It’s the beginning of spring and the arts are taking a leap of faith as three of our Afrikaans festivals launch theatrical and cultural fests which offer a smorgasbord of theatre, art, books, dance, music and conversations – as light or intense as you could wish for. DIANE DE BEER gives you a roadmap of the Toyota US WOORDFEES:
For a few years now, Saartjie Botha and the Woordfees team have tried to deliver on as many different artistic desires as possible.
And this time, the viewing has also been looked at seriously. From October 1 to 7, Toyota US Woordfees will be broadcasting on DStv channel 150. If you are a subscriber, you can view all day and week if you wish (although they are still pleading that you pay for tickets to help the artists in these dire times, and those who can afford it, should make the gesture).
And if you don’t, the channel has the option of subscribing for a month, which might just allow you to check out their regular programming too and see whether it is something that might be worth buying into in the future – especially with the change of viewing habits currently.
With theatre my absolute passion, it’s the first place I go to and I’m immediately excited about the second coming together of the sublime Sylvaine Strike and Andrew Buckland. This time, they’re acting together with Toni Morkel, who was part of their first pairing (then director Strike and actors Buckland and Morkel) taking the directorial reins. You’d seriously be mad not to watch – with the added bonus of Jaco Bouwer capturing it on film.
Strike says that the names Ferine and Ferase derive from two chemical components luciferin and luciferase which exist in a firefly’s bum and make it glow. “So one without the other can’t make light, they have to be together to glow. Lots of fireflies in this show,” she adds.
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 and the idea was to create something that would show audiences why theatre is unique and exciting. Botha didn’t want a big set, she didn’t want audio-visuals, no multi-media, only pure theatre. “We want body and craft and what the actor is,” was the instruction.
They started writing remotely through October, November, December and in mid-January came into a rehearsal room with Morkel as director. With Bentel at the piano, they began to develop the story on their feet and to find a common language between her and Buckland, who both have very specific styles, but it was wonderful for her to perform again.
They discovered and developed a mutual style, which is 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 who have a backstory of their own, and they tell a story as travelling players of Bucket’s End.
“It’s beautiful, it’s very physical, it’s gorgeously costumed with each a standard clowning costume that transforms into a couple of things,” she embroiders.
Of course, they were meant to play it on stage and they had a short trial run with a 45-minute version. For the current digital festival, the full play has been turned into a film, with Strike enchanted with Bouwer’s extraordinary transformation from stage into film, shot in studio, all in black and white, inspired by old movies.
Another production I would urge everyone to see is the 2020 Fiësta Award winner for Best Production: Die poet, wie’s hy?, a celebration of poet Adam Small’s work, starring Dean Balie with theatre direction by Frieda van den Heever, and film direction by Christiaan Olwagen. I had the advantage of seeing it live, but this is about words and music and it will translate well.
It was as perfect a production as anyone could wish for. At the time I hoped it could tour the country, and this will do brilliantly.
If you haven’t see the magnificent Jefferson Tshabalala, check in at Off the Record. He is a performance maverick and gives a take on life and the world which might shake you up a little and add some wisdom and perspective to what you viewed as life. You will be screaming with joy at the smartness of his moves. It’s structured as a satirical gameshow with guests.
There’s also the adaptation of Dominique Botha’s Valsrivier, which first played at the last live Afrikaans festival in 2020 before it was set to travel but with time and yet another chance to find its feet and settle in. With a cast headed by Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Tinarie Van Wyk Loots, Stian Bam, Wiseman Sithole, and Peggy Tunyiswa, as well as an award-winning turn by Robert Hindley and theatre direction by Janice Honeyman (filmed by Christiaan Olwagen), it should hit all the right spots.
Two new productions include Reza de Wet’s Mis with Nicole Holm, Martelize Kolver, Jane de Wet and Laudo Liebenberg directed by Wolfie Britz and filmed by Bouwer, as well as Adam Small’s Krismis van Map Jacobs with June van Merch, Ilse Klink, Dann-Jacques Mouton and Elton Landrew, theatre direction by Jason Jacobs, and film direction by Bouwer. The names involved in both productions say it all.
The Woordfees started as a festival of books and authors and this will always form a strong component, with the latest books by Nataniël, Lien Botha, Rudi van Rensburg, and Jeremy Veary part of the strong lineup, as well as a series of probing actuality discussions presented by the University of Stellenbosch.
With the university the backbone of the festival, classical music includes students and alumni with Zorada Temmingh on organ, Megan-Geoffrey Prins and the Amici String Quartet, the celebrated University Choir with the contemporary side showcasing David Kramer, Karen Zoid with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Deon Meyer and Coenie de Villiers in their Karoo salute, Amanda Strydom with Stadig oor die Klippers, as well as Spoegwolf and Die Heuwels Fantasties.
Celebrated chef Bertus Basson will introduce Stellenbosch delicacies with a few well-known Stellenbosch luminaries, while the wine route turns 50 this year and will be celebrating.
Movies spotlight Locked Doors, Behind Doors; Mike van Graan’s Some Mother’s Sons, Churchil Naudé in Die Ongtemde Stem and Ontluister – Die Geknoei met die Klank van Afrikaanse Musiek while stand-up comedy will feature Marc Lottering, Schalk Bezuidenhout, Nik Rabinowitz, Shimmy Isaacs, Alan Committie, Bennie Fourie, Alfred Adriaan, Melt Sieberhagen, Kagiso Mokgadi, Joey Rasdien, Hannes Brümmer, Conrad Koch and Wayne McKay.
Woordfees TV will broadcast predominantly in Afrikaans but will also include English and multi-lingual works. All Afrikaans narrative works produced by the Woordfees festival, such as plays and discussion, will have English subtitles. Fees TV will be available in South Africa on DStv Channel 150 from 1 to 7 October 2021, 24 hours a day, to all DStv Premium and Compact Plus subscribers. In Namibia, it will air on GOtv channel 15, with access for all GOtv Max subscribers. The Fees TV pop-up channel will also be available on DStv Now, and a selection of content on DStv Catch Up.