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Saturday, July 11, 2009


Report from artSMart Editor Caroline Smart at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

Back on track at last, I managed to get quite a bit done today.

Popped into the historic and beautiful old building that houses NELM, the National English Literary Museum to say hello. NELM is a highly valuable resource in that it archives all writings of a literary nature in English in South Africa – such as books, plays, lectures – even my reviews on artSMart, I am humbled to discover.

My first show of the day was Quack presented by From the Hip Kumakuhle which produced the delicious Gumbo at the National Arts Festival and then went on to play the Witness Hilton Arts Festival. Quack is a very different – and far more challenging – production where the cast includes two hearing and two non-hearing actors. I was hugely impressed.

Then it was off across town to Graeme College to see Mike van Graan’s Iago’s Last Dance - three playlets - which featured an extremely impressive performance by Mbubelo Grootboom.

Back into town, I wandered around the Church Square area, now frantically busy with the crafters that should be on the Fiddlers’ Green now that the Transnet Village Green has been relocated. It never fails to amaze me how these stallholders actually make any money when there are so many of them selling the same thing. I suppose it must be lucrative otherwise they wouldn’t come back to the festival time and time again.

Then there was time for a breather at the Revolution CafĂ© at Pepper Grove Centre, now sporting a smart new look. I can fully recommend their chicken salad – it’s a very generous portion served with mandarin oranges and a variety of lettuce. Delicious!

The last show of the day was Fresco Theatre’s The Famished Road directed by Helen Iskander – filled with all the magical imagery we have come to expect from this company as well as an astonishing performance by a youngster whose name I still need to discover.

The reviews for Quack, Iago’s Last Dance and The Famished Road will follow shortly.