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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
- Ek, Anna van Wyk
- Terminaal 3
Best theatre production
- 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
- 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
- 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 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
- 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
- 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