feeling and querying whether this is a very personal tale, she acknowledges that first novels are probably always close to the bone. “I wanted to push my high heels through the literary door with a story that feels close to me. I wanted to go as close to the edge as I could and much method writing followed,” she says. “I learnt about everything I wrote about and didn’t want to be a faker.

Dianne Du Toit Albertze
Picture: Peter van Noord.

“Perhaps I listen to too much Tupac or hide too easily behind my pen … because the book also helped me recover from a poisonous addiction. Every day without drugs is a BIG day. And hopefully this full-frontal writing of mine will mean something to someone out there.”

We all know about method acting and what that has done to those taking it too far, and if you read the book without the hairs on your arms standing on edge you’re possibly not paying attention.

This is an artist who takes her art seriously and even if it meant she climbed a steep mountain with the language, it is what adds authenticity and soul to the characters and story.

“I wouldn’t have been true to my characters if they spoke the language of dubbed Turkish soapies,” explains Dianne about her choices. And acknowledges that she wanted to honour the colourful language of the trans community in Observatory and Matjieskloof. “A variant like Gayle (created by the  queer coloured community in Cape Town) even has its own accents in specific regions.”

 And then she’s not even referring to Sabela (a language flounced together from numerous local languages in local prisons for gangs to communicate) or those creative Cape expressions we’re all familiar with. This is completely different yet with distinct similarities – an anomaly in itself.

Dianne du Toit Albertze striking a pose.

“I’ve always been fascinated by linguistics – to create different codes and to learn different expressions and idioms.”

On a language level, she embroiders, the tongues of the different characters metaphorically reflect their life paths – also pushed out and teetering on the periphery. “Those of us who have for so long been hiding in the shadows should move into the light and speak loudly.” Another incentive for telling her story the way she does – letting it all hang out … bravely.

Amen, say I, having read the book and also revelling in this particular interview/conversation, which was a written rather than a spoken one. “Steve Biko says I write what I like and perhaps I agree with him,” notes Dianne. “I write about shit that matters to me and what I believe will interest a broader audience.”

She also hopes that a trans child might read the book and realise that they too matter, perhaps influenced by her own struggles and lack of support.

For the writer personally, she has many dreams and desires: a musical, Medea in Namakwaland, staged in-between the koppies; and to write a few movie scripts. These are on the cards.

For her, writing plays is like breathing in and out. She’s been doing that from a very young age right through her drama studies. “Poetry and prose come from there, but to write for stage is my big love,” she says.

As for her activist stance, she took her queue from the Sestigers (a moniker for a group of dissident Afrikaans writers, including Breyten Breytenbach, André Brink, Ingrid Jonker, Elsa Joubert, Jan Rabie and Etienne le Roux) who believed that words carry weight and that we need the arts and artists to be our conscience.  
This would mean, to her mind, stories that free us from what is becoming a hopeless land with steadily growing layers and levels of suffering.

In the meantime she is working with actor/director Lee-Ann van Rooy on a season of her text Kaap, which was performed at the 2020 NATi Jong Sterre Suidoosterfees . And with her Namakwaland trans sisters, she is busy creating an NGO House of Influence with which they hope to establish safe houses as well as perform community theatre.

She’s a busy woman but for those of us lucky enough to witness her creativity, moving on the edges as she does, she draws a curtain on a hidden yet important world.

This is what makes our universe an interesting one. People are allowed if not encouraged to be themselves and for those who are open to the diversity and differences, it establishes a never-ending stage of wonder, wisdom and, of course, a wackiness without which life would be so much poorer and less colourful.

And as Dianne is so determined to bring to our attention, real people are living here.


When you are sitting in contemplation at the end of a year, your head packed full of memories of live festivals for the first time in 24 months, you realise the excitement, exuberance and energy live theatre brings to both performers and audiences. There’s simply nothing that compares DIANE DE BEER discovers. Here are just a few of those magical moments…:

There were many performances that I will hold onto for a lifetime, some that linger, others that were a fun watch, and one performance in particular that just made me senselessly happy.

(Pictures of Die Moeder by Emma Wiehman and top far right, Nardus Engelbrecht)

It was also the play, the director, and the rest of the cast, (Dawid Minnaar, Ludwig Binge, Ashley de Lange) , but Sandra Prinsloo was the star of Die Moeder, which had its debut at the Woordfees. It held all the potential of being something special, but what this actor brought to the role was spectacular. If this is how she dances into the twilight of her career, buckle up.

Director Christiaan Olwagen has been away playing successfully in television and movies, but it’s always on stage that he has been most impressive for me. It feels as if it is a medium he understands and where he feels at home and his vision translates magnificently.

With that driving her and a magnificent script, it was up to Prinsloo to plumb the depths of an ageing woman who has lost all sense of herself as the world (and her family) seems to have discarded her. Or that’s how she perceives it to be.

Prinsloo slips under her character’s skin (and yours) and more in a performance that simply surpasses everything she has done before (and there were some great ones). But this was next level and for this gracious actor, a just reward for years and years of hard work.

We all knew she was one of the greats and then she went one better! We’re blessed to have her.

The other magic Saartjie Botha created, with live performances allowing yet another experience of Sylvaine Strike and Andrew Buckland’s Ferine and Ferasse, was the breathtaking Firefly. A production I can see over and over again, each time reliving the complete and overwhelming embrace of old-fashioned storytelling.

But let’s start  at the beginning. I have been to perhaps too many festivals in my time, but this was my first time at Cape Town’s Suidooster at the start of a new (and hopefully) live 2022 and I was surprised and impressed by Jana Hatting’s ingenuity. Some of the smaller festivals have tight budgets, audience complexities and artists who are all vying for a slice of the cake.

She introduced a brilliant mini season titled Voices/Stemme for which she invited seasoned and exciting younger talent to tell stories, short ones, and they hit all the right buttons. It’s good at a festival, where the menu is diverse, to have short interludes of dedicated excellence. And with performances by Chris van Niekerk, Devonecia Swartz, Buhle Ngaba and Elton Landrew, for example, with directors and writers like Amelda Brand, Wessel Pretorius, Dean Balie and Jemma Kahn for these 10-minute short pieces, it hit the sweet spot time and again. And the shows were all free … and packed.

Because of the Zap Zap Circus, also on the Artscape premises, they’re included as part of the festival and that’s another huge tick in the box. There’s nothing like a circus for the whole family and especially this one, where such amazing development work is being done, is worth promoting. It also meant that the venue was available for other shows.

It’s a great little festival with great vibes as it is all contained on the premises of Artscape. Watch out for this one with many hidden treasures including young talent showing off their best on many different platforms. They had some amazing jazz as well, with some literary excellence happening on the writing/authors side.

KKNK was back with a bang, a smaller and shorter festival, but one that packed a punch. Perhaps it was a case of old favourites back at their best, but with the long break, that’s exactly what we wanted. Marthinus Basson delivered a double whammy with a recharged Ek, Anna van Wyk and a play that crept up on me and is still at work, Terminaal 3, both with star casts and both lingering with obliterating impact.

For me it was also a renewed admiration of Frieda van den Heever, the director and compiler of Oerkluts Kwyt, a programme celebrating the poetry of Antjie Krog, and the performance brilliance of Antoinette Kellermann, both of whom turned 70. Van den Heever had previously created the perfect Die Poet Wie’s Hy with Dean Balie.

She has a wonderful sensibility, she knows how to pick them and then present a programme basically consisting of the spoken word and music, but the way she balances content and creativity is delicately stunning. For this one she also brought on board astonishing sounds, two women who sing under the Ancient Voices title, the duo Lungiswa Plaatjies and Nimapostile  Nyiki, –  extraordinary.

Anna Davel

I was also reminded this year to watch out for producer/performer/writer Anna Davel (production manager for above mentioned show). She has turned into someone who seems to spot gold. She was also responsible (and part of performance) for Aardklop’s Mixtape van die Liefde where another new artist, Stephanie Baartman, made her mark. She has been part of the television soapie circuit for a few years, but she announced her presence on stage with poetry and song. And that, I suspect, is just a smidgeon of what she will show in the future.

Everyone was also raving about Davel’s exceptional 21, presented at KKNK. She has always shone on stagte, but her voice and her comfort levels on stage have matured magnificently.

Karatara, a production I’ve written about frequently, is one that honours the story which deals with the devastating Knysna fires. The performers (dancers Grant Van Ster and Shaun Oelf and Dean Balie, narrator) as well as the creative team, Wilken Calitz and Gideon Lombard created something extraordinary . It’s worth seeing again and again as it feeds the soul.

And who can forget the art of Karen Preller? Her mesmerising exhibiton took you back in time in an extraordinarily unique way.

Om Skoon Te Wees with Conradie van Heerden

And as an interlude there was the hugely successful Lucky Pakkies, an extension of the previously popular Uitkampteater, which created a stage for shorter if no less exciting work and some extraordinary performances.

It’s also a concept that allows performers to practise and hone their craft in different genres as well as roles. Writers are given a chance for short and sassy work, actors have a smaller if intimate and often vulnerable stage and directors are offered an opportunity to try different things in challenging spaces.

In the Free State, it is always the art that overwhelms and again they didn’t disappoint, one example being Pitika Ntuli’s Return To The Source (which can still be seen at the Oliewenhout Art Museum on your way to the coast), which is simply stunning and perfect for the space at that amazing institution, and they also have a provocative permanent exhibition worth viewing again and again. André Bezuidenhout’s unique photographs was another winner, with the subject well-chosen and then magnificently captured.

And then there was the welcome return of Elzabé Zietsman with the hard-hitting Femme is Fatale. This is someone who understands how to grab you by the throat when there’s no other way. Her intent is to violently if necessary showcase gender-based violence. We all know the scourge it is in this country and no one is listening.

She is going to try her best to make you listen. And with a script which is as blunt and blistering as it is determined, she hits where it hurts most. Being the veteran she is, there’s not a note, a line or a hair out of place and she shows what contemporary cabaret can achieve when done with heartfelt honesty. It’s a courageous and memorable performance.

Another standout and engaging performance was the dance production Blame It On the Algorithm by the Darkroom Contemporary Dance Theatre. It was mesmerising, memorable and something completely different, always a gift for a festival.

Finally it was with a new stance that Aardklop approached the 2022 live season. Instead of hosting a festival in Potchefstroom (it will be returning there in 2023), shows were also presented in Pretoria and Jozi. There are many differing opinions about the success, but for artistic director Alexa Strachan it is about survival.

They’re a small and possibly struggling yet determined artistic collective and they produced a few winners of which the standout was Nataniël’s Die Smitstraat Suite, an astonishing accomplishment.

It’s been a lifelong dream for this prolific artist/composer whom many simply know as a pop composer. Not being my field of expertise, he explained that the music was inspired by the classical oratorium with nine compositions sung in English and Latin (some of his songs not previously recorded combined with original music). He was accompanied by the excellent Akustika Choir led by Christo Burger.

And to add his trademark stamp, an original series of stories, which cleverly pulls the title and the full performance together.

This is what makes him so unique. Few people have the skill to come up with something as complicated as this music with choir and solo parts, accompanied by the Charl du Plessis Trio. And then to add some achingly funny stories that introduce an explosive touch before you lose yourself again in the exquisite music.

He also had two other performances at festivals during the year. First there was Moscow at the Suidooster at the beginning of the year and then Prima Donna at the KKNK. Both of these were innovative and unique in performance, scripts and music, all executed by the artist himself except for the musicans (Charl du Plessis Trio) and costume designer Floris Louw who all contributed with flourish.

Aardklop Aubade’s driving force Charl du Plessis

Produced under the Aardklop Aubade flag, this classical season, introduced by Aardklop and led by Charl du Plessis presents Sunday morning classical concerts at Affies to re-introduce the classics to a previously enthusiastic audience as well as a stage for especially solo artists, but not exclusively so. It’s another great festival invention.

In similar vein, with the help of the KKNK, artists Neil Coppen and Vaughn Sadie established the ongoing Karoo Kaarte with the aim of promoting real change in communities. The idea was to use the arts in many different ways to change the narrative of the Oudtshoorn community to a more inclusive one.

These were early days, but the work which included fine art projects to navigate and explore identities as well as a theatre production which involved the community and workshopped a story to include all their lives and dreams.

Ownership has been activated, but this was simply the beginning and it is going to be hugely exciting to watch how this develops and how local artists are given wings.

And of course there was so much more…


The AVBOB poetry competition is a smart way to pay it forward in a country where words help to heal the past as well as celebrate hope. DIANE DE BEER celebrates the way the company has opted to play its part:

The AVBOB Poetry Trophies

If you think of projects companies could back to boost their philanthropic profile, poetry doesn’t immediately come to mind. But that’s exactly the route AVBOB, the funeral company, selected.

The link, of course, is the words. What do people need when attending a funeral or dealing with relatives or friends who have lost someone? And that’s what they have so cleverly done – while casting a wide net.

Not only did they decide to spotlight poetry, they also chose to feature all South Africa’s 11 languages in the process. What they have achieved even more smartly is to pay attention to the small stuff and to get it right.

It’s no small challenge to run a national poetry competition in 11 languages. And to then select 11 winners, one for each official language. Once these are selected, all the poems are translated and each year a poetry anthology is published to further celebrate the poems, and in the bigger picture, poetry as a whole.

Eleven talented poets were announced as the overall winners of the 2022 AVBOB Poetry Competition at a gala prize-giving at the Pretoria Country Club at the end of last month. The evening was a glorious celebration of the power of poetry to bring people together, to build community, and to offer uplifting words in times of loss.

AVBOB CEO Carl van der Riet in his keynote address described poetry as an art that has a unique ability to bypass the rational mind and logical intellectual process and to speak directly to the heart.

AVBOB’s CEO, Carl van der Riet

“We have a rich heritage of poetry in South Africa. So, as we each observe Heritage Day on 24 September, I would like to encourage all of us to also remember this unique part of our heritage which has served as such a beacon of hope and inspiration for people.”

Each winner received a prize which included R10 000 cash, a R2 500 book voucher, and an elegant trophy. Each guest also received a copy of the annual anthology containing the winning poems, I wish I’d said… Vol. 5, which was launched at the event.

Van der Riet explained, “The support of mother-tongue voices has been a primary aim of the AVBOB Poetry Project since the very beginning and so the editors were encouraged that 65% of all poems entered were written in South Africa’s vernacular languages.” He further noted that the AVBOB Poetry Library now contains over 17 000 poems, each of which earned the poet a usage fee of R300. That amounts to over R5.2m spent on building a cultural repository of poems available to those who need words of comfort and consolation.

The top six poems in each language appear in the anthology accompanied by an English translation. A selection of commissioned poems and four Khoisan poems from the Bleek and Lloyd collection round out the anthology. This comprehensive collection was compiled by the editor-in-chief of the AVBOB Poetry Competition, Johann De Lange, and the esteemed Xitsonga academic, literary translator and founding chair of the PAN South African Language Board, Professor Nxalati CP Golele.

De Lange said, “Poetry bears witness to our lives, our loves and our losses. It helps us traverse major transitions, giving us the words to name the feelings and to tame the emotions. It helps us to fathom what we must live for, define what we must protect, and focus on what we must promote in a changing world.”

Viewers around the country participated simultaneously via livestream on AVBOB Poetry’s social media channels.

The 2022 AVBOB Poetry Prize winners are: Clinton V. du Plessis (Afrikaans), Letitia Matthews (English), Nkosinathi Mduduzi Jiyana (isiNdebele), Sipho Kekezwa (isiXhosa), Nomkelemane Langa (isiZulu), Pabalelo Maphutha (Sepedi), Kgobani Mohapi (Sesotho), Molebatsi Joseph Bosilong (Setswana), Prisca Nkosi (Siswati), Mashudu Stanley Ramukhuba (Tshivenda) and Pretty Shiburi (Xitsonga).

To order I Wish I’d Said… Vol.5 SMS the word ‘POEM’ to 48423 (at a standard cost of R1.50 per SMS) to have it posted to you at a total cost of R240. Alternatively, email your order to or find it at selected bookstores. Visit to find elegiac poems for reading aloud at funerals or to include in memorial leaflets, and to register to enter the 2023 AVBOB Poetry Competition (which closes on 30 November 2022).


2022 AFRIKAANS WINNER – Clinton V. du Plessis

Clinton V. du Plessis lives in Cradock in the Eastern Cape where he works as an accountant. He is a prolific poet with many poetry collections to his name and his work has appeared in translation in the international arena. Listening to stories on the radio was a powerful formative influence in his childhood. He particularly loved listening to PH Nortje’s Die groen ghoen and was desperately keen to read the book. His father, who was a labourer on the railways, persuaded his boss to borrow the book from the library on young Clinton’s behalf. His winning poem Leemte is an achingly tender tribute, written in honour of his father.

2022 ENGLISH WINNER – Letitia Matthews

Letitia Matthews feels blessed to live on the southern border of the Kruger National Park with her husband, Peter. She’s a freelance web and graphic designer who found that helped her through heart-breaking losses. As a cancer survivor, she realised that loss also leads to new life and adventures. These experiences showed her how to navigate bereavement. Her poem Time Of Death comes from the dark nights and empty days that eventually led to her embracing life again.

2022 ISINDEBELE WINNER – Nkosinathi Mduduzi Jiyana

Nkosinathi Mduduzi Jiyana is known in spoken word poetry circles as Gembe Da Poet. He comes from KwaDlawulale in Limpopo, and after discovering a love of writing poetry in 2018, established a reputation as a vibrant slam poet. His poem Ithemba alibulali encourages youth to be strong, to resist fear, and to remain faithful when grief strikes. He believes that by entering the poetry competition he is exhibiting his writing talent.

2022 ISIXHOSA WINNER – Sipho Kekezwa

Sipho Kekezwa is a prolific and multi-award-winning author of children’s books, dramas, short stories and YA novels. He started his writing life as a voracious reader. Various of his titles have wearned significant acclaim over the years, but this is his first poetry award. His dramatic work, Ubomi, ungancama!, published by Oxford University Publishers in 2020, won the 2021 SALA Award in the Youth Literature category. Sipho’s winning poem ICocekavaras is a plea to heed common sense and to get vaccinated. After living in Khayelitsha for 26 years, he recently returned to East London to continue his work as a freelance editor, proofreader, translator, book reviewer and creative writing facilitator.

2022 ISIZULU WINNER – Nomkelemane Langa

Nomkelemane Langa claims the majestic rolling hills of northern KwaZulu-Natal as his geographic and cultural heritage. Born in the deep rural village of Nkandla he now lives in Richards Bay where he freelances as a TV producer and presenter, Maskandi singer and guitarist, author, poet, crafter, actor and MC.

His winning poem Mhla lishona ilanga is an aching portrait of grief set between the last light of dusk and the first light of dawn. He started writing poetry in high school as a member of the Isulabasha Dancing Pencils Writing Club. He attributes his success to the ancestral promptings that guide his words.

2022 SEPEDI WINNER – Pabalelo Maphutha

Praise poems and powerful words were Pabalelo Maphutha’s inheritance at birth. He was born into a family of traditional praise poets and writers in rural Ga-Mphahlele in Limpopo, and grew up with a deep love of the written and spoken word. He began writing and performing his own poems in the mid-2000s, while still at school. He has appeared in various theatrical and film productions and is committed to serving his artistic goals with passion, focus, and dedication. His poem Se išeng dipelo mafiša reflects on the process of aging and death and will comfort all who have lost an elder.

2022 SESOTHO WINNER – Kgobani Mohapi

Kgobani Mohapi comes from the eastern Free State town of Lindley. He has entered the AVBOB Poetry Competition every year since its inception to test his poetic skills against the best in the country and came second in 2019. His poem Ke o entseng deals with the issues lovers would ask after a separation. He was inspired to write poetry by his Sesotho teacher, Mr NJ Malindi. Kgobani is also a novelist, with a novel titled Lerato.

2022 SETSWANA WINNER – Molebatsi Joseph Bosilong

Molebatsi Joseph Bosilong is an educator and a published author from the North West province with an enormous passion for the arts. He is an engaged member of the regional writers community, committed to sharing opportunities and information with fellow Setswana writers. His poems appear in Volume 4 of the poetry anthology, ‘I wish I’d said…’ He used the form of the Mosikaro, which uses the first letter of the first word of each line going downwards to spell out the word Tsholofelo, which means hope. Tsholofelo is both the title and the theme of his poem, which pays tribute to the health workers who battled the pandemic and the hope for a vaccine to defeat the virus. He wrote this poem to heal from the pain of losing his mother.

2022 SISWATI WINNER – Prisca Nkosi

Nomvula Prisca Nkosi started writing short stories and poems at a very young age. She lives in Ermelo, where she works at a hamburger joint. While she makes fast food, she has many deep thoughts. She decided to enter the competition to improve her writing skills and to give voice to her rich imagination. Her poem Imihuzuko explores the scars that tell of life’s injuries. “Some people lose hope while others gain strength through their suffering,” says Prisca, “and to share the experience inside me.” This is her first poetry award.

2022 TSHIVENDA WINNER – Mashudu Stanley Ramukhuba

Mashudu Stanley Ramukhuba was born in Ha-Rabali village in Limpopo’s Nzhelele Valley. He attended Rabali Primary School and, later, Patrick Ramaano Mphephu Secondary School, where his love of poetry grew strong. He was inspired to enter the competition on the death of beloved family members. “When my sister died very young, it was hard to believe I would never see her again,” he says of his winning poem Maḓuvha a mudali. This carefully crafted and formal work honours his sister’s life. The poet reminds the reader in a wise and gentle tone that we are all visitors on this earth, and encourages us to consider our legacy. Mashudu is married and currently unemployed.

2022 XITSONGA WINNER – Pretty Shiburi

Pretty Shiburi is a poet making powerful connections. Born and raised in Madobi village in the far northern part of South Africa and currently studying electrical engineering at Westcol TVET College in Krugersdorp, this is a poet who makes sparks fly. Her darkly funny poem N’hwembe explores the idea of home and ownership by examining a pumpkin vine, which causes consternation in its wanderings into the neighbour’s yard. This playful metaphor demonstrates her  love of her mother tongue and offers a wry glance at other wanderers.


Each year, The European Film Festival is one of the movie highlights of the year – and this time is no different running between October 13 and 23. Here is a short review by DIANE DE BEER on one of the films:



Director: Laura Wandel

Cast: Maya Vanderbeque, Günter Duret, Lena Girard Voss, Karim Leklou, Laura Verlinden

Genre: Drama Time: 72 minutes

French with English subtitles – 2021

Even if you were never bullied in school, all of us have been witness to something like that in our lives. Take Donald Trump for example, his whole existence is thanks to bullying, not an easy thing to watch even from afar.

But the title of this one says it all, and again, it is the way the young people deal with what is given to them that is captured so brilliantly.

We all know and understand the impact of abuse during your younger years, on the rest of your life. When seven-year-old Nora witnesses the bullying her older brother Abel has to endure at school, she rushes to help out. But he persuades her not to tell anyone.

She is still trying to adapt to school herself and this is something that she finds quite unbearable – that and the subtle bullying that is happening amongst her own circle of new acquaintances.

It’s a hugely emotional film with the camera rigged at Nora’s height so that we are really pulled into the centre of her storm.

It’s also the inability of doing the right thing on every level. The sensitive teacher isn’t always around at the right time, and when they are, the problem is much easier to deal with – and yet when away from the adults, is when the pressure comes into play.

This is a fantastic opportunity to catch up on many of the best movies from Europe of the past year. For details on all the films and how to watch visit


Each year, The European Film Festival is one of the movie highlights of the year – and this time is no different running between October 13 and 23. Here is a short review by DIANE DE BEER on one of the films:



Director: Céline Sciamma

Cast: Gabrielle Sanz, Joséphine Sanz, Nina Meurisse, Margot Abascal, Stéphane Varupenne

Genre: Drama, Coming-of-age

Time: 72 minutes 

French with English subtitles – 2021

Children feature strongly in this haunting, beautifully told story about a child’s perception of loss. Nelly has lost her beloved grandmother and is helping her parents clear out her mother’s childhood home. She explores and discovers both the house and the surrounding woods where her mom, Marion, used to play and built a treehouse Nelly has often heard about.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, her mother leaves and that is when Nelly meets a girl her own age building her own treehouse and named Marion.

It’s a film that explores specifically the world of children, how they are affected by what is happening in the world around them, how adults deal with them and how they cope with feelings that are way beyond their tender years.

The two young actresses are superb and add another dimension to the film, which is tenderly made and sensitively unfolds.

It is not a children’s movie, but it is very much about their lives, they way they digest what is given to them by the adults who run their little lives and how they make sense of things they don’t understand.

This is a fantastic opportunity to catch up on many of the best movies from Europe of the past year. For details on all the films and how to watch visit