SAMSA-MASJIEN SHOWS AGEING AS PART OF THE LIFE CYCLE CHALLENGING BOTH YOUNG AND OLD

If you tune into the KKNK website, one of the many delights you will find is the route and tickets to a filmed version of Jaco Bouwer’s brilliant if disturbing Samsa-masjien written by Willem Anker and starring the brilliant Antoinette Kellermann and Gerben Kamper.

DIANE DE BEER reviews:

Gerben Kamper and Antoinette Kellermann

Most of us have or had ageing parents and will be ageing at some stage. That’s exactly what Samsa-masjien is dealing with.

When our parents are ageing, the process that becomes part of the children’s lives in some way can be either a joyous or troubling one. And often, it is in the hands of those who are younger to determine the outcomes.

The parents ageing are in most cases exactly who they are, they’re not going to change and you simply have to decide where and how you’re going to fit into the process.

When I first saw this production live, I was dealing with ageing parents and very vulnerable about the whole subject because it doesn’t matter how you regard your parents or how much work you do to deal with what may lie ahead, nothing can really prepare you for the process.

But what I had come to realise (with films like The Savages) and with dealing with people hoping to age gracefully, is that dignity is something everyone – those ageing and those caring – hope to cling onto. But it’s not easy.

So when I first experienced Samsa-masjien, I could hardly breathe being so overwhelmed. It was in fact only with a second viewing that I became aware of Pierre-Henri Wicomb’s emotive sound recordings which are almost like an invisible yet very present character – especially in the live performance.

Samsa-masjien with Ilana Cilliers

What Willem Anker did with the text was quite astonishing, as he honed into the basest of emotions when dealing with something as overwhelming as this particular human condition, which most of us will be subjected to at some stage in our lives from different vantage points.

Witnessing this on film felt to me much different – not better or worse – but different and which one you prefer will be a very individual rather than an artistic choice.

What Bouwer (who since this production was first staged live at the KKNK has focussed more on film than live theatre) decided was to shoot this play as often in close-up as he could manage – or that is what it feels like. And I suspect he was right because the thing with this topic and particular play is that you have to find yourself in the midst of this particular emotional storm because that’s what it is.

And since writing the review, I had the chance to listen in to a discussion that artistic director Hugo Theart had with Anke,  Bouwer and Wicomb which explained a lot about the process as well as the recording. This was followed later by a discussion with the cast which was as insightful. (both of these are available on the KKNK website

Samsa-masjien was in fact recorded during the Baxter Theatre run in 2015 for archival purposes, which Bouwer had started doing with his work, including Rooiland and Balbesit. (Can we please see those too?)

The way they did it was to shoot a couple of hours before every performance. “It wasn’t meant to be seen,” says Bouwer but fortunately for those of us who relished another viewing or even first-time viewers, Theart could twist his arm.

It is one of the few theatre advantages during Covid that more attention is being paid to online productions and in many instances especially in a country where theatre-makers are always struggling, that’s a good thing. There are many one-off shows for example in Joburg which I can’t make but which I would love to see. It’s also a solution to those theatre makers who struggle with producing remarkable plays for a festival and then it doesn’t travel any further.

But to get back to the production, everyone in this story is busy with their own drama because it’s as much as they can deal with.

Ludwig Binge in Samsa-Masjien

The ageing father (Gerben Kamper) is losing his mind, while his wife (Antoinette Kellermann) is trying her best to keep him safe and allow him to age gracefully. His daughter (Ilana Cilliers) is battling with what is happening to her parents and her husband (Herman Binge) doesn’t think any of this is his problem. He is already providing her parents with a place to stay. Nothing more required. They seem to be cool, calm and collected throughout the unravelling process – but obviously that’s not the case.

It’s a remarkable text (Kafka-inspired and with many different layers to delve into) with Bouwer always a visual thinker and a cast to die for. Bouwer was the first to admit that especially for the actors portraying the ageing parents, these are not easy characters to play.

But his choices were easy because few actors have the courage that these two displayed. All four actors are perfectly cast, but especially Kamper and Kellermann as the parents because of the vulnerability of the characters and the players bringing them to life. It is simply astonishing and contributes to what is essentially an ensemble piece with those on and off stage involved.

It’s not an easy piece to watch but something all of us should heed as it will be part of our lives in some form. And who knows, with enough care and understanding we might even make it a smooth process for everyone involved.

But not in this tale where the children are hosting a dinner party upstairs while the parents are sinking deeper and deeper into the obscurity of their own world below the surface – unseen, or so everyone believes.

Anyone who has walked into a retirement home (previously known  as old-age home) recently will understand that feeling of  displacement as you pass cheerful souls in the passage and people eager to see if they know you or can start a conversation.

It takes me back to boarding school.  I didn’t want to be part of that tribe then and I have no desire to repeat anything vaguely described as group activity in this lifetime.

But as my mother said to me in those tough years: “We are your children now. And I know you never wanted any!”

And that’s the irony of life. There are many things we simply have no say in. They’re given to us and usually at a time when we’re least prepared. Ageing is one of those and watching people die is at its best one of the toughest things you will be asked to do.

So watch Samsa-masjien. No one wants to go through the worst of it and at least, with some thoughtfulness, you can complete this life cycle with the gentleness required.

Go to the KKNK website for tickets and viewing.

A FEISTY PLAY FOR A FEISTY ACTRESS: CAMILLA WALDMAN DIRECTED BY MALCOLM PURKEY

The Market is celebrating its 45th year. This isn’t a time for the usual festivities associated with these kind of landmarks, but artistic director James Ngcobo has decided to be smart about his choices in honouring the iconic theatre in a way that pays tribute to both the people and the place. With that in mind, previous artistic director Malcolm Purkey and an actor who had close links with The Market in the past, Camilla Waldman, are presenting playwright Martin Sherman’s one-woman tour-de-force Rose (he is perhaps best remembered for Bent) until May 16. DIANE DE BEER spoke to the two artists:

The glorious Camilla Waldman in Rose

PICTURES: Suzy Bernstein

While both director Malcolm Purkey and actor Camilla Waldman had worked on solo productions many, many moons ago, they are thrilled to be engaging with a work so exciting, in a time when everyone is itching to get out there. For these two passionate storytellers, it’s what they love doing best.

Handed the play and the actor, Purkey is especially thrilled that both of these have come together in such an extraordinary fashion. “I have discovered that to work solo, you need an extremely strong script,” says Waldman and that’s exactly what she has been given with the extraordinary woman she is in  the process of portraying and getting to know inside out.

These two artists have never worked together on stage even though they have worked together, with Purkey an external examiner when she was still studying and then the Dean of Afda, when she was appointed lecturer.

Purkey describes Rose as a Jewish production, yet the woman of the title is anything but traditional. “She’s 86 years old, had three husbands and is involved with a much younger hippie lover. She explores black magic and tests Oriental religions amongst others by visiting a Buddhist retreat!”

But where he really lost his heart was in the script. “It’s excellent writing and we had a great time exploring Rose’s interior life,” he says.

Camilla Walman as Rose

The other thing that pleased him was the streak of Jewish comedy that runs through the piece. Rose didn’t have an easy life but she is forever playing with wit. “Both Camilla and I knew we could work with that.” And in these often troubling times, even when we work with issues, it would be good to laugh along the way.

Rose lived a full if sometimes exhausting life and the story told here is described as both tragic and brilliant. And because of her 86 years, most of what she experienced covers pretty much the highlights of the past century.

That was also one of the reasons they decided not to cut the text but rather present it with an interval. “It’s a very delicate text,” says Purkey. It was difficult to select any cuts which is an indication of the writing. “We decided to keep it largely intact,” says Waldman who realises this will be quite a marathon session for performer and audience.

But can anyone who loves theatre think of anything more exciting than experiencing live theatre again? Every once in a while something pops out but we’re nowhere back to where we were early in 2020, when the pandemic was just beginning to emerge and we didn’t yet have any clue of the extent of what we were about to experience.

If the play has a familiar ring to it, Annabel Linder performed in the acclaimed play almost 20 years ago and Waldman, who is a huge fan of Linder and has worked with her a few times in the past, was hoping to have a conversation with her. “But time pressure didn’t allow for any of that,” she wails – and that’s usually what happens in these cramped rehearsal times where actors and their directors simply have to press on at breakneck speed. And probably now even more than before.

Both of them are old hands at this game and know how to work at achieving the magic. That’s what makes this such an exciting venture. In the past, Waldman was one of those actors who could slip into different roles with consummate ease. And in the pictures of Rose (being so much older) she is hardly recognisable. Purkey is back in his old playground and happy to be there, even allowing for all the restraints and deadlines.

With this rich and evocative script, and their double dose of experience, Purkey and Waldman make a formidable team. Waldman also knows that this is a character that will keep growing. “It’s a wonderful chance to honour the beautiful writing,” she elaborates. She knows she has still has a lot of work to do and accepts that she will birth it during the run and just keep growing. It’s that kind of text.

Being who she is, she will give it every fibre of her being to get it right! If you’re more familiar with her work on television, do yourself a favour and witness this remarkable actress on stage. We haven’t seen enough of her in recent years while the  younger generation have benefitted from her teaching and coaching.

But personally I believe on stage is where the sparks fly – for both actor and director.

Bookings:

Season:                                                Friday 23 April – 16 May 2021

Venue:                                                 Barney Simon Theatre

Performance times:                             Tuesday – Saturday @19h00 and Sunday @15h15

Ticket prices:   Tuesday – Thursday R90.00 Friday – Saturday R150.00 and Sunday R130.00

ACTOR SANDRA PRINSLOO CAPTURES THE FRAILTY OF OLD AGE IN ELSA JOUBERT’S MEMOIR SPERTYD

DIANE DE BEER

Pictures: Robert A Hamblin

SPERTYD

Sandra Prinsloo as Elsa Joubert in Spertyd
TEXT ADAPTATION/DIRECTING: Philip Rademeyer
ACTOR: Sandra Prinsloo
PRODUCERS: Margit Meyer-Rödenbeck and Alexa Strachan
DATES and times: Tonight 8pm; Thursday April 22 8pm; Friday April 23 8pm;
Saturday April 24 3pm and 8pm; Sunday April 25 2pm
VENUE: Atterbury Theatre
BOOKINGS: https://seatme.co.za/tc-events/spertyd-met-sandra-prinsloo/

AGEING is not for sissies … and that was writer Elsa Joubert’s big battle as she seemed to hurtle towards yet another of those big numbers so revered –  not by but seemingly of the elderly.

There’s also a glaring difference in the ageing of those between 60 and 80 and those above 80, she argues, as her children get busy planning her 90th birthday.

And she isn’t even sure she wants to participate in any celebrations!

It all began with the death of her husband Klaas, trying to adapt to a life without him, then her choice to move to an old-age home with losses of many different kinds looming large.

It starts with a family home swapped for a single room, the loss of mobility and, perhaps more than anything, the loss of independence as your world becomes smaller by the day.

Words and writing are her closest friends.

She is in mourning for her life, the one that is gone, that which is disappearing and she wants to hold onto. She has to work hard at letting go and finding a new source of inspiration. Writing and reading remain her close friends and are probably what pulls her through until she can see the light.

Adapting a book of 200 pages plus and capturing the essence in a script of 20 pages is tricky but director/writer Rademeyer has cleverly focussed on what he felt would best get to the heart of what Joubert was trying to say.

It has to do with acceptance and focussing on the small miracles that become lost in a world where everyone is rushing past. Ageing halts you in your tracks. It gives you time to breathe, to take in the world around you. It could be seen as a life gone by and also a future that might deprive you of the freedoms of the past – yet open up a new world where life slows down and gives you the chance to behold and to cherish.

This isn’t an easy text to play, with Joubert finding it especially tough to adapt and to accept the hand she has been dealt. Who would have known that this woman of such accomplishments (Die Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena for example) would suffer such anxiety in old age – a time when one could possibly savour everything you have achieved.

But Prinsloo knows how to tell this story. By the time she and Rademeyer stepped into the rehearsal space, they had both spent time refining the text in different ways and they knew where they were headed and what they hoped to achieve.

Philip Rademeyer in repetition. Picture Stephanie Gericke

It’s the peaks and troughs that she navigates so seamlessly as she takes you to a world either you yourself – or your parents – might be approaching. And as Rademeyer, still a young man, says, the story brings empathy for something all of us will experience in some form.

It is through the movement, her laughter, her initial obstinacy which grows to acceptance that the story is given life. And then you can savour Joubert’s words, her struggle to find solace and finally her wonderment as she moves closer to the meaning of especially that which has become her life.

Prinsloo is a master at getting under the skin of a character. And with this not her first woman navigating old age, she had to find the uniqueness of the writer’s voice, her way of coming to terms with a life she feels so diminished.

And finally, as Joubert understands so miraculously, you have to find meaning for yourself and it isn’t in the ageing process. But if you look, listen and open your heart, it’s there. There’s something about the frailty we have as babies when we first arrive in this world, which returns in all its tenderness at the end of our lives.

It’s a quiet production in which the story and how it is told is what overwhelms you. And again Prinsloo as always has the final word. She tells it with heartfelt honesty and finally a gracefulness that embraces Joubert’s world and the riches it still has to offer.

SOLO QUEEN SANDRA PRINSLOO TEAMS UP WITH DIRECTOR PHILIP RADEMEYER FOR SPERTYD

Sandra Prinsloo has this past decade proved her weight in gold as someone who easily slips into a solo show, packs a punch because she knows how to pick them and pulls in the audiences because of her track record. Her latest production is based on the Elsa Joubert memoir Spertyd (Cul-De-Sac) which deals with the author’s aversion to ageing which will be performed at Pretoria’s Atterbury Theatre from April 20 to 25. DIANE DE BEER speaks to Philip Rademeyer who adapted the book as well as directed the play:

In rehearsal with director Philip Rademeyer and actress Sandra Prinsloo

After director/playwright Philip Rademeyer had read Elsa Joubert’s book, he knew he wanted to both adapt and direct the play.

While his parents aren’t old, they are ageing and just on the first reading he already had more insight, he says about Joubert’s memoir Spertyd (Cul de Sac) which deals with her personal ageing process.

But he also relished the opportunity at a second chance to direct the stunning Sandra Prinsloo, who had previously been part of the Soebatsfontein cast. This solo production would give him the opportunity again to work with someone whose art and work ethic he admired.

“I was quite intimidated the first time round,” he explains, but in the meantime he had experienced in full force Prinsloo’s humanity – a rare human being. He knew this was going to be a learning experience with rich rewards. “She has such a wealth of experience,” he notes and that doesn’t even take into account her abundant talent.

Take-out time: Margit Meyer-Rödenbeck, Sandra Prinsloo and Philip Rademeyer.

Because of lockdown, he was given the time to spend on the script as well as the collaboration of Prinsloo and producers Alexa Strachan and Margit Meyer-Rödenbeck. It doesn’t get  much better than that.

The problems started with an adaptation that meant stripping a memoir of 200 pages into a script of 20. “We decided early on that the focus would be as the author herself described it, “a journey through the continent of ageing”.

He had the luxury of reworking one draft after the next until everybody was satisfied or as close as they could achieve.

It also meant that by the time he and Prinsloo stepped into the rehearsal room they had really worked through the text over and over again. “We were already on the same page,” he says. And they had by that time determined that she wasn’t going to try to replicate Elsa Joubert.

Sandra Prinsloo as Elsa Joubert in Spertyd. Picture Robert A Hamblin

“We worked with the woman we found in the text”, as well as trying to differentiate this latest character from another ageing character Prinsloo had previously portrayed in Die Naaimasjien.

What appealed to Rademeyer about the memoir was Joubert’s directness about and dislike of ageing. “I don’t think we should be in denial,” he says. “I liked that she was so honest about her limitations.” And it was this loss the author experienced in a world that seemed to become painfully small and isolated from what she had experienced in an earlier life that they hoped to capture.

From a directing vantage, Rademeyer is all about giving the performer the best advantage to tell their story. The first challenge was the space and the 95-year-old Joubert whom Prinsloo had to inhabit.

Spertyd with Sandra. Picture Robert A Hamblin

Prinsloo is a young 70-ish, so both her movement and youthfulness had to be curtailed. “I couldn’t do quick scene changes with her running across the room,” says the director.

He was also aware that his insecurities probably hampered their first encounter.

This time round he could wallow in their personal engagement as well as marvelling at her work process. “She doesn’t take anything for granted,” he says, and realised that those who sustain their careers for this length of time achieve that longevity with hard work. “It’s all about her talent and the person she is.”

In the end, what they hoped to achieve was to heighten the state of captivity the writer felt as her life, because of many different factors, seemed to diminish – slowly but surely.

It is a reminder of the Churchill quote that intially the world was his stage. This changed to his country, then his home, his room and finally his bed.

And that was the image Rademeyer held onto when he was imagining both the physical and mental picture of Joubert’s state of mind about ageing. “We created this single room to suggest her world inside – and that of the outside world.”

Looking back at the process and the experience, Rademeyer believes that he feels much more caring about older people. When you’re young, you’re irritated by the slow speed of ageing people, he explained. But now he has a much gentler eye. “We’re all on our way there,” he says with much more understanding.

That is what he hopes this play will do for both young and old – remind them to be mindful both of what was and what will be. “It brings you up close to your own mortality,” he says. And it’s a reminder of how to treat older people.

“You should treat them as you would like to be respected when you get there,” he concludes.

Looking ahead, he is mindful of the time just past and where we find ourselves right now. 2020 wasn’t a bad year because he had both the Spertyd script and production. There was also less awareness of the damage to come due to Covid-19.

Philip Rademeyer in repetition. Picture Stephanie Gericke

But now he is tired of the isolation, battles with the loss and loneliness of creativity and hopes to find inspiration in the future. But as a creative, he knows things will change and he is determined to wow audiences with large casts and big issues.

It’s time to grapple with the problems of our time, he believes. And he knows the audiences are there to support their work.

Here’s holding thumbs.

In the meantime, Spertyd will be playing at the Atterbury Theatre from April 20 to 25 and move to the Suidoosterfees in Cape Town from April 29.

Hopefully once the festival circuit is up and running again, Spertyd will travel far and wide and like the book that was translated as Cul-De-Sac, the play might also eventually be translated to reach a wider audience.

KKNK INVITES ARTISTS TO COME OUT TO PLAY WITH DIRECTOR MARTHINUS BASSON IN THE LEAD

Like everyone else art festivals are trapped in a kind of no-man’s land. It’s a time to think on your feet and make use of all the skills lying dormant. DIANE DE BEER reports on the Klein Karoo Art Festival’s most recent brainwave – a director’s course with the brilliant Marthinus Basson at the helm:

The superb Koningin Lear starring the magnificent Antoinette Kellerman in the title role.

In this time of Covid it is up to artists and related organisations to be creative because no one else is going to do that for them.

And it is interesting to see in these dire circumstances how the innovations keep flowing. If anyone knows how to turn nothing into something, it is the artistic community.

A director’s course for aspirant as well as experienced directors is the latest project from the KKNK (Klein Karoo National Arts Festival).

Marthinus Basson in rehearsals of Koningin Lear

The first (of hopefully many) KKNK/NATi Studio project is a directing course to be presented by acclaimed veteran director Marthinus Basson (Tom Lanoye’s Koningin Lear, Mama Medea and Bloed en Rose and premieres of most of Reza de Wet’s work amongst others), someone who should excite both potential and established directors.

Two things come to mind immediately. Basson, who is passionate about teaching and one of the best in the business, has a wealth of knowledge to impart and what better time, when many of our stages are still closed for viable performances, to hone your skills, whether novice or practitioner.

Their aim (in conjunction with NATi ­ – the Nasionale Afrikaanse Teater-inisiatief) is to add value to the arts as they unlock the potential of promising directors. “The main purpose is to create work for artists,” says Basson.

I was upset a few years back when the University of Stellenbosch’s drama department seemed to show a lack of insight when not doing everything in their power to hold on to this particular lecturer, but this is simply the best news. I can think of many who would benefit and add to their riches with this director’s insight and abundant creativity. It starts with his choice of text, the way he thinks about every production and his knowledge which has no equal.

Tinarie van Wyk Loots in Asem directed by Marthinus Basson.

The 9-month long course will guide participants through a number of texts from different genres and time periods. Basson will zoom in on interpretation, directing and design, concept development, performance challenges for actors and how directors can manage these.

“This director’s course is a wonderful opportunity for theatre makers to hone core skills and critical thought,” says Hugo Theart, artistic director of the KKNK. “And what a privilege to learn from one of this country’s most experienced directors. Not only is he one of our best directors, he is also regarded as one of the best mentors and teachers. It is a rare opportunity and an honour for the KKNK in combination with NATi to facilitate this season.”

Basson himself is nervously excited about the project. “It gives hope in a tough time for the performing arts and offers a welcome opportunity for theatre makers to gather regularly, inspire one another, study a few exceptional texts in depth, dream and think about them while also questioning – and hopefully add passion and fire to the neglected theatre community.”

Tinarie van Wyk Loots in Basson’s Koningkryk van die Diere

Something he is anticipating is gaining the insight of 12 new artists and to get to know 12 fellow artists during the lengthy course. “The first session will probably be taken up by a kind of meet-and-greet,” he says and then they will get stuck into reading the first text. “Everyone has to participate actively. Ideally a directing course should be a live event,” he says and he is determined that it will not be about him giving lectures. “Once everyone has read the text, ideas should determine what follows. People never feel the same about things,” and I suspect, that’s what gets this director going.

Cornelia Faasen, CEO of NATi, says Covid-19 has given them the time to reflect about the fault lines in some productions. “We have had the grace of time to see how to approach these challenges. It is good that the KKNK is tackling projects rather than productions because these are often too expensive to fail.”

She adds that she’s excited about the future of KKNK/NATi Studio projects – as she should be.

At the recent theatre/dance-driven Take-a-STAND dialogues, the desire and need for mentorship was a high priority for young and established artists. And we have a wealth of artists who can contribute with Basson leading the pack.

The course consists of two formal group sessions of between three and four hours twice a month and will be presented online on Sunday afternoons. Live sessions will only start if the impact of Covid-19 allows it

Basson’s children’s production Huppelkind
Picture: Retha Ferguson

The chosen texts will be read and discussed with Basson handing out tasks in preparation for the following session. Already he speaks enthusiastically about some of the selected works. He is, for example, looking at Bartho Smit’s Moeder Hanna in contrast to Friedrich Durrenmatt’s Die Besoek van die ou Dame. And starting out with an Afrikaans translation of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream followed by Die Park by Botho Strauss which plays like the converse. Even explaining his choices already points to the value this course will have for any prospective participant.

With thorough feedback, they will sharpen their critical thinking and heighten their creative impulses. Basson will also be assisted by experienced set designers, writers, directors and actors. He has worked with the best which makes his selection an easy one.

The sessions will start at the end of the month on March 28 and those participating must attend every session.

Financial assistance is available and all candidates must be older than 18 and understand Afrikaans.

Two groups are participating. Twelve candidates will be selected as the core group and they should be involved in the theatre industry in some way. But to stretch the reach of the project, further candidates will be invited to listen in as observers. This is aimed at especially young

talent not necessarily involved in the industry professionally yet and could include drama students.

For more information and to apply for the season, go to kknk.co.za/kknk-nati-studio, or phone the KKNK-offices on 044 203 8600.

Get jumping, the closing date is this Friday (March 19) at noon.

ACTORS AND DIRECTOR COME OUT TO PLAY AT THE ANNUAL BLACK HISTORY PRODUCTION AT MARKET

PICTURES: Lungelo Mbulwana

Pass Over starring Hungani Ndlovu

DIANE DE BEER

Life is slowly and almost silently returning to the Market Theatre – just in time to benefit from President Ramaphosa’s latest concessions doubling on the 50 seats already conceded.

Artistic director James Ngcobo kicks off tonight (running until March 28 starting at 6pm but check opening times on specific days) with his annual Black History Month production also celebrating the 45th anniversary year of The Market. Showcasing an African American playwright and in the past – as now, giving him the opportunity to spotlight some of the hottest young playwrights from the US.

The title of this year’s production, Pass Over, is suggestive of many things depending where you come from and whether you are religious, but it is also a play that has been inspired (as many before) by Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. It features two young black men, Moses and Kitch, who are forever stuck in a cyclical existential conundrum: how do we get off this street corner and into paradise?

Kathu Ramabulana (right)and Hungani Ndlovu (centre) as Moses and Kitsch and Charlie Bouguenon as Mister

But they keep busy by swapping visions of the promised land, imagining all the delights that await them there. Into this conversation steps a white man, Mister (a name that already suggests many different avenues in this context), and he startles the two young men with his preppy demeanour. He has lost his way while heading to his mother’s house to bring a basket of food. With this seemingly bottomless basket packed with delicious treats Mister is blissfully free and bursting with potential tralala…

He leaves shortly after the entrance of Ossifer (a jumble of letters which could also make up officer), a white policeman … and naturally the scene is set for many contemporary struggles while referencing both Beckett and Exodus with obvious intent.

Pass Over creative team Kabomo Vilakazi, Sibusisiwe Manqele and James Ngcobo

Written by Antoinette Nwandu, a New York playwright, it premiered a few years back at Chicago’s acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre as well as travelling to London. She has been honoured with amongst others The Whiting Award, The Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, The Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, The Negro Ensemble Company’s Douglas Turner Ward Prize, and a Literary Fellowship at the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a bachelor’s degree in English and holds a Master’s of Science degree in Cultural Politics from the University of Edinburgh, and an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

What appealed to Ngcobo is that it is a play that speaks to the now and with so much happening in the US (and around the world on a race and oppression level if you look at the Time Next 100 list) with especially Black Lives Matter, all of that seems especially (and rightfully) heightened. “It just makes for interesting conversation,” he says. And even more than that. It seems finally, race has become the issue with Covid-19 bringing it into even sharper relief – and about time.

The cast of Pass Over

And the writing itself, notes Ngcobo. In a note from the playwright she explains that “the language is intentionally heightened, calculatedly rhythmic and playfully human. There is a kind of poetry and energy that is written into the words that Moses and Kitch use, which invites the audience to fully understand these characters and the world they inhabit.”

Ngcobo says because of the way it’s written that while dealing with tragic topics, it’s also very funny. “In rehearsal we are looking especially at the environment that gave birth to the text.”  And he is especially excited about his casting of Kathu Ramabulana and Hungani Ndlovu as Moses and Kitsch and Charlie Bouguenon as Mister and the rest.

Pass Over is staged in commemoration of Black History Month and while mainly celebrated in America, Ngcobo believes that the play will inspire South Africans to have the tough conversations around issues  of common interest including police brutality and white supremacy still flourishing long after apartheid.

Khathu Ramabulana and Hungani Ndlovu

It explores the unquestionable human spirit and the resilience of young black men who keep hoping for miracles. Moses and Kitch are struggling to survive on the tough streets of America. It’s a rare piece of politically charged theatre from a bold new American voice, just the kind of fighting spirit we need on stage in these crazy times to get audiences going.

Another project in the  making is a return of Zakes Mda’s brilliant Mother of all Eating directed by Dom Gumede with Vusi Kunene back on stage joined by Thulani Nyembe. It’s a fantastic play for these times and should be a grand face-off between these two acclaimed actors and a welcome return to live theatre.

Corruption heads the issues in this tale set in Lesotho in 1992 which shows just what happens when power is allowed to go unchecked. It plays from March 12 to April 11.

Three online productions start at the same time with Avalon written and performed by Lunga Radebe and directed by Vice Motshabi Monageng (from March 12 to 21) revolving around Sabantu, a young nouveau riche who, desperate to save his mother’s life, takes advice from a traditional prophet to search for his grandmother’s grave in one of South Africa’s largest cemeteries. He is instructed to perform a ritual on the grave, which is meant to remove the black cloud hanging over his family. What seems like quite a straightforward task turns into something much more daunting.

The next one has the provocative title of A Vegan Killed my Marriage written and directed by Craig Freimond who hasn’t worked at The Market for quite some time and stars Aron McElroy. Streaming from March 26 to April 4, it tells the story of James, a meat eating man. He is however plugged into all the scares about meat and the climate catastrophe about to happen. It’s something he tries to ignore but a work trip shakes him out of his comfort zone. He turns vegetarian which turns into vegan which becomes a kind of crusade as this king of the braai, bans all meat from his home and declares it a meat-free zone.

Di a Paro Tsa Mama (My Mother’s Clothes) is written and directed by Rorisang Motuba with performance dates from May 21 to 31.

In line with Ngcobo’spassion for indigenous language plays, this one is set on the eve of their mother’s funeral, with two sisters, aged 23 and 29, sorting through her clothes in search of the perfect outfit to bury her in. Their sensitive nostalgia morphs into harrowing discoveries about death, grief and survival in what promises to be a sensitive piece.

Depending on what happens later in the year, these three might also make their way onto stage.

Another live performance is Rose (previously played by Annabel Linder at Theatre on the Square) starring the sublime Camilla Waldman in a surprise return to the Market stage. It has been quite some time and is also a return to his old stomping ground for previous artistic director Malcolm Purkey, taking the directing reins for this one.

Camilla Waldman

Rose is a survivor. Her remarkable life began in 1920 in a tiny Russian village, took her to Warsaw’s ghettoes and a ship called The Exodus, and finally to the boardwalks of Atlantic City, the Arizona canyons and salsa-flavoured nights in Miami Beach.

It’s described as a sharply drawn portrait of a feisty Jewish woman and a moving reminder of some of the events that shaped the 20th century.

It plays in the John Kani Theatre from April 23 to June 6.

As inspired, later in the year, is a return of Athol Fugard’s Blood Knot directed by Ngcobo with two of the best, Mnedici Shabangu and Elton Landrew. And for the moment, that’s enough to keep theatre enthusiasts smiling.

In A World That Feels Closed, Teksmark Breaks Down Barriers – As The Arts Should

PICTURES: Nardus Engelbrecht

It was the fifth year of the Teksmark (text market) at the end of last month, something originating from Hugo Theart (artistic director: Kunste Onbeperk) and supported by Cornelia Faasen (CEO of the Nasionale Afrikaanse Teater-inisiatief NATi) and Lara Foot (CEO and artistic director  of the Baxter Theatre Centre) – and not even Covid-19 was going to scupper their plans.  Going from strength to strength, this year’s crop of entries exceeded 120, a clear indication that people had time but also the talent to start writing. DIANE DE BEER reports:

Die Sondige Sewe by Niël Rademan
For many this was their first outing to the theatre post Covid-19 and Cape Town’s Baxter (the home of the Teksmark) made surer everyone complied with the rules.
Fortunately, huge crowds are not a necessary part of the deal as the three days pack in mainly the playwright and artists involved, a few producers and possible independent funders, as well as representatives of the different festivals.
A clutch of debut plays are selected for possible further development and short extracts are featured by selected directors and casts. Sometimes the playwright is involved but not always. The most exciting development these past few years has been the inclusion and thus expansion of entries from all the official languages. It has made a huge difference in a country too small to create pockets of the arts. We need the cross-pollination to grow and flourish.
We should all be pulling together but language has always been a stumbling block in the sense of who speaks and understands what and with not many (white folk) who can speak more than two of the 11 official languages.
Two of the comedies from the Suidoosterfees Nati Rising Star Project: Die Workshop by Fabian Rainers (left) and Al Dra ‘n Aap ‘n Goue Ring by Margo Kotzé

But if anyone is going to find a solution, this is the perfect platform and already this year there has been a much stronger push for collaborations. Sometimes a playwright would use three languages to tell a story. In another instance, a gang of playwrights got together to write a play almost in Robert Altman fashion where different sketches are pulled together to make a whole.

It’s just easier to mix and match on every level when this kind of collaboration becomes the norm and for audiences the variety is huge. As much as everyone has their favourite artists, there’s nothing as exciting as a much larger pool to choose from and to witness.
This is a time to move forward and not back. Once the barriers came down, there was an explosion on our stages of new talent. The diversity is to our benefit locally and we could lead the way internationally. This is the way to enrich and enlighten minds by experiencing one another’s stories and the way stories are told.
Covid-19 has been a nightmare for everyone, but if anything has been a certainty in these uncertain times, it is that artists will find inspiration and show us many different ways to move forward.
When one of our top and most prolific playwrights Mike van Graan, for example, collaborates with the likes of Wessel Pretorius and Malika Ndlovu sparks are going to fly. There were six playwrights in all, none of whom had met before when they arrived at the Teksmark.
They had been commissioned by Lara Foot to attempt this way of telling a storie(s) with Van Graan as the one who had to pull everything together with some kind of through-line. They had weekly digital meetings but this was the first time they saw an extract from the work.
The Valley of the Shadow by Qondiswa James, Tankiso Mamabolo, Tiisetso Mashifane, Malika Ndlovu, Wessel Pretorius and Mike van Graan.
The thing I found interesting having read the play, The Valley of the Shadow, without knowing who the writer(s) was – was that I didn’t detect that it was a team effort. Because of the different characters (and that was a clever way to do this kind of collaboration) each story had a specific voice which meant that the writing could organically change from scene to scene.
Playwright Kanye Viljoen’s text was in Afrikaans, English and Xhosa, as she dipped into a Karoo tale familiar to many – a mermaid somewhere in the Meiringspoort environs. It’s a magical South African story with roots in the past (meaning different things to different people in the group) but set in our present and how we can tell stories.
Kanya Viljoen’s multi-lingual Grot
She wanted to uses different languages as would happen in a South African context. Even when you don’t understand everything, it doesn’t land strangely on the ear because it rings true. I have watched many bi-lingual plays at The Market in the past where English was used to tell the story and isiXhosa or isiZulu perhaps to capture more of the culture through the language.
Do you miss out when you don’t understand something? Of course, but perhaps finally in this technological advanced  time, there’s a solution other than just sticking to a universal language – in the South African context, English.
People playing in their own language and those listening is something to experience – still not common in this country. Hopefully, as this kind of writing happens more frequently, someone will find an imaginative fix.
Another language case in point was iNau and ander drama by Jolyn Philips, who brings the lives of three women, Bientang, Narina and Lydia, to share a very particular story of which this particular unfolding makes a strong statement of this time – and more than anything it is about time.
To capture these silenced voices for those who have never been without voice, she sat down after the performance (in which she also participated) and described the toughness of allowing the drama to unfold. It needs to be part of the performance because it explains so much for those who need to hear. It’s a powerful performance and can be described as life-changing without any dramatics.

There was much to praise in all the other selected Teksmark plays including themes of dysfunctional families playing out by using mercy killings (assisted dying) at the heart of the story in Mike van Graan’s What We Wish For; Covid Moons, Clare Stopford’s response to being trapped in a high-security block of flats in Cape Town during the first Level 5  lockdown (the play opens on Friday 20 November and that night is sold out but tickets are available for all other performances from 17-21 November. Book online now at https://artstown.co.za/) and what she achieves is innovative and refreshing; Niël Rademan’s contemporary cabaret Die Sondige Sewe managed to revive a tired and now neglected genre with smart writing and snappy performances with a simplistic execution which benefits the script.

What We Wish For by Mike van Graan

The other magnificent move was the inclusion of a series of plays which formed part of the Suidoosterfees Nati Rising Star Project. As the name implies, these are young playwrights who attended a writing school in the Eastern Cape led by Abduragman Adams through the Jakes Gerwel Foundation.

They dovetailed smartly with the Teksmark and addressed issues such as bullying and sexual predators on the one hand, while on the other there were two delightful comedies; the issue-driven farcical Al Dra ‘n Aap ‘n Goue Ring and Die Workshop, with playwright  Fabian Rainers finding a tongue- in-cheek way to tackle universal issues.

As in previous years, the playwrights keep moving the goalposts for the following year’s  crop – and this time it feels as if a closed world allowed everyone to break down all existing barriers!

Viva the arts!

 

 

 

NATANIЁL – A MAN ON THE MOVE

Nataniel ToegangMany can argue about who suffered (s) most with the appearance of Covid 19 but few will disagree that artists, who make a living by performing to a live audience, have been hit hard. Even the world’s top concert halls are struggling with no end in sight. One of our most prolific artists, Nataniël, tells DIANE DE BEER how he tries to navigate his career during the pandemic:

 

 With NANTES KOOKBOEK finishing this week, Nataniël’s latest series, TOEGANG, starts the following week – but getting that done, as everything else during Covid, was no easy task.

“The series originally planned will hopefully be done next year,” explains the artist. “The concept was a logical follow-up to the series shot in Nantes, to be filmed on the original le Roux farm just outside Kuilsriver.”

Things kept changing but because of lockdown and the necessary protocol, Nataniël  had to do some quick thinking when he realised they had to shoot where they all lived. And that was Pretoria.

“The concept came from being alone in my house for months and realising how simply I actually live and how simple my meals were,” he says. For him, delicious food, made in just one pan, became the limit for for washing-up activities. That sorted the food for the series.

He also realised how many gorgeous buildings in the city would be deserted because of the pandemic, buildings he always wanted to spend time in, but not with the crowds that would usually be there. “So I took my pan and a very small crew and went there.”

Speaking about these lightning-fast changes and the way the series had to be shot, he admitted it suited his way of working. It actually meant a spike in his already high-powered creativity levels. “I loved it. We could do what we wanted, all these fantastic spaces gave us the opportunity to create beautiful scenes, film very dramatic visuals and work without disturbances. KykNET let me be, nobody looked over my shoulder and all the strict rules made me feel safe. I had a tough time with the make-up part, because somebody had to touch me, but I bit my lip and got through it.”

Those who have interviewed Nataniël  will know that getting info about an upcoming programme or concert is like pulling teeth. Not the gist of it, but the detail. He is a man who lives for surprises. When you sit down to watch a programme or enjoy a show, he believes the less you know the better. “I tell nobody about the places we went to, that will be revealed in every episode.”

“Tragically there are no surprises on TV since Oprah left, everything is blurted out for marketing, so there is nothing to look forward to.”

But he reluctantly admits that they work according to themes, every episode has an inspired menu for which he got his ideas from the locations, history, plus his life in isolation. (“Apart from going back on stage now, I am still in lockdown, because I love it. And I will wear the mask for the rest of my life, I look fantastic and it is much cheaper than Botox.”)

nataniel oils2

He also introduces artists who made things for the programmes, including artworks, ceramics, fabrics, prints, jewellery and, of course, some surprises. 

And another secret he allows to slip … Very often a local magazine series get an original theme tune, but there rest comes from a library of canned music. “This time I had the opportunity to write and produce a full soundtrack and be in the studio for all the sessions. (With a mask and bottles of sanitiser!) That was a great experience and fantastic to work with all the musicians after months without performing a single note.”

Shooting locally for the first time in some time following a revamp of the Nantes series, was quite strange. “The European visuals are very filmic, there’s a castle or a cathedral or a museum everywhere you turn and you need to do very little to make a scene beautiful. Also finding props here was a challenge as (at the time) many shops were still closed and nothing new had come into the country for months,” always a Nataniël requirement. He hates introducing and showing things people know.

Looking ahead, Covid has given Nataniël  time to think and make some decisions. “First of all I want to dress more wildly. I realised I am still scared of what people think, but the virus took that away.

Nataniel in full colour
Nataniël in full colour

“I will also stop dumbing down musically because of my fears that the audience will not like complicated or eccentric or sophisticated or unfamiliar songs. At the Woordfees in March I performed a very modern cover song with a very abrupt ending and there was absolute silence afterwards. Then I realised nobody in the audience has heard that song yet, although it was a worldwide hit. So I stopped singing it. During isolation I decided, to hell with that, that song will be back in the new show. Life is too short to compromise.”

It’s about time!

Nataniel gesels

Now he needs to get back on stage which, not surprisingly is what he misses most. “I start with GESELS, my lifestyle talk series, every Saturday in October at the Atterbury Theatre (in Pretoria) starting this coming Saturday. Bookings on iTickets.

“Then in November Charl du Plessis and I will finally do our gala concert to celebrate working together for 20 years.” TWINTIG, the gala Concert with Charl, Sunday November 15 at 3pm in the  Atterbury Theatre. Bookings on iTickets. “In December I will stage a new production, as always.” Bookings will also be on iTickets.

He has also launched the LIVE LIKE N collection of healthy cooking oils which can be ordered at https://liveliken.com/. And a new book (a collection of short stories) will be available in October. 

Nataniël has been working on his blog called SmallCoronation.com, which was quietly released recently. “It is all about simple food in beautiful settings, creating atmosphere. I see it as sharing my personal archive with others with all the food coming from dinners at my house.

“There’s no interaction and talking nonsense with people I do not know, just an online magazine to be looked at with a cup of tea when somebody needs a break. No strange ingredients, no modern techniques, just fun, ideas and hopefully inspiration.

“It will be launched with the TOEGANG series next Monday at 8.30pm on kykNET and the English version of all the recipes will also be available on the blog.”

And if you were wondering  in anticipation about the next memoir…

Nataniel boek

That will have to wait says the author. “Too many of the characters are still alive. And LOOK AT ME (KYK NA MY) still needs to get the attention it deserves. Everything stopped when I had to stop performing and touring.”

But for the moment, the new normal kicks into action and Nataniël in full colour steps into the spotlight with even more than his usual fanfare.

I’ll be watching for those outlandish costumes and outfits as well as the music he really loves to sing … whether they like it or not!

TOEGANG starts on Monday October 5 at 8.30pm on DStv’s kykNET.

It’s Time to Catch up with Some Extraordinary Performances both Local and International – all of them Universal

Kev Mike on beach
Cody Mountain as Kev and Joel Rosenblatt as Mike in Cut-Out Girls

These are tough times and yet for those of us privileged enough to stream and have other entertainment options like DStv, the options of how to pass the time with reading, movies, theatre, documentaries in-between work, are endless.

DIANE DE BEER reviews three of her current favourites:

We have to start with local and I was thrilled to see when Nicola Hanekom’s debut movie Cut-Out Girls appeared on Box-Office (currently at a mere R25 a movie).

Hanekom is one of our most exciting theatre director/writers who has recently also moved into television and now film, with this, her first feature film. In interviews she explains that she first wrote it as a play, specifically for young actors she was working with at the time.

The audience reaction  was so unexpected (it’s a story about date rape), that she decided it needed a wider audience, and in this instance a film. These are debut film roles for all the youngsters. That’s amazing! And they had to do crowdfunding to make it all happen.

Rape is such a scourge in this country that we are all duty bound to talk about it. Even with this pandemic, around the world, abuse is a huge problem because so many people cannot deal with this kind of pressure and violence is their own release.

And with the young, the world we live in now, it’s not that everyone has to live scared, but they have to live smart. We have to know the dangers out there and how to keep ourselves safe – women and especially young women, who don’t yet have their cynicism radars working fulltime, have to be vigilant.

I remember Redi Thlabi in her book Endings and Beginnings writing about being scared when walking to school at the age of 11, highlighting the parallel universes we live in. Nevertheless, we’re all vulnerable and what Hanekom’s exposé uncovers so smartly, are the monsters within.

It is sometimes the boy next door, the tennis star, the popular personality at school who feels entitled. Because danger is something we live with in this world, we sometimes forget when we have to be on our guard. And this is the aspect Hanekom spotlights.

Being both writer and director and informed by an intimate knowledge of the cast, she could work smartly with a small budget. You certainly don’t feel short-changed and the performances are beautifully balanced.

It’s a film of our time, speaks to both young and old and extends the reach of one of our most innovative artists.

Harriet starring Cynthia Erivo
Harriet starring a powerful Cynthia Erivo

Another film I was keen to see, is also part of the Box-Office collection. Cynthia Erivo stars as Harriet Tubman in Harriet, the woman who not only escapes from slavery herself, but also freed many slaves as part of the underground railroad, a perilous freedom endeavour of that time.

At some point, Harriet says people should not be owned by other people, a sentence that is so obvious yet so ignored – even today – still. That’s why these stories are so important. This is also the time when the people affected (still today) by these abominations are the ones telling the stories. That makes a huge difference in both tone and authenticity.

And for this one specifically, Cynthia Erivo’s performance is epic. She was rewarded with the ONLY Oscar nomination for an actor of colour and also for the best original song, which she both co-wrote and performed. She’s a remarkable talent both as actor and singer. She has a strength of character and a powerful presence, which served the character well and her voice has a quality that stops you in your tracks.

Her rewards have been well deserved and this following huge controversy because she was a British actor playing an American character – but she proved them wrong and hopefully people were big enough to concede and witness her prowess.

The story is a great one but there are problems with the way the story was told – just clumsy and sometimes with too little subtlety and sensitivity. One would think it is a story that almost tells itself especially with Erivo as your talisman.

But it remains a story worthy of your time and money.

NT Doon Mackichan (Feste) Tamsin Greig (Malvolia). Picture Marc Brenner
Doon Mackichan (Feste) and Tamsin Greig (Malvolia). Picture Marc Brenner

Last on the list is the latest NT Live streaming of 12th Night with Tamsin Greig as the main attraction. But she says herself, this is an ensemble cast as anyone familiar with this Shakespeare comedy will recognise. And while this is a matter of confusingly mistaken and hidden identity throughout, with director Simon Godwin’s gender-fluid production, you really have to keep your wits about you.

Greig is cast as Malvolio (or in this case Malvolia) and hers is the performance on which the play hangs. Not only is the gender switch in these times fun to watch and navigate but with a play that is a dialogue between order and disorder, puritanism and revelry, and finally, control and fear with terror the driver of control, another contemporary evil.

That is how the director viewed it says Greig in an interview which is useful to watch (even with a few spoilers) before getting into the play itself. It’s also part of the NT Live stable on YouTube and easy to find.

We have had our own innovative 12th Night (a Clare Stopford production in 1998 with amongst others Langley Kirkwood, Isadora Verwey, David Dennis and Bo Peterson) and it is a play that lends itself to interpretation as you heighten both the comic and tragic effects at will.

NT Phoebe Fox as Olivia second from the right. Picture Marc Brenner
Phoebe Fox as Olivia second from the right with her entourage. Picture Marc Brenner

This being a first class British cast with some exceptional performances, a set that enhances the fast flow of the story, some excellent songs with a brilliant burlesque interlude stuck in between, Shakespeare can hardly be more contemporary. Just check a striking ensemble stepping out in their 21st Century ubiquitous veils.

It’s sassy and smart with as much laughter as there’s food for thought in a time when gender fluidity and identity could not be more centre stage. It’s exactly where we are now as Shakespeare in his constantly shows us: the more it changes, the more it stays the same.

Catch it on NT Live on YouTube until Thursday at 8pm when Frankenstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch follows. Don’t miss that either.

 

 

The Klein Karoo Arts Festival Cancelled Because Of the COVID-19 Pandemic

KKNK Dis 8.Waldi en Brendon en kat
Waldimar Schultz and Brendon Daniels and the cat in Dis 20h15.

Unfortunately the KKNK Festival (promoted in story below) has been cancelled because of the COVID-19 Pandemic with all the Festival heads meeting shortly to find innovative ways forward for the arts. Watch this space….

The story below is no longer valid…

The Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (March 23 to 29)  has made sure that their entertainment package packs real punch. DIANE DE BEER picks a few favourites:

Nicola Hanekom is back at the festival with one of her fearless yet fantastic site-specific pieces Mirre en Aalwyn. She is well known for her work in this genre with her site-specific trilogy (Babel, Lot and Betésda) as well as the harrowing Land van Skedels, which had great success at the KKNK in the past. Vinette Ebrahim, Amalia Uys, Kenley Swart and Hanekom regular Grethe Brazelle star in this much anticipated production set in a dilapidated house just outside Oudtshoorn. Jessie returns to her parents’ home after an absence of many years with magical ideas and confrontation in her heart. During her visit, the family learns hair-raising things about her. Her way of looking at the world upsets the status quo.

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset
Tinarie van Wyk Loots and Brendon Daniels in Opdrifsel.

Opdrifsel, a new script, written and directed by Philip Rademeyer, features Tinarie van Wyk Loots and Brendon Daniels as a couple dealing with the death of their teenage son. They grieve in different ways and battle to understand one another. They have many questions but few answers. There are regrets, accusations, anger, heartache and closed doors. Mainly it is about a couple who are overwhelmed by their sorrow and have to find a way out and forward.

It is so worth watching Rehane Abrahams in in Brandbaar, a translation of her previously performed Womb of Fire. Accompanied in song by Lukhanyiso Skosana, it is a complicated but intriguing text that has to be experienced and explored. It’s about roots as told through different women with complicated backgrounds who find themselves in a world where their whole being in all its fullness is ignored. Directed by Sara Matchett, it is an extraordinary performance.

“We’re looking for the perfect coloureds for the future,” reads the headline in Die Son. Everyone is searching for a place where race and identity aren’t a priority and where you are seen as an individual and not the middle child. Starring Stephren Saayman, Jurgen McEwan, René Cloete, Shamim Gallie, Cole Wessels en Eldine Beukes, Dankie, maar nee dankie! has fun with the issues that dominate so many lives.

KKNK Die vermoeienis van vlerke
Die vermoeienis van vlerke with André Roothman, Chris Gxalaba and Henriëtta Gryfenberg.

Die Vermoeienis van Vlerke: is a translation of Lara Foot’s successful The Inconvenience of Wings which deals with the impact of disabling mood disabilities on friendships and family, directed by the luminous Sylvaine Strike and starring Henriëtta Gryfenberg, André Roothman and Chris Gxalaba in an exciting re-interpretation of this provocative play.

KKNK Wit Isse Colour 2
Ashwin Arendse in Wit Isse Colour directed by Jason Jacobs.

Wit Isse Colour: with writers Ronelda S Kampher and Nathan Trantraal and Jason Jacobs as director, brace yourself for some edgy brilliance. The script is based on Trantraal’s experiences and daily encounters as well as stories from published work in which everything from toxic masculinity to a re-imagined history of Autshumao and Jan van Riebeeck is explored.

Following their first successful outing, Brendon Daniels and Waldemar Schultz in their roles as Francois and Pieter, are planning a bank robbery in Dis 20h15. The problem to begin with is that they don’t know where to start! Pieter involves the worst character he knows, Billy from Cash Invaders, to help with their seemingly failed scheme. Will they pull it off? Will they find a bank? Will it be one they can rob? In this their second outing following Road Trip, let’s see if they can again capture the cameraderie.

KKNK Karatara Shaun Oelf (sitting), Grant van Ster (looming) and Dean Balie as narrator
Karatara with Shaun Oelf (sitting), Grant van Ster (looming) and Dean Balie as narrator.

Karatara, a physical theatre piece with Dean Balie, Shaun Oelf and Grant van Ster was one of my favourites at last year’s Teksmark. Based on the Knysna fires of 2018, it tells the story in dance and drama of a community’s loss. It’s a searing production presented in an excitingly novel way, very accessible yet charged with energy and emotion. A true gem which also explores the imprint of social media, interpersonal relationships, politics, history and the consequences of apartheid. The text is by Wilken Calitz and Shaun Oelf with choreography by Figure of 8 Dance Collective. Gideon Lombard is the director.

KKNK Kraai Wian Taljaard, Stian Bam, Wynand Kotze, Karli Heine
Kraai with Wian Taljaard, Stian Bam, Wynand Kotze, and Karli Heine.

Kraai is a Wessel Pretorius translated and adapted text by prolific and exciting playwright Mike Bartlett. Starring Wian Taljaard, Wynand Kotze, Karli Heine and Stian Bam, the story deals with Johan who decides to take a break from his boyfriend and then meets the woman of his dreams. He brings them all together to test his real feelings. It sounds both hysterical and explosive, the right ingredients for a blow-up.

KKNK Anna-Mart van der Merwe in Terminaal 3
Anna-Mart van der Merwe in Terminaal 3.

Terminaal 3 stars Edwin van der Walt, Anna-Mart van der Merwe, André Roothman, Carla Smith and Stian Bam in this Marthinus Basson-directed and -translated text by Lars Norén, who is regarded as the greatest Swedish playwright since Strindberg. The action is set in a hospital’s waiting room where a young couple are expecting their first-born, while a divorced older couple are waiting to identify the body of their 19-year-old child. The spotlight shines on self-interest and the damage that inflicts on children.

KKNK Zolani Mahola in The One Who Sings
Zolani Mahola in The One Who Sings

Following her soulful performance as an encore with Yo-Yo Ma at Kirstenbosch recently, Zolani Mahola directed by Faniswa Yisa performs in the The One Who Sings. She tells her personal story of growing up in the Eastern Cape during the ‘80s, a world of exclusion and moving into a more inclusive world in the ‘90s as she starts her professional career. It combines storytelling and song as just this extraordinary voice can achieve.

KKNK Waterbrief Minke Marais
Waterbrief with Minke Marais

Minke Marais stars in the other-worldly text Waterbrief by Nico Scheepers and tells the story of Nina captured in the montage of her family who will be torn apart without her presence. Enveloped in the blue and white tiles of the swimming pool where she dives, she is drifting – everywhere and nowhere – as she watches her family in distress.

And for those who haven’t seen the much praised Tienduisend Ton, Kamphoer, and Queenie Hulle, they should top the list.

There’s much to recommend in other genres which have to be explored, but something that caught my attention is the David Piedt Conversations. He has a long history with the KKNK and has this year been honoured for his innovative contributions by Kunste Onbeperk, but the more hidden side of this Klein Karoo native is his transformative journey from bitter and challenging political activist to someone who practices forgiveness and reconciliation in his own life as well as on a more public platform. He believes his involvement with the KKNK and as such the arts and Afrikaans, played a huge role.

In conjunction with the Mayo Angelo philosophy: “the greatest tragedy in life is untold stories”, this conversational series aims to create an intimate space where people can listen to one another’s stories and contribute to the cohesion of the democratic South African tapestry.

These conversations start with Piedt and his wife Marjorie who share their emotional history and their personal life’s journey. This is followed with conversations by other Oudtshoorn inhabitants and is set against the backdrop of their experience during apartheid and how that influenced and impacted on their decisions, choices and way of being in the world post 1994.

Ivor Price will lead the discussions.

 There’s also an extremely strong and diverse music programme

And probably the two highlights will be two performances in the Cango Caves, a rare occurrence.

KKNK Karen ZoidFirst will be Karen Zoid Unplugged on March 27, an acoustic performance with guitarist Henry Steel and on March 28 Steinway pianist Charl du Plessis will be playing selections from his first solo album Freehand as well as the music of Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Beethoven and Bach.

This hasn’t happened in 24 years, which won’t happen any time soon – if ever.

KKNK Charl du Plessis

Du Plessis will be the first pianist to present a performance on a Steinway in the Caves on International Piano Day. Strict rules will be applied to avoid any damage to this historical site and for Du Plessis, it is a dream come true. “The space, the acoustics, the darkness and the sounds that will embrace everyone!”

Karen Zoid agrees: “I feel very privileged to perform in the exquisite, historical treasure. Not everyone can say they have performed in a cave!”

 

Go to www.kknk.co.za and check the full programme for your own selection.