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….

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

Bumper Toyota SU Woordfees Goes All Out To Wow Possible Festival Groupies

All who pass2
All Who Pass

A bumper Toyota SU Woordfees runs from March 6 to 15 in Stellenbosch. DIANE DE BEER picks a smattering of highlights for theatre, music and book chats, but as these are strictly a personal suggestion, there’s so much more to explore:

 

For those interested in theatre, here the accent is on participants for most of these are unseen productions, some in English and some Afrikaans:

All Who Pass: written by last year’s Standard Bank Young Artist Amy Jephta, directed by Quanita Adams, starring Elton Landrew, Iman Isaacs, Carmen Maarman, Roberto Kyle and Jawaahier Petersen; This is such a strong team, they’re hard to resist as they tell the horrific story of District Six with a family spending their last night in their home in 1974; and then restitution in 2019 as a daughter returns to claim her inheritance.

Cellist - cred Monique Pelser large size-1154
Cellist with Rabies. Picture Monique Pelser.

Cellist with Rabies: pairs artists extraordinaire Jemma Kahn (writer and performer) and Jaco Bouwer (director and set design with Rocco Pool) also starring David Viviers. The facts are stranger than fiction and as the name implies and the description – a peculiar romantic tragedy loosely based on questionable science – determines, they will be turning your imagination upside down.

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, Frank Opperman and Chris Gxalaba in an exciting re-interpretation of this provocative play.

Lab class pic
The Market Lab students in action with Hani: The Legacy.

Hani: The Legacy: produced for the Market Lab, it comes with a reputation following its Gaunteng and National Arts Festival runs. It was inspired by the landmark American musical Hamilton and set to contemporary music, including rap, hip hop and ballads, with the approach aimed at inspiring the youth with the legacy of the slain warrior Chris Hani directed by the inspired Leila Henriques.

Hoe Change Hulle: It’s difficult to resist a production called Bossikop Productions and with text and costumes by Veronique Jephtas, direction by Lee-Ann van Rooi and starring Marlo Minnaar, it tells a story of the ghetto and the lives of those many prefer to ignore.

Bobs Live – Off The Record: If you haven’t heard of J. Bobs before, this will all change as his artistry is being recognised with a Young Artist Nomination for Drama at this year’s National Arts Festival. Performing with his Sketch Trio that includes Phillip Dikotla (of the extraordinary Skierlik! fame) and Pule Welch, know that you will be both challenged and charmed as he promises to play games that have to be taken seriously.

Valrsrivier: is the stage adaptation by Saartjie Botha directed by Janice Honeyman of a hugely popular book with, amongst others, Tinarie van Wyk Loots, Anna-Mart van der Merwe and Stian Bam. It’s a no-brainer so run for tickets. It’s the age-old struggle of loyalty, loss and growing up against the backdrop of the old South African landscape.

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.

Salome 2
Geon Nel in Salome

 

Salome: Wilken Calitz (text) and Gideon Lombard (director) have shown their collaborative power with Karatara (which can be seen at KKNK) and here they tackle Etienne le Roux’s Sewe Dae by die Silbersteins with a solo performance (Geon Nel) as Henry van Eeden struggles with some bizarre encounters while trying to find his future wife Salome.

 

 

 

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Rehane Abrahams

There are too many to consider, but check Pieter Dirk Uys’s trio of productions; Sandra Prinsloo’s Kamphoer; Tien Duisend Ton with Cintaine Schutte and Albert Pretorius if you haven’t yet seen it; as well as the Nico Scheeper’s driven Triple Axel and Die Engel by die Dam; the wit of Rafiek Mamon’s Die Garage; Johnny Boskak Voel ‘n Bietjie ... if you haven’t seen this Craig Morris tour de force; Chris Vorster’s Die Hart Verklap; and the extraordinary Brandbaar with Rehane Abrahams and more…

 

 

And now for some other showstoppers:

The wonderful LGT Young Soloists who represent 15 countries across the world is a happening classical experience.

Devonecia+Wilken Albumbekendstelling is a combo that could be fascinating. She is an artist with super-sized talent, supported by the crafty eye of muso Wilken Calitz, sparks could fly – even gently.

Kyle Shepherd Trio @ Standard Bank Jazz in the Quad with Shane Cooper (bass) and Jonno Sweetman (drums) will be a thrill. Anything with Shepherd is worth the time. And similarly any of the concerts in the quad.

Sho Madjozi is a rapper, singer, poet, composer and actress who grabbed the SAMAs for both best newcomer and female singer last year. Check her out.

Gerhard Marx teams with Toast Coetzer, Shane Cooper and Kyle Shepherd for Vehicle: Soundings and Fathoms in an attempt to give a voice to to lifeless objects. All the artists involved point to the kind of experience you would want to see/hear.

Nataniel in song1No longer a regular at festivals Nataniël: Hoekom Hulle Swing will be precious as he swings between thoughtful yet tantalising.

On the bookish side – and this is but a tiny fraction…

Wreed én mooi is die dood with Tobie Wiese, whose collection of stories about the experience of death includes an essay by Karin Brynard, whose husband, Rien, passed away after a period of illness, and more.

Willie Esterhuyse: Oorlog en vrede in conversation with Moeletsi Mbeki: The author contemplates how to turn an enemy into a friend. Is it even possible?

What’s in a name: The New Queer Frontiers: Jaco Barnard-Naudé talks to Mark Gevisser about his book The Pink Line; The World’s Queer Frontiers to be published later in the year, and the authors of They Called Me Queer, Kelly-Ann Koopman and Kim Windvogel, about the taboos and debates surrounding identity politics across the globe.

Giving voice to victims: the Scottish Damian Barr and Fiona Snyckers talk to Francois Smith (Kamphoer). In his novel, You Will Be Safe Here, Barr attempts to give voice to the victims of gender violence. In Lacuna, Snyckers turns JM Coetzee’s dramatic novel Disgrace on its head when Lucy Lurie, the rape victim says: “Enough. I am going to tell my own story as I experienced it.”

Muckrakers or Watchdogs: Jacques Pauw asked three well-known journalists, the award-winning Pieter-Louis Myburgh (Gangster states: Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture), amaBhungane’s Pauli van Wyk and Foeta Krige (SABC8) of the essential, but demanding work of investigative journalists in an era of increasing corruption and fake news, wondering how much of a difference a journalist can make.

ANTHONY BUTLER_RAMAPHOSA_S LONG GAME(1)

 

Ramaphosa’s Long Game: Cheryl Carolus, Anthony Butler and Ralph Mathekga talk to Adriaan Basson  about the President, who is at a crossroads and whose choices will have far-reaching consequences for our country.

Foeta Krige: Die SAUK-8 with Lukhanyo Calata and Ivor Price: Why is a free press so important in a new democracy? Three members of the SABC8 share the shocking story of becoming the news and how it affected their professional and private lives.

 

 

Jonny Steinberg: One Day In Bethlehem; Non-fiction with Sandra Swart: It was a remark by Fusi Mofokeng, released after 19 years in jail, that led to this book. He said that the biggest surprise of his new life wasn’t smartphones or Google, but “that a white woman actually served him in a restaurant, and she was friendly”.

Breaking Independent News: Paper Tiger: Herman Wasserman talks to Chris Whitfield, Alide Dasnois and Dougie Oakes: When Independent Newspapers was bought by Iqbal Survé’s Sekunjalo Independent Media Consortium, journalists at South Africa’s largest newspaper firm were optimistic. What followed instead was media capture.

Ronelda Kamfer & Nathan Trantraal: twee digters tesame in conversation with Louise Viljoen: Chinatown and Oo’log mark the first time (almost) that the Trantraals, Ronelda Kamfer and Nathan, publish together. How do they manage a marriage, raising a child and being creative?

To Lose Everything: Three International Authors: Azille Coetzee talks to Christy Lefteri, the child of Greek refugees, who spent time in a Syrian refugee camp as research for her book The Beekeeper of Aleppo. Mira Feticu (Al mijn vaders) left her family when she moved from Romania to the Netherlands. Suketu Mehta was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2015 for Maximum City, Bombay Lost and Found, his account of growing up in Mumbai.

Go to https://woordfees.co.za/en/ for the full programme. The full force of the arts available is astonishing.

 

 

On and Off Stage Charl and Nataniël Sparkle and Shine in Story and Song

This is the third instalment of this particular story due to COVID-19. The following is a short review of the concert held this past Sunday and Monday in the Atterbury Theatre at 505 capacity but hopefully they can simply play it forward in 2021 so that the rest of the country can also be witness to such a remarkable partnership:

As we slide into the end of the year, especially this one, there’s nothing like nostalgia, which is exactly what Twintig/2020, Nataniël and Charl du Plessis’s 20th anniversary show, represented this past weekend.

It was planned as something far bigger (see below), but these two creative souls were determined not to bend the knee completely to COVID-19.

And fortunately as Pretoria citizens, this is where the show landed – for now. What a blessing. The programme was decided (with a few sharp suggestions from the maestro) by Charl, who has more than anyone witnessed all Nataniël’s stories and songs. What you hear are his favourites of Nataniël’s stories and songs.

It’s a masterclass in storytelling, song and accompaniment. After 20 years, these two performers have established a rhythm and rapport that’s unique and contributes to the ultimate success of a Nataniël show.

There is no one who can compete with Nataniël’s storytelling – not in language, his choice of words and how to apply them, tone of voice, imagination, performance and then that final gut-wrenching twist which is the knockout punch. And the examples at this show were formidable. First they had you screaming with laughter and then, as always, in pain.

Because he has a history (in his own mind) of failed albums, Nataniël usually denigrates his choice of songs as well as the singing, but the performance, his music and his unique arrangements, offer the perfect mix. With his high-intensity stories, you need some quiet after the storm – as delicious as it might be. And that is what the music adds together with superb accompaniment by Charl.

With Charl a classical and jazz pianist as well as a solo performer in his own right, they make the perfect pair and listening to the way his music holds Nataniël’s voice – when to swing and when to step lightly – is quite superb. My personal favourites were the exquisite La Memoire d’Abraham, Nataniël’s quiet song 100 Years, a transporting arrangement of You’re my World and then always mesmerising, his very specific rendition of Oh Come All Ye Faithful

Add to that the cracking colour of Nataniël’s couture, the changes and tweaks which all add to the perfect package. Even with 50 % audiences, they don’t present 50% shows, which is why he keeps packing them out. He always presents the best and fans know that. And with two pianos on the Atterbury Stage for the last time (one is being sold), it gave them a chance to play one of their rare duets on stage- always a treat!

Hopefully with a COVID-19 vaccination, they can tour with a 21st anniversary version of their partnership celebration. From the costumes to the songs as well as the stories, it’s great to see his loyal base have been right from the start.

There’s nothing like witnessing artists at their best.

 

 

When I first published this story in February, the devastation of the pandemic had not yet reached our shores. That didn’t change any of the facts and stories about the partnership, yet it did change the performance schedule drastically. But now is the time for them to catch up slowly but securely and while their first show on November 15 has already sold out, there are still some seats left for a second extra show the following night, Monday 16 November at 7pm at the Atterbury Theatre in Pretoria.

Nataniël and Charl will celebrate twenty years of music, memories, moods, challenges, highlights and stories. This will also mark their return to the stage after months of Covid-19 lockdown. For this special show, Charl chose his favourite Nataniël stories and his most-loved music from their repertoire of hundreds of songs. (Nataniël has very little say about the contents of this show!)

Presented in English and Afrikaans. No children under 15. Book at iTickets.co.za

Read the original story below about this original partnership:

On February 5, showman Nataniël and his piano man Charl du Plessis celebrate 20 years in performance together. They tell DIANE DE BEER why – in spite of such different personalities – it has worked and turned into the perfect professional partnership:

 

To witness these two talk about their dual career is to understand their partnership. Because they spend so much time traveling and performing, they can complete one another’s sentences – and often do.

Du Plessis is also one of those caring souls who understands the pressures his funny man must endure daily and when he can, he tries to make life simple and at the same time sweet.

When they arrive at an airport with someone waiting to drive them to the next small town and

Nats en Charl
Charl (piano) and Nataniël in concert.

tells him to take the front seat, he understands the artist wants to take a back seat in all the implications of the word.

Theirs is no ordinary life as they arrive at small town halls, discover interior decorations that make them want to burst into tears and have to find a way – diplomatically often – to fix. And diplomatic is hardly in Nataniël’s nature and we love him for that.

Charl is also constantly trying to avoid embarrassing situations because Nataniël on seeing something he abhors might ask if there was a blind mannequin in charge of decorations. It’s Charl’s way to find gentler phrases while Nataniël uses humour to deflect his disdain.

He might be sweeping the foyer while Charl tries to make the dressing rooms habitable – or whatever is needed. “I’m a team player,” says Du Plessis, while Nataniël would rather run a mile.

Nats and Charl laughing

A lamp might need straightening or a straight face needs to save the day when first impressions might include a bed as part of the stage set-up.

But part of that has also impacted Du Plessis’s career in a big way. This is how he learnt the ropes. “He was interested in everything from the beginning,” says Nataniël. He wanted to know it all – from lighting to staging – and today it is part of his own shows.”

Du Plessis has contributed in his own way too. The band,  including Du Plessis, that currently plays for Nataniël is part of the Charl du Plessis Trio that he formed. “It makes it so much easier as we all know one another extremely well.” In fact, I have even heard Nataniël say quite fondly (he will deny this!) that his current company operates like a family

“I have become lazy,” explains Nataniël, because of the energetic Du Plessis who has taken so many of the mundane tasks of performance on his shoulders. For him it is about making Nataniël ‘s life easier. At the beginning, his own career might have been a touch quieter, but these days, he is juggling as many balls as Nataniël and he has to operate on a generous abundance of energy that keeps him running.

Charl and Nataniel at play
Impromptu at the French Embassy in Pretoria at the launch of Nataniël’s book about Nantes.

“I used to do everything myself …” says Nataniël as he reminds himself of the early days. But that diminishes as you start growing your empire.

Du Plessis at some point even started producing most of Nataniël’s shows. “There are a few theatres I am happy dealing with but not too many,” says Nataniël. These have become Du Plessis’s responsibility and Nataniël knows he will organise it all with the precision he needs.

“I speak for a living,” explains Nataniël, when chatting about his reluctance to communicate off stage. “Have you noticed, hairdressers often have the worst hairdo’s themselves. So it follows … ” He has probably said as much as he wants you to know, on stage, and he is adamant that it is there that he likes surprising people.

Charl en Nataniel

I have learnt that through the years of doing interviews about upcoming shows. It’s not that he tells any lies or doesn’t give me information, it’s just that once I’ve written and published and then see the show, I realise he hasn’t given away a damn thing! “What’s the point,” he wants to know?

Even the band doesn’t really know what the show is about before opening night. “We only rehearse the music and the scene changes if we need to carry props or some such, not Nataniël’s stories,” adds Du Plessis. “It’s quite tough keeping a straight face on opening night!”

He also doesn’t like complimenting. “I will say something if it doesn’t work or is wrong,” he says. “I reward with gifts and food!”

That was probably one of the toughest adjustments for Du Plessis. But he acknowledges that there was a neediness to have his talent confirmed by others. It’s been a bonus to bolster his own confidence.

He is constantly writing thankyou notes about something that has happened between them or a particular gratitude he wants to express. And in their own way, they have carved a working relationship that is smooth sailing most of the time.

Right from the start, Du Plessis knew that Nataniël wasn’t interested in technology. He wants everything – like his phone eg – to work, but he doesn’t need to know how. That is just one of the interventions he applies in his boss/friend’s life. And even while chatting, Nataniël has some phone queries that need solving.

CharlNat
charl and Nataniël in tandem.

“I write everything down in a paper diary,” says Nataniël. Du Plessis’s life  is checked into his phone or other electronic devices.

When he has sung the last note at a concert, Nataniël already has his mind on that night’s supper, which he will buy on his way home. Du Plessis on the other hand is happy mingling with friends and fans in the foyer for as long as it takes. “He networks, me not so much,” says Nataniël.

Du Plessis is happy to chat to anyone who corners him,  Nataniël is thinking how he can avoid a handshake, one of his many foibles. Du Plessis, explains Nataniël, is happy to explain something to someone in great detail. He on the other hand is curt and hopes to detour as many people as possible.

At some point, Charl decided Nataniël suffers from night blindness, and he is the one to drive as soon as darkness descends.

One of their most dramatic moments was when Nataniël ‘crashed’ on stage because of low blood sugar. “With a phalanx of medics around him and the band trying to help where they can, the audience were laughing because they thought it was all part of a joke,” notes Charl as he shakes his head at their sometimes bizarre circumstances.

“Now I know I simply have to eat an apple halfway through the show,” says Nataniël. They love and learn.

And as they chatter, while Du Plessis is the busy bee and the organiser of the two, Nataniël is the one who keeps everyone laughing. Not always purposely, but it’s the way he operates, how his mind works and how he communicates.

And thus it has been for these two artists together – and in their own right. More than anything, what they have in common is their love of the stage and their ability to perform. On stage, they sparkle and shine for their adoring audiences.

May it last for the longest time!

 

Watch out for further notices on their different websites and on social media for further shows around the country in 2021. This is one fans don’t want to miss. “There’s nothing wrong with celebrating 21 years!”

 

Diversity is Artistic Director James Ngcobo’s Loadstar at The Market

Pictures: THANDILE ZWELIBANZI

Paradise Blue
From left: Pakamisa Zwedala , Aubrey Poo (centre), Lesedi Job, Aubrey Poo (centre), and Seneliso Dladla with Busisiwe Lurayi (front).

It is diversity which strikes you when you look at the start of the 2020 theatre year at The Market. DIANE DE BEER speaks to artistic director James Ngcobo about his first production for Black History Month (a collaboration in its fifth year with the US Embassy in South Africa) which starts on January 31, but also checks what else is on offer:

It has been a longtime dream of  James Ngcobo to stage Paradise Blue, which he describes as a “dynamic, jazz-infused drama by award-winning African American playwright Dominique Morisseau about what’s at stake when building a better future”.

In a recent YouTube documentary on the gentrification of Los Angeles which in this instance affected an African American suburb also described as the heart of jazz in the city, longtime residents were complaining how they were being pushed out of their own neighborhood. The inference was clear, as soon as the suburb becomes white, it’s time for those who created the vibe in the first place to leave. They can’t afford it any longer anyway.

Similar scenes play out in Paradise Blue, which captures the yearning of individuals sidelined by life into the role of second-class citizens living and working in a black neighbourhood on the cusp of obliteration as part of the city’s plan to eliminate “blight”.  The characters face issues that will resonate today worldwide and specifically with South African audiences while enlightening them about similar struggles faced by low-income inner-city communities around the world.

Ngcobo had this one in mind for a few years and has assembled a young dream cast, all of whom he has worked with before. “It’s about collaboration,” says Ngcobo, which played into his choices.

One of his favourite leading men, Aubrey Poo, plays Blue, a castrated character whose life is in a rut. “He wants it all, his women and his club, yet his is a life of limitations. It looks at patriarchy but also hierarchy, which all come into play,” notes Ngcobo.

It’s a tough piece and he needed a seasoned cast who could pick up the vibe and develop it quickly. “Tight funding determines short rehearsal times,” he explains. The supporting cast includes Pakamisa Zwedala (A Raisin in the Sun) and Seneliso Dladla (One Night In Miami) as his fellow band members P-Sam and Corn. Busisiwe Lurayi (Nina Simone in F our Women) will play the naïve Pumpkin and another regular collaborator Lesedi Job (A Raisin in the Sun  as well as many other performances and directing) as the threatening Silver.

Apart from honouring Black History Month, Ngcobo pays further homage to his love of telling stories with a strong musical element and while it doesn’t feature that strongly in the original play, it’s something that resonates in much of his work as he uses music as another voice to embellish the story.

He also wanted to move away from stories about Rosie Parks, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, all of whom have been celebrated in previous Black History Month performances. This season start tomorrow and runs until March 1 in the John Kani Theatre at The Market, Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm.

DOP - Foto kosie Smit (002)
Wilhelm van der Walt and André Odendaal in Dop directed by Sylvaine Strike. Picture by Kosie Smit.

In the meantime, things are pumping at the Market Theatre Complex. The award-winning Dop directed by Sylvaine Strike and starring André Odendaal and Wilhelm van der Walt  has just finished a short run, and playwright William Harding – whose previous work has included the adaptation of the hugely successful Tobacco and the Harmful Effects Thereof; The Cenotaph of Dan Wa Moriri and most recently Twelve Years a Poet based on the poetry of Vus’umuzi Pakhati – makes his debut as a professional director at the Market Theatre with his play, The Kings of the World.

Kings of the World
William Harding and Kaz MacFadden in The Kings of the World.

As is Ngcobo’s practice, he loves giving young artists a chance, but lends them a strong guiding hand, in this instance, director/actor Robert Whitehead, who will be mentoring the project.

The play is described as a dark comedy about the ineptitude and desperation of our times. It takes place during one night in a suburban garden cottage, where two friends and a roommate confront their neuroses and inadequacies as the night unravels around them.

Harry arrives uninvited at his friend’s cottage. David, having recently returned from a trip to Paris has become somewhat reclusive and reluctantly invites him in. David reveals he has a job opening as a freelance online copywriter.  And Harry immediately wants to be part of the action.

However, complications around the job soon arise and are further compounded when David’s drunken roommate returns.  As paranoia and desperation take over, the situation becomes tense and threatens to boil over into a dangerous conclusion. The cast includes Harding, Chris Djuma and Kaz MacFadden.

Currently running, the season ends on February 16 at the Barney Simon with performances from Tuesday to Saturday at 8.15pm and on Sundays at 3.15pm.

Brothers Gustav Gerdener, Drikus Volschecnk, Dawid MMinnaar and Ruan Wessels
Brothers Gustav Gerdener, Drikus Volschecnk, Dawid Minnaar and Ruan Wessels (front)

Finally there’s an award-winning play by Victor Gordon, Brothers, that reflects the serious side of family tragedies that tear families apart and the fundamental human truths about families haunted by past occurrences.

Again, Ngcobo combines youth and experience with actor Francois Jacobs, who makes his directing debut mentored by the award-winning actor and director, Mncedisi Shabangu, an alumnus of the Market Theatre Laboratory.

 

Vuka Machel Image_ (002)
Mncedisi Shabangu and Xolile Gama in vuka Machel! at the Market Lab

And to add to the productivity, Shabangu is also currently starring in Vuka Machel (with three shows left, tonight and tomorrow night at 815 and Sunday at 315pm) a revolutionary comedy told by two chicken thieves from Kanyamazane, just outside Nelspruit in Mpumalanga.

In this rollicking storytelling romp, Machel wakes from the dead to find his wife married to Mandela and Mozambique suffering. He challenges Mandela to all sorts of fights. The biggest mistake he makes is to agree to a negotiation at the World Trade Centre where Mandela challenges him to a boxing match. (Mandela is notorious for winning all his 50 fights through negotiations.)

Vuka Machel Image 2
Two actors at play in Vuka Machel!

 

Originally created in 1998 and the winner of an FNB Vita Award for Best Director in 2003, Vuka Machel was last performed as a one-off presentation as part of the Market Lab’s 30-year celebrations this year, where it received such an enthusiastic response that it was clear that it needed a longer season.

Written and directed by Market Lab alumnus Shabangu, and performed by Shabangu (who is an absolute treat to watch as his face and whole body all go into performance mode) and Xolile Gama (who is the fall guy), the play is a funny and insightful commentary on the lives and philosophies of two of Africa’s most influential leaders. But just in general, pushing all the boundaries, it’s a blast and perfect for the start of a year.

And for Brothers, there’s further excitement with a cast which includes Dawid Minnaar  who is joyously becoming a regular at The Market supported by an exciting and quite novel cast including Drikus Volschenk, David James, Gustav Gerderner and Ruan Wessels.

Brothers with Dawid Minnaar and Drikus Volschenk
Brothers featuring Dawid Minnaar and Drikus Volschenk

It’s also worth taking note of Karabo Legoabe’s impressive and authentic set.

Brothers is a family drama set in the Eastern Cape in the 1950s. It is a harsh existence and the story focuses on the return of a brother who had mysteriously disappeared 18 years earlier. The story reflects both the social strata and attitudes that exist within a poor white family who eked out a meagre existence in this desolate part of the world. As one can imagine, the brother’s return unearths all kinds of family secrets and frustrations that have remained hidden all these years, and the results are unexpected and dramatic.

Brothers runs until February 24 in the Mannie Manim Theatre concluding the first clutch of plays at the Market Theatre in 2020. It’s one to experience more than anything for the debut of a young director and an excellent cast.

It’s a strong starting salvo and promises much for the rest of the year.

Bring on the women…

Retief Scholtz’s Dop is a Moment in Time with the Actors Participating in the Dance

Dop poster

DIANE DE BEER

PALY: Dop

PLAYWRIGHT: Retief Scholtz

DIRECTOR: Sylvaine Strike

CAST: André Odendaal, Wilhelm van der Walt

VENUE: Market Theatre

UNTIL January 19

“Skink nog ‘n dop,” (pour another drink) is the constant refrain between the older customer and a young barman. And in this context, dop means both drink and to fail – both of which dominate the interaction between the two.

Because the requests never stop, what starts as bravura conversation dominated by the man who introduces himself as Frank Venter (Odendaal), soon becomes maudlin.

It’s his birthday and as a leap-year baby, born on 29 February 1960, his father made sure that his birthday was only celebrated every 4 years. Tonight is his 60th and Frank is determined to celebrate with as many toasts as he can muster and might have missed out on through the years.

DOP - Foto kosie Smit (002)
In contem-plation, André O)dendaal (front) and Wilhelm van der Walt in the Sylvaine Strike-directed Dop. Picture: Kosie Smit

The youngster serving, Tim, is South African but spent most of his teen years in Australia. He was kept in touch with his birth country and language, which he now speaks with a heavy Aussie accent, through a loving granny who wrote him regular letters. But his absence from his homeland, all his parents’ doing, was a painful one and he has returned in search of something lost.

And suddenly the link becomes clear. Coming from different perspectives, these two drifting souls understand loss and the pain that comes with that.

They might differ in age and seemingly have little in common but as their conversation twists and turns they discover some truths that hit the mark for both of them. Frank seems to be drinking to forget rather than celebrate and Tim is determined to mine him for some wisdom on a declaration of love.

Dop 3 (002)
André Odendaal and Wilhelm van der Walt in Retief Scholtz’s Dop. Picture: Kosie Smit

It’s about random conversations between strangers that quickly become quite intimate because of the free flowing liquor and a compulsion to scratch underneath the surface. Both find themselves at crossroads with parallels but more importantly understanding and insight for the other’s dilemma.

As part of the growing melancholy that becomes part of the night, memories are interwoven as the music of Johannes Kerkorrel (late ‘80s and early ‘90s) becomes an emotional soundtrack.

It is the setting, the movie-go-round set which suggests amongst others the physical but also the mental effects of too much liquor and also the superb performances as the two men work at cross-purposes to pull as much as they can from one another.

Odendaal walks a fine line as the drinking starts having an effect and he swings between boisterous and belligerent. He also introduces some fine gymnastics whether to show off a youthful passion or simply stretching for his car keys.

But it is his detailed work of an ageing man still dealing with resentment towards a neglectful father as well as a more recent loss, the thin veneer of a man who doesn’t care and yet can show insight towards other mournful souls.

Van der Walt as the counterpoint plays with a youthful enthusiasm but also an eagerness to have his own needs met. He is trying hard to keep his customer happy while hanging  loose, pouring drinks with some panache and keeping the banter light.

For the director, apart from her first foray into Afrikaans writing, the play is also different to anything else she has done, a challenge she relishes and pursues. There’s always the Strike trademarks but she always stretches herself, the actors and her audience.

This is Strike heaven: two brilliant actors, a strong text which she could play with and steer, and a set that allows her actors and the stories to dance.

It’s a moment in time and while there’s a sadness that lingers, it also captures the magic of two strangers reaching out, trying to make sense and finding some understanding. That’s life – and often richer than one can imagine.

Nataniël’s Antidote to a World in Pain is to Make Us Scream With Laughter – Please Don’t Refuse to Listen

DIANE DE BEER

Nataniel in red
Nataniël in classic red.

 

Nataniël’s  LILY REFUSES TO LISTEN

With musician Charl du Plessis (piano), Werner Spies (bass) and Peter Auret (drums)

Costumes by Floris Louw

VENUE: Atterbury Theatre, Lynnwood

DATES: January 21 to 25

Book at iTickets

 

Nataniël starts his year exactly as he ended it – on stage with the laughter and merriment of his latest show, Lily Refuses to Listen.

This short run is specially for those who missed it first time round – or those who want to see it again. It is that good – and funny!

As always, he pitches perfectly, not only with the music but also with the mood that he creates in both stories and song.

Whether we are ending or starting a new year, nobody wants to hear any bad news. This is a time of reflection, of course, but rather than focus on all the sadness and misery in our troubled world, he finetunes his music and words sharply with both sweetness and hilarity, something no one does better.

From the moment he starts singing My Sweet Song, the  music sets the tone with a slow swing, but as he slips into his first story, all of that changes dramatically.

The stories, all stand-alone, show Nataniël at his best as he lets rips with language and laughter, the perfect antidote for this time of year as we want to kickstart it, preferably raucously.

He gathers his usual wacky characters, all visualised with detailed descriptions, all determined to take your breath away.

It’s the way he conjures up a world we all recognise but in spectacular colours and with an exaggeration that’s tough to resist.

And with one of the show’s aims (New Year resolution perhaps) to get people to think about their lives and take courage to say no rather than too easily agree to something they really don’t want to do, he’s also quick to jump on anyone playing with cell phones, the bane of performers as the lights are clearly visible and especially distracting for those on stage.

That and people who keep chatting during the performance who are as much a disturbance to the performer as those in proximity of the culprit.

It’s about the performance, staying in the moment and giving a show that embraces everything this showman admires. And for him it is time to call them out. So pay attention, it’s the entertainment you’re there for, you and those around you.

The music is all about nostalgia with classics like Sweet Georgia Brown,  a beautiful  if perhaps not so familiar Beatles song, Golden Slumber, Ain’t no Sunshine, Many Rivers to Cross and more, a few original numbers elaborated with stories about some of the songs and their composers.

One of this singer’s many attributes is his amazing arrangement of classics to suit his voice but also to make it his own. It adds to a familiar tune and sometimes completely changes the meaning of a song because of the way we listen.

And finally, the costumes. It’s where all his shows begin, the design and  creativity of the couture to lead into the stories and songs. Again, it is spectacular in all the colours of the rainbow with shapes that make your head spin and a desire to copy some of his detail.

If you’re not quite in the right place yet to begin the year, this is the perfect place to start. It will put your head in the clouds where it can stay for a while as you get into the rhythm of the new year and all it will hopefully stack up to be.

 

 

Peter Pan on Ice is Fun Festive Entertainment for the Family

DIANE DE BEER

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PETER PAN ON ICE

COMPANY: The Imperial Ice Stars who collectively hold more than 250compdetition medals and include 23 former World, European and National Championship-level skaters

PRODUCER and ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER: Tony Mercer

VENUE: Teatro at Montecasino

DATES: Until January 11; Tuesday to Friday at 7.30pm; Saturdays 3pm and 7.30pm; Sundays 2pm and 5.30pm

It is the time of year when entertainment takes on different proportions. For many the end of 2019 means sheer exhaustion and what we need is some rollicking fun and whoopee, ESCAPISM in capital letters.

That’s exactly what this one is with accent on family, which is perfect for this time of year. This is when you want to pack the kids into the car and take them for a magical evening to a show that creates a magical wonderland.

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It’s fun and games for the cast of Peter Pan on Ice

It’s not easy to capture the amazement of young and old in one show but the sheer splendour of skillful skating will do it every time. And then to scale it down to fit onto a theatre stage while not diminishing any of the spectacle, is quite something.

The previous shows by this company include Swan Lake on Ice, Sleeping Beauty on Ice and Cinderella on Ice, all of them spectacular in their own right and expect nothing less from this one. Their reputation is firmly established.

Peter Pan is perhaps a more complicated story to tell in this fashion but the company made full use of the inspiring and inspired extras including flight, something that Peter Pan and Tinker Bell do with grace. It’s huge fun including some unexpected innovative figures like a dancing crocodile who is arguably the most popular character on stage – even though he frightened a few of the young ones at first sight.

Perhaps that’s why Captain Hook didn’t seem as ferocious as his reputation predicts and one expected him to be. After all he is the leader of the fearsome pirates!

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It’s a show packed with athletic acrobatics.

But this is a great yarn and while perhaps it’s not for the very young, there’s enough action to keep everyone happy. From the astounding and non-stop acrobatics of the full cast, the balletic aerial gymnastics and exquisite flight sequences, which are always fun to watch, the balance between the spectacular and skillful skating and the action sequences with even a fire-on-ice scene for breath-taking dramatic effect are all part of a theatrical presentation.

As the story unfolds, Wendy and her brothers are whisked off by the boy who never grows old and his accomplice, Tinker Bell to Neverland where they meet the Lost Boys, Tiger Lily and some swimming mermaids on the way to a showdown between the good guys (Peter and the gang) and Captain Hook and his pirates.

Towards the end, everyone was in the mood as the champion croc gets them rocking and the magic of Peter Pan and his girl, once again, captured the imagination.

It’s a smart invention, an ice spectacular in a theatre. It keeps it intimate, turns the choreography into something more balletic and up close, while audiences in a sweltering Africa are transported to a completely different world.

Take the leap with them. It’s a way to send of the old and welcome the new!