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Tuesday, August 10, 2010


KZN’s foremost arts and culture festival offers fantastic line-up.

One of the country’s most established and respected arts festival – the annual Witness Hilton Arts Festival which is now in its 18th year, will take place on the beautiful grounds of the Hilton College from September 17 to 19. Broadly considered to be KZN’s foremost arts and culture festival, the event consistently produces a sterling programme of cutting-edge drama, comedy, music and cabaret, as well as an impressive array of arts and crafts.

The festival attracts an enticing mix of phenomenal South African performers and artists gleaned from the most prestigious stages around the country including the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in July.

There are some new spins on the festival this year including its first day’s programme of age-specific arts-events aimed at schools. Just under a thousand learners will experience the thrill of the performing arts. It is a celebration of all that is young, new and vibrant and has been dubbed “Jongosi” – Johnny Clegg’s word from the Afrikaans meaning “jong os” which has become absorbed into isiZulu parlance. Jongosi is designed to educate, entertain and allow learners to expand their world view.

The Witness Flagship Production is Swan Lake, created by Dada Masilo (25), one of South Africa’s most exciting contemporary dance talents. In Grahamstown Swan Lake received standing ovations at each performance. Here we have traditional tutus and Tchaikovsky’s famous music partnered with dialogue and infused with the spirit of Africa. Dada says: “Swan Lake is a work that does not take itself seriously all the time. My aim was to make it fun, sad, strange, quirky and interesting. Most of all, I wanted it to be beautiful.”

Continuing with festival firsts, one of the cornerstone’s of the National Arts Festival is the annual Raiders production. For 21 years the Raiders team have added their quirky wit to Grahamstown, and come to Hilton this year for the first time. It is a tale that forces short-sighted, flat-footed and sunken-chested pilot, Salty Hepburn, to fly an unstable and cantankerous Tiger Moth from Cape Town to Cairo. It is directed by Chris Weare and featuring Nicholas and Luke Ellenbogen.

Andrew Buckland will be having a busy festival. This veteran master of mime and innovative physical theatre is doing three solo performances: Between the Teeth, The Ugly Noo Noo and Mistero Buffo. Continuing the Rhodes theme, is two productions from Ubom!: The Adventures of Little Nobody and Breed.

The theatrical line up is a fabulous mix of the most applauded productions currently on the national circuit. Butcher Boys, directed by Sylvaine Strike, is a delicious piece which tells, with stunning clarity, how a seemingly small event can turn peoples’ lives upside down. Steven Berkhoff’s era-defining Decadence, which deliciously comments on British society as it traces the sensual exploration of two couples’ hysterical love affairs and unusual fetishes, is being masterfully performed by Scott Sparrow and Emily Child and directed by Christopher Weare.

The international Oprah-endorsed best-seller, Tuesdays with Morrie, comes to the Hilton stage as Dinsdae by Morrie translated, adapted and directed by Hennie van Greunen from the original by Mitch Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher; featuring Chris van Niekerk and Pedro Kruger. International award-winning writer, Nick Warren and multi-talented performer James Cairns team up for this "riot of a play" that follows three friends on a journey to the funeral of a fourth, in the rapid-fire one hander, Dirt. Kaput is a unique tragicomedy of two brothers who live simple lives in a country that has seen many decades of war, beautifully-performed by Taryn Bennett, Helen Iskander and Dorian Burstein.

Normality is a tender, funny insightful story about Alex who struggles with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Through his sister’s eyes and life, we view not only her process of dealing with disability, but also the inability of other, non-disabled people in dealing with the issue. Presented by Wordsmith’s Theatre Factory; featuring Pedro Kruger; text and lyrics by Hennie van Greunen; music by Pedro Kruger; and direction by Shirley Ellis.

There is a particularly strong theatre line up from Durban. Top of the heap is the incorrigible Beauty Ramapelepele in Bend it Like Beauty as one of South Africa’s sharpest and most uncompromising satirists, Ben Voss, unleashes an alter-ego who represents the face of the new South Africa. Creative Madness perform two magical productions in their cosy tent: The Curious Cabinet and Mysterious Memorabilia of Mr Goitch and A Mariner’s Tale – two productions of exquisite detail utilizing miniature puppets and echoes of Victorian toy and shadow theatre.

Presented by Kickstart in association with Daphne Kuhn and the Old Mutual Theatre on the Square, Sandton, Duet for One is Tom Kempinski’s poignantly gripping and deeply moving psychological drama pairing two of the country’s most accomplished actors, Durban’s Clare Mortimer and Johannesburg’s Michael Richard. The point of reference for the story is the life of famed cellist Jacqueline du Pre who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and her relationship with her husband, conductor Daniel Barenboim.

Kiss of The Spider Woman witnesses the evolution of a relationship between two men with no common ground, thrust together in the confines of a prison cell. Multi-award winning actor/director Clare Mortimer directs multi-award winning Darren King and Loyiso Macdonald. Changing mood and direction totally, Loyiso Macdonald also performs with Ellis Pearson in his Man up a Tree – a lively piece of outdoor physical theatre. Also for family audiences is Neil Coppen’s charming Marvellous Mixtures which features Daisy Spencer and Bryan Hiles. Watch out - there's a 12-storey granny on the loose and she's on her way to the Hilton Festival! Coppen also brings his Tin Bucket Drum to the festival which throws a fresh twist on the traditional conventions of African story-telling, and his sublime Tree Boy featuring Ron Smerczak, Michael Gritten and Luc Haasbroek which tells a story of the relationships between three men in 1960s South Africa.

Reality TV will never be the same again! Aaron McIlroy and Lisa Bobbert, the irrepressible husband-and-wife comedy duo, are set to unleash waves of hilarity over their fans! A full musical theatre line-up is also on offer: Back in Business features Anthony Stonier and Karen Campbell-Gillies, while Anthony Stonier also appears in A Wink and a Smile with Lisa Bobbert and Evan Roberts. Such a Night features the music of Elvis as performed by Belinda Dolphin and Jaziel Vaugh’hann.

Music programmes will also be presented by The Hilton College Music Department’s Hilton College Jazz Band and the Pietermaritzburg and Midlands Youth Choir. There are also some acoustic delights: Dieselvanilla; two guitar greats - Guy Buttery and Nibs van der Spuy; Neill Solomon and Dan Chiorboli and friends; Shannon Hope and multi-instrumentalist John Roff. Christopher Duigan will be presenting his fabulous Music Revival Concert Series. There is also live music for free on the public stages at the festival.

As well as the performance, there is also a series of Think Fest presentations and workshops on a variety of topics. For arts industry practitioners there is a Hands on Masks Off session presented by National Arts Festival Director Ismail Mahomed. There is a Craft ‘n Books session hosted by Exclusive Books and Bookworld Cascades. In-between shows, visitors are invited to peruse a myriad art exhibitions situated in venues around the Hilton campus. And of course enjoy a selection of refreshments to suit all tastes.

Booking opens August 20. Programmes available in that day’s Witness; at selected Spar stores; on

Festival-goers wishing to stay in the area are strongly advised to book accommodation early at one of the many B&Bs and hotels. Booking kits will be available from August 20 from selected SPAR Stores in KZN. They can also be collected from Exclusive Books (La Lucia, Pavilion, Liberty Midlands Mall and Gateway), Adams in Musgrave Centre, Bookworld @ Cascades; KZNSA Gallery in Bulwer Durban; Crouse Art Gallery 254 Lillian Ngoyi / Windermere Rd; Pietermaritzburg Publicity offices in the CBD and Liberty Midlands Mall, and the Witness offices in Willowton Industrial estate Pietermaritzburg, The Corner Café in Glenwood, and the Hilton College Theatre (weekdays office hours). Also from leading galleries and theatre foyers. Detailed information can be found on For more information or a full programme and booking kit – visit phone 033 383 0126 /7

Info will also be found on the East Coast Radio website.

The festival would not be possible without: The Witness, East Coast Radio, Black Coffee, Nedbank, Budget, SAB, Star Hire and the KZN Dept of Arts & Culture.