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Friday, July 10, 2009


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

Flatly refusing to be confined to bed for any longer than was absolutely necessary, I set off this morning to cover the (newly-positioned) Village Green and then three shows.

However, in the end I only managed the Village Green and two shows, sadly having to cancel the last one, which sadly turned out to be the Durban production, Wit, but I knew my stamina would not last. This was an important night for the producers, KickstArt, and I was really sorry not to be part of it – but, while the spirit was very willing, the flesh was pathetically weak!

However, feedback after the show from Steven Stead this evening was extremely positive. “It’s always very scary to do a production like this on the main frame of a major arts festival because, despite the fact that the production is very well-rehearsed, there is no time for solid run-ins and the fear levels were very high tonight. However, it was a tour de force performance and the audience left slowly and in silence but, once outside, their accolades were just bursting out.” The playwright Margaret Edson is in Grahamstown for the festival and she indicated that the KickstArt production was one of the best she’d ever seen. So I’m really looking forward to seeing Wit back home in Durban next week.

Back to the Village Green … it’s a huge improvement on the previous position. From a shopper’s point of view, it’s sheer joy to have the space to be able to move among the stalls appreciating their layout and displays without being jostled about by throngs of people, some of whom you felt were perhaps not there for legitimate “shopping”!

In the main, those stallholders I spoke to seemed very pleased with the new position but others raised the point that it was too out of the way while some were downright unhappy. However, the festival-goers themselves will give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down at the end of the day when it comes to the final analysis of the figures.

One consistent complaint was the state of the toilets (presumably portaloos) so this needs to be addressed very sharply. However, another option is to go up the stairs to the Rhodes Students Union which – if the Ladies were anything to go by – offers the cleanest, tidiest, most well-run toilets I have ever encountered anywhere in the world.

Pardon my dwelling on the subject of toilets, but this focus was continued with the opening character in my first show: Mike van Graan’s Bafana Republic 3: Penalty Shootout where actor Lungi Pinda opens the action as a sanitary engineer – he’s a toilet attendant at O R Thambo Airport.

This whacky up-to-the minute piece of satire was followed by the stunning Threads, a collaboration between poet actress Lebo Mashile and producer/choreographer Sylvia “Magogo” Glasser. It is a beautiful piece of work with an exceptional performance by Lebo Mashile and would be a perfect piece for next year’s Playhouse Company’s SA Women’s Arts Festival.

Reviews for Bafana Republic 3: Penalty Shootout and Threads will be posted shortly.

Sad news came through last night of the death of Yvonne Banning, former broadcaster, actress and highly respected lecturer in the University of Cape Town’s Drama Department. When I started off as a rookie in radio drama in Durban in the early 1970’s, she was a well-established radio personality and I was inspired by her comedy timing (she appeared in Father Dear Father) and complete understanding of the medium of radio drama. She will be sadly missed.