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!


Festivals, each one of them, are their own creatures. They’re put together in a way that hopes to attract audiences and once they’re there, will feed and nourish them in many different ways. That’s exactly what this year’s Klein  Karoo National Festival achieved and here are just a handful of reasons why. DIANE DE BEER gives her impressions of some of the best:

Pictures: Hans van der Veen

Picture (above) capturing the Karoo by Fahiem Stellenboom.

First the music productions:

Stylish simplicity of Woordmusiek staging.

Woordmusiek: One of the toughest  things is to keep a stage/performance career going. Coenie de Villiers knows this.

Stylish simplicity of Woordmusiek staging. (Van der Veen)

Especially on the music side. Even if someone like De Villiers is hugely popular, his music part of the Afrikaans lexicon, and his performance style slick and always smartly rehearsed.

It’s quite something to keep reinventing yourself, however. How long will an audience keep listening to the same songs done in exactly the same style and presentation?

Coenie de Villiers (Van der Veen)

De Villiers has always had the key to renewal: collaboration. And while that can also work against you because it can be seen as too gimmicky, he has the musical and performance nous to make it work – and in this instance, brilliantly.

With this one, he decided to focus on his lyrics. He cleverly invited three of our top actors, all with distinct voices – Jana Cilliers, Vinette Ebrahim and Antoinette Kellermann – to read his lyrics as if poems, which they are when done in this way. And in between, he performed his music, some with, and others without song.

Voices that opened vistas.

The staging was stylish without any frills, and guitar genius Mauritz Lotz provided another musical element – and voila, it was a sublime performance with not a note or sound out of place.

Anders/Eenders: a musical ensemble that sparkled. Each individual performer had his/her own style and together, they blend and cook musically.

There’s the superb songbird Sima Mashazi with the extraordinary voice and stage presence; African guitar genius Louis Mhlanga who is as gentle as his music is glorious; the exuberant Riaan van Rensburg on percussion; keyboard king Ramon Alexander; and brilliant producer/bass Schalk Joubert who always looks as if he is enjoying making music while finding the best sounds.

The fact that they all compose and perform their own music adds to the special sound they create as a group. It is the best of who we are, with music that covers the spectrum and tells stories that criss-crosses the country and holds us all together.

You walk out of there overwhelmed and bouncing with African rhythms. It’s a blast and so much part of the South African fabric.

Kanna for Best Presentation – music, sponsored by Castle Lager: Ver innie wêreld Kittie ; Kanna for Best Ensemble, sponsored by Kunste Onbeperk; Ver innie wêreld Kittie

Ver Innie Wêreld Kittie: It might be an intimate setting, but it’s a huge story with heart  – and one of David Kramer’s best. I loved the intimacy of the staging with only four dazzling actors/singers (Dean Balie, Rushney Ferguson, Jenny Stead and André Terblanche) and two musicians, Nick Turner and Yvan Potts.

In 1952, Doris Day and Frankie Lane had a hit with Sugarbush, which was apparently written by Josef Marais (the stage name of Joseph Pessach). Marais and his wife Rosa de Miranda became hugely successful in the US as a folk duo who sang Afrikaans songs translated by Marais into English.

Back home and much later, Kramer hears about Marais’s talent because these two musos both grew up in Worcester. But no one remembers Marais, except Renaye Kramer’s aunt Lily Lange who was courted in her youth by Pessach, who wasn’t considered a good enough catch by the family.

From left: , Jenny Stead , dean Balie, Rushney Ferguson, André Terblanche with David and KKNK Ce=EO Hugo Theart.

Weaving all these stories together, Kramer adds meat to the story by telling a tale of appropriation, something which has long been a problem on especially the African continent. The performers, the staging, the story, the words, used very sparsely but specifically, and the way Kramer tells the story, all contribute to a magical musical affair.

As usual, Kramer has excelled in the casting, with this quartet bursting with talent. And keeping it small, hopefully this one will travel far and wide. It’s a universal story told with heartiness and honesty by performers who are world class.

And then theatre:

Kanna for Best Interpretation, sponsored by Wicus Pretorius: Dawid Minnaar – Mirakel

Dawid Minnaar in a delicious performance with a brave Bettie Kemp who sailed through the play brilliantly as a last-minute replacement.

I have to start with Reza de Wet’s Mirakel ,directed by by her close friend Marthinus Basson. This has always been a stage match made in heaven.

But I hadn’t realised that this was a play I had never seen – and what a delight with a darkness captured in the script. De Wet can be quite melancholy with stories that tear you apart as she scratches around in the psyche of her people.

The cast of Mirakel with a fully cooked dinner including roast lamb … every performance!

But here she looks at a theatrical touring group with a much more gentle eye as she captures all the stereotypes in what can be a very melodramatic world. All the world’s a stage and nowhere is this more true than here.

And Basson’s first masterstroke was the casting. Dawid Minnaar’s performance sets the tone and gives free rein to the rest of the cast as they all swing into over-the-top storytelling that will have you in stitches.

But what lingers is the toughness that is here hidden by play, the struggle to practise something that brings pleasure. The way we regard and value our artists and allow them the space to breathe and to grow. All of which in the long run will bring huge rewards.

I hope this can travel all over and play as many runs as can possibly be imagined. If ever you want to flee the problems of the present, this is where you want to go. It’s fun, it sketches a world we are all familiar with but perhaps not often part of and it allows the actors to go at it full tilt – and no one does it quite as deliciously and with so much relish (one can almost see him smacking his lips as he enters the stage) as Minnaar.

This is one I will cherish for a long time as the depth of what De Wet wanted us to contemplate lingers.

Kanna for Best Design and Technical Contribution, sponsored by Herotel: Craig Leo and Neil Coppen for the concept and design of Droomkraan Kronieke; For a second year running and deservedly so Herrie Prize for innovation or ground-breaking work, sponsored by Kunste Onbeperk: Karoo Kaarte

The enchanting cast of Droomkraan Kronieke stole hearts and more.

And as with Mirakel, similar things can be said of Karoo Kaarte’s Droomkraan Kronieke.

If anyone were wondering about the viability and sustainability of this dream project driven by Neil Coppen and Vaughn Sadie, they simply had to witness the leap this team has made in just a year following last year’s Op Hierdie Dag, which also received much praise, seven nominations and a win for artist Marinda Ntantiso.

This time they were aided by internationally renowned puppet master Craig Leo as well as actor Carlo Daniels, and the full team of actors worked much more in a cohesive unit, than the previous time.

It was a fun, emotionally fulfilling and rewarding experience as the actors displayed their performance skills, exuberance and energy and their growth in professional approach and execution.

This is a production that will play anywhere without any explanation needed of where they come from and who they are. That’s simply embellishment and heightens the admiration one feels for what they have achieved and the lives that are changed. Both for those performing and watching.

I wrote a huge piece on Karoo Kaarte last year (check for it in my blog if you want background), but it should also stand as a blueprint of how to make a festival (or any event) inclusive in an attempt to upend the status quo.

What Droomkraan Kronieke achieves more than anything else is to show and point to the potential right in front of our eyes and what happens when two artists (with the help of gracious donors and many other hands) can achieve with a community that has previously been held back and not given the opportunities.

Kanna for Best Director, sponsored by the ATKV Nicola Hanekom – Mirre en aalwyn; Kanna for Best Presentation – theatre, sponsored by the Het Jan Marais Nationale FondsMirre en aalwyn; Kanna for Best Literary Contribution, sponsored by NATi; Nicola Hanekom – Mirre en aalwyn (original script).

Leading the way, a heartbreaking performance by Amalia Uys.

Finally, Nicola Hanekom is back with yet another of her shattering site-specific pieces Mirre en Aalwyn, and as always she’s tuned into the zeitgeist, with abuse the one issue that has for many years grabbed the headlines. More  than ever, it is critical in communities worldwide and in South Africa in particular.

There’s hardly a woman who reaches adulthood who cannot speak of an incident and often worse that can be ticked off as abuse. (If anyone heard Trump’s recent monstrous ramblings, that says it all). And instead of things improving and more people taking up the cause, it’s as if people turn their heads away and ignore those talking too loudly.

Elzabé Zietsman is doing the festival circuit with her devastating solo Femme is Fatale and now Hanekom has also stepped into the arena with a piece that doesn’t flinch as they go full on to investigate this scourge in especially women’s lives.

And in this instance where it besets families and the women have no protection, no one to turn to, no positive role models, it’s almost as if they turn on themselves. It’s the only thing of value they have to display and that’s where they go. And to add to the dilemma, they have found a voice in social media where everything is amplified, not always in especially the vicitms’s interest.

Oudtshoorn with its spectacular weather and environment offers the perfect canvas and Hanekom has refined this gloves-off type of approach when dealing with tough topics.

Her cast, always handpicked with great care, tell a story that audiences have to hear, and Hanekom introduces enough darkness and light to hold the attention and make the most explosive impact.

If you don’t leave this one shattered, think again.

And watch out, it might be difficult to play somewhere else because it is site-specific, but when there’s a will, there’s a way. And for this one, that’s how it should be.

Until next year, meanwhile there’s the Karoo Klassique from 4 to 7 August later this year. Also check the next story on the fabulous art.


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?


Daniel Geddes Pictures: Odette Putzier

After much acclaim, following it’s London debut with Jack Holden, and then a Joburg run starring local actor Daniel Geddes, Cruise, heads for Cape Town for a short season (April 12 to 30) at the Homecoming Centre (formerly The Fugard Theatre). DIANE DE BEER chatted to the British playwright/actor about the play and the handing over of this his first stage-produced play, which he had both written and starred in back home:

It was as if all the stars aligned for actor/playwright Jack Holden with the creative processes surrounding his first play Cruise, which is having its second local run in Cape Town this month.

Jack Holden in Cruise

“I had the idea of the show for a while, for many years actually. It was based on a phone call I heard while I was volunteering for Switchboard, an LGB+ helpline here in the UK. I took that call in 2013. 

“The story struck me as so moving and powerful and life-affirming that I knew I needed to tell it someday, somehow, and it was only in the pandemic when I was locked down at home with nothing else to do, I finally got on and did it. So in that sense it saved me because it really gave me a focus during the first lockdown here,” he explained.

But the writing only started in 2020. He thinks that it might have had something to do with the context of sitting with another epidemic, Covid, that made him reflect upon the sort of fear and terror that the gay community must have gone through in the UK especially, with the 1980’s HIV and AIDS. (It was more widespread in South Africa, affecting more communities).

A lot of the research about Soho where the play is set was quite easy to do online. But, he explains, “the stuff that gave the show the texture that I think makes it sing, are the interviews I did with some older gay friends that I’m lucky to have. I asked them about their time in Soho in the 1980s. Neither of them claimed to be seen kids, but they had memories which were incredibly useful, and gave so much texture to the piece. “

Initially he thought it might be a short film, but then he thought, no, be ambitious. “I also predicted that when theatres reopen after the pandemic, they are probably not going to put on massive shows, so if I can make it a solo show, that would be great. I’d performed a few monologues of other people’s writing previously in my career, so I knew I could do it and I wanted to do a show with John Patrick Elliott doing the music again.”

Daniel Geddes in Cruise.

They had worked together before and again with great foresight, Jack’s thinking was about producing a show that would land with a huge bang.

“I have a very strange relationship with the pandemic. At the start of the pandemic, I thought my career was over and at the end of it, my career was better than it had ever been, so it was a weird time.”

Theirs was the first play to open in the West End and the first new play as well. “I think people were so hungry for the live experience and Cruise is loud and brash and all of those things. I think because it’s such an ultra-high-octane live experience, people were so receptive to it, so emotional behind their medical masks, that it landed well,” which was also the intent.

From the start, the writing of it, once he got in a room with John, was actually very quick, because it was always going to be only one actor (Jack) with the DJ (John), which meant he would be playing all the parts, which also provided certain limitations. They knew it would be roughly 90 minutes straight through and he wanted it to be an odyssey that bounces around all the bars and clubs and pubs of Soho. “It’s quite a classic hero’s journey that he had to go on,” he says.

Primarily he was trying to  create something that would entertain people and he doesn’t think entertainment has to be light all the time. In fact, he argues that entertainment is better if there’s a bit of darkness, a bit of sadness mixed in there, a bit of humanity that lifts the lightness and makes it even more delicious.

“I was hoping to entertain people and as I was taking on the subject of HIV and AIDS in the 1980’s, I obviously wanted the piece to feel authentic. And that was the scariest thing which only surfaced when I got to performances. I suddenly thought this could be high risk, I could have judged this wrong.”

But he had gone about the whole process in a very thoughtful way. His research was thorough and he talked to the right people with good people surrounding him who told him if something wasn’t ringing true. “And indeed, in rehearsals we had several changes and bits to cut.”

 He also wanted to dive into the music of the era which hugely adds to the entertainment element of the piece. “I love ’80s music. It can be really, really good and it can also be really, really bad and I wanted to play with that. There’s been a real moment of ‘80s nostalgia, so I thought it would do really well.

“I wanted the music to be in the DNA of the play and that‘s why I worked so closely with John. I brought a few pages of text to our first workshop and he brought samples of ‘80s music. And we started mixing it together. That means the show has musicality in its veins. I love traditional shows and when it works it absolutely blows me away, but there’s no shame in putting on a show and entertaining people.

“We have so many tools at our disposal in theatre; sound, light, music, smoke, movement. And especially with a solo show, you don’t have to use all of those, but I really wanted to. I never dared to hope that the show would get as big as it did.”

Because he is dealing with something in the past, yet in a strange way linked to our present circumstances, the content has huge impact. It’s obviously been written with performance and watchability in mind. Jack has a great way with words with the text written as a kind of rhythmic monologue interspersed with music, which also passes on the message. It holds your attention throughout.

And then there’s Daniel  and the local production. Jack was surprised that South Africa was the first outside of the UK to stage Cruise, “but I was also cheered by it and love it. Obviously South Africa’s history with HIV and AIDS is well known, so on that front it struck me as completely logical.

“I loved watching the South African production. It was surreal watching someone else performing Jack (me) performing the show. It was quite a mind-bending experience and really informative to see how the show can be interpreted in different ways.

“And yes, humbling. It’s not just me who can do this, other actors can do this, so I’m really thrilled that it’s getting another life. I’m so pleased about the Cape Town run, because they really deserve another go at it,” he concludes.


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.



Fences with Troy (Tumisho Masha, left) holding court, Hlomla Dandala (Lyons, Troy’s son from a previous relationship) , Lunga Radebe (far right, Jim Bono; Troy’s best friend) with Khutjo Green as Troy’s wife Rose and Sbusiso Mamba as his brother Gabriel, looking on.


FENCES by August Wilson

DIECTOR: Ricardo Kahn


CAST: Tumisho Masha (Troy, head of the family), Khutjo Green (his wife Rose), Atandwa Kani (their son Cory), Sbusiso Mamba (Troy’s brother Gabriel), Lunga Radebe (his best friend Jim Bono), Hlomla Dandala (Lyons, a son from a previous relationship) and Itumeleng Ngxakazi (daughter Raynell)

SET DESIGNER: Sarah Roberts




VENUE: Nelson Mandela at the Joburg Theatre

DATES: Until February 26

TIMES: Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 11am; from Wednesday to Saturday at 7.30pm; and Sundays at 3pm

Many of us feel that every production we attend  is an event. No one had any doubt about this at the Sunday afternoon opening of Fences with the theme on the invite stating retro ‘50s and the audience coming out to play – BIG TIME.

They were obviously in the mood and the foyer was buzzing. They had stepped delightfully into their magnificent 50-style glad rags and set the pace for what was about to unfold on stage.

Fences with Tumisho Masha as Troy and Hlomla Dandala as Lyons.

And that’s part of the festivities with this kind of opening – the people. I’ve seen enough international productions to know that you probably won’t find our unique audiences anywhere else in the world. They’re there to listen but also to participate. In different parts of the auditorium, you will have your own special chorus who will usually add rather than detract from the production.

On this day, we were blessed with a sassy group of women who were happy to speak their minds, leaving no doubt about their feelings while warmly embracing what was happening on stage.

And with reason. There might have been hiccups with the initial casting, with Kani snr sadly having to step aside because of medical reasons from which he will recover, he says. Yet it is the strength of the ensemble that inhabits this Wilson play that takes your breath away.

You simply have to look at the cast or, if you’re unfamiliar with their names, check their credentials and experience, to know that they will pull it off. And they did and in this instance with no weak links. In the hands of an American director who is steeped in the August Wilson tradition, his intimate knowledge of the people, the time and the place, where and when Fences is set, is obvious.

Fences with Sbusiso Mamba as brother Gabriel with Tumisho Masha as Troy .

Not only does the American accent lie gently on the cast’s tongues, they truly play as if to the manner born, which allows everything and everyone to concentrate on honouring this extraordinary play.

From the Roberts set (as the lights and multi-media come into play) – one that embraces and draws the audience into even this huge auditorium – to the lightness of touch when dealing with the complicated relationships in families, perfection is deftly accomplished.

Wilson often deals in dreams cherished and then dashed in a community that against all odds still has hope that its desires will be met. Here a father lashes out at his sons in a way that curtails and sometimes crushes their dreams, and plays fast and loose with those closest to him in a way that can only spell disaster.

And while this is a story set in the middle of the last century, it has as much relevance today (sadly) as it did then. Similar scenarios are still unravelling families and their hoped-for futures.

If all of this seems just too dire to witness, it is a grand celebration of performances from some of our best actors in a play that allows them to shine individually and as a group.

Fences with Atandwa Kani as the son Cory and his father (Tumisho Masha) in confrontation.

Starring Masha (who many might recognise as a past Top Billing presenter) as the central character of the father, a man so crippled by his past that he finds it difficult to encourage others to try for the best, he plays some of those long speeches with such a natural air it’s difficult not to engage with his plight, the way he has chosen to deal with it and destroy even more lives by his actions.

As the only woman, Green (looking on in above picture) has no problems establishing a presence as a woman of substance – someone you don’t want to mess with. She’s there for her men and, if allowed would probably get the family moving in spite of hardship.

Kani Jnr as the youthfull Cory, a son with stars in his eyes, has a bounce in his step and his delivery marvellously captures the energy of someone on the brink of a life, while Mamba as the hapless Grabriel probably has one of the toughest hurdles in a role that almost begs an actor to steal the show. But he plays with the necessary pathos to honour the man and the story being told.

Dandala and Radebe also make their moments count with the young Ngxakazi making an auspicious debut surrounded by this veteran cast.

It is a story that niggles and nourishes. With August Wilson described as the “theatre’s poet of black America”, director and cast have pulled together a production to remember while presenting a fantastic start to a season of Wilson plays in the coming years.

Next up is The Piano Lesson which recently had rave reviews for its revival with Samuel L Jackson and John David Washington.

Don’t miss out on our own fantastic revival with a cast that bristles.


PICTURES: Nardus Engelbrecht



Translated and adapted into Afrikaans from Duncan MacMillan’s Lungs by director Nico Scheepers

CAST: Cintaine Schutte and Albert Pretorius

VENUE: Mannie Manim at the Market

DATES: Until February 5 (Tuesday – Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 3pm)

It’s almost dizzying to keep up with the minds and meanderings of a young couple who start their conversation about having a child while shopping in Makro.

“Did you have to do it here?” asks the woman, who is obviously flustered by  what she considers to be a full catastrophe, which has just been dropped into her world by her partner.

He on the other hand, calm and mostly collected, or probably simply laid-back, was making conversation.

But at breakneck speed they’re off, because having a baby when you’re dealing with two people who are also thinking about the world and their impact in and on it, clearly is no easy route to navigate.

And that’s precisely where the title slips into the equation. But between these two, it’s all about their conversation, the way they view the world and the way they present it to one another. He has an upfront approach, no frills, simply stated, almost matter of fact, whether its about his new corporate job, which boots him into adult life for the first time, or whether he should go for a run.

For her, it’s jump right in, talk before think and loudly put out every crazy thought that might pop into her head. Usually it’s those ideas that most people have, but never say for others to hear, while she just lets it all out and only when seeing the reaction, tries to smooth things over.

 For her, it’s fine letting him know that she hates his parents. Doesn’t he? But when he talks about hers, she’s completely taken aback.

It’s a snapshot of the life of two human beings with similar hopes and dreams, yet no matter what the intent, their way of getting there is vastly different.

We all know love should be enough, but relationships are messy animals that have to be trained and exercised and even then, it’s a miracle if things work out.

What the playwright has done in the writing is set the tone for the piece as he jumps smartly with timelines while unfolding these lives. With director Scheepers perfectly picking up the pace, which is what really determines the ebb and flow of the piece, it’s an exhilarating experience for both players and audience.

Schutte is mesmerising in a magnetic performance that never lags and is constantly overwhelming in its intensity and innovative execution. She laughs, smiles, screams and cries in the matter of moments, because her world is driven by fiery emotions. Every arch of her eyes, sudden movement, a silence that is brought on unexpectedly, is carefully thought through and choreographed.

She has made the part her own and draws you into a life that is familiar but rarely plays out so publicly. Hers is the role of a lifetime and she’s embraced it with her whole being, magnificently.

But she needs Pretorius’s more gentle approach, his character’s humour and frailty, as the foil to her more explosive character for the whole to coalesce,  which it does brilliantly.

It’s joyous and sad, witty yet wise, in your face yet delightfully wistful seemingly all at once and without labouring any points or pushing any agendas. It bears witness to two lives which have bumped into one another and are pushing for a conclusion which will make sense and hopefully bring happiness to the two souls so desperately trying to make things work.

It will make your head spin – delightfully!



The multi-award winning production Tien Duisend Ton is coming to the Market Theatre from 19 January to 5 February. Presented by Carel Nel, the SU Woordfees and the Market Theatre, Tien Duisend Ton has been translated into Afrikaans (from Lungs by Duncan MacMillan) and directed brilliantly by Nico Scheepers. Two of South Africas foremost young talents, Albert Pretorius and Cintaine Schutte, star as a couple seriously considering procreation in the face of imminent extinction. DIANE DE BEER finds out more about the production:

Tien Duisend Ton is an incredibly moving, funny and fast-paced production which was first staged at the SU Woordfees pre-Covid and now returns with a season which has been impacted by the pandemic in different ways.

Initially, producer Karel Nel was looking for a one- or two-hander and spoke to impressarios Hennie van Greunen and Pedro Kruger about possible plays. Hennie told him about Lungs. “I bought it online, read it and lost my heart to the story.”

He describes it as a universal love story about having children and the things you grapple with when thinking about having children. It all happened around his wedding to actress Cintaine Schutte, which made the play even more right. He immediately bought the Afrikaans rights.

The couple approached Nico Scheepers, a dear friend of theirs, and also a good director and translator. Carel and Cintaine had done a play called Fliek with Nico as director in 2017. “It didn’t feel like work,” explains Carel, “it was just like friends coming together, having fun and creating amazing theatre.”

At the start, Tien Duisend Ton was earmarked for Carel and Cintaine to give them both work. Their proposal was accepted by the Woordfees and starter money was given. Just before the beginning of the festival, Carel got a very big international television series and he had to pull out of his own play.

“I had no choice because of financial reasons.” And the irony of pulling out of his own play wasn’t lost on him, but he thought about his best actor choice to replace him and Albert Pretorius popped into his head.

“They always say plays cast themselves and this is exactly what happened in this case, it was actually meant to happen. They are both unbelievable actors, both have won many awards, and are two of our finest actors in any language.”

It was indeed a match made in heaven! They actually went to a matric dance together in 2007, so they’ve known each other since high school, and have been very good friends since then.

They both have experience across the board being regular stage performers as well as television and film actors, Cintaine regularly features on magazine covers, and both of them are audience favourites and considered of the most exciting talents in the business.

They are two of my favourite people and I am always excited to see them in new work. They come with unexpected performances, show constant growth, which is my benchmark and all an audience can wish for – to be constantly challenged.

The target audience for this play is anyone from the age of 16. Even if you don’t have children, the issues include grappling with climate change, whether it is ethically right to bring more kids into the world, what we as human beings are doing to the earth, is it sustainable and what life would be like for future generations.

All are universal themes and a question that any age group would tackle and as Carel argues, has become even more relevant following the Covid pandemic, which we’ve just been through. “We were doing the play before Covid and in just the past three years, see how the world has changed. Tien Duisend Ton looks at human behaviour. But more than anything, it’s a love story between a man and a woman going through the trials and tribulations of life, how they cope with work, the world, having children and all things that couples have to deal with.

Albert Pretorius and Cintaine Schutte battling the baby odds.

The play opened at the US Woordfees in 2019, was well received with sold out performances and has won numerous nominations and prizes for the cast, director and production.

They started talking to James Ngcobo, the artistic director at The Market (now at Joburg Theatres) in 2019. The Woordfees asked them back in 2020, they had plans for The Market and were on their way to KKNK when Covid hit the world and everything came to a sudden halt.

But now they’re back, theatres have opened once again and their Market run has been reignited. “A play changes as everyone grows but because we’re dealing with people with much more life experience, and a world that has been turned on its head, this is almost a new beginning for Tien Duisend Ton,” says Carel.

It’s a thrill for everyone involved to work at the iconic Market Theatre, and everything has run smoothly. He is especially pleased that even with Ngcobo’s departure, the play still secured its season.

Carel who had performed at The Market can’t wait for the cast to experience the diverse audiences. “It is something to behold,” he emphasises.

Albert Pretorius. Photo: NARDUS ENGELBRECHT

or Albert Pretorius, Tien Duisend Ton is a lovely play to perform in. “It’s one of the finest texts I’ve ever worked with, so finely crafted, so exciting. You can’t relax for a moment, you’ve got to be present the whole time. The lines come quick and fast. One minute you’re laughing and the next you’re crying.”

He believes it challenges both actors and audiences in the best way. “You walk off and wonder what has just happened? It’s such a nice topic as well. I find it so full. We can have all these debates with big questions and it feels like human nature at work.

“The selfish self will always find its way into everything. we can have all the debates about pollutions and all of that, but we still buy plastic straws. The text  shines a light on human nature.”

He views his character as an everyman. “What I love about him is that he doesn’t think everything through. He thinks he knows all the answers, and there are things he’s not willing to compromise on. But at the end of the day, he is so flawed and so human. We all make mistakes yet we all try to our best.

Cintaine Schutte

For Cintaine, the piece is close to her heart. “There’s something of everything, an unbelievable text, clever, brutally honest, and written with such strength, it challenges you as an actress to use your full toolkit.

Because of that, she is thrilled to have an actor opposite her whom she can fully trust. With Albert, a close friend, she allows herself to feel vulnerable, because she has no props, no tricks, no lighting, nowhere to hide. “It’s just you in the moment with honesty.”

But it’s also the issues and problems that are more relevant now than before. “Especially today, you’re looking at these two people who aren’t just in a relationship, but are trying to navigate their world, calm the storm so that they can get to their truths, what they really want and the way to go.

And then there’s director Nico Scheepers. They can play confidently because he has a stronmg and smart guiding hand.

“It is lovely to return to this piece which happened just before and in the early days of the pandemic, thrilled to return there, and it’s very special to do this with these special guys.”

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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…