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Tuesday, July 5, 2011


(Clyde Berning in "Is It Because I'm Jack?")

National Arts Festival, Grahamstown: Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sunday also dawned bright and sunny so we all paid homage to the weather organiser somewhere out there in the universe for giving us good weather. Long may it continue!

The day started off on a busy note with the media function when the NAF organisers thank the media as well as their sponsors for their support and bring us up to date with what’s happening now and in the future. There are exciting plans ahead for the festival and stronger international links but you’ll be reading all this on artSMart shortly. As always, Tony Lankester said we couldn’t have figures yet but it looked as if the booking was good.

Duly fortified with the spirit of festival, I went on to see What’s in a Name which was introduced by a hilarious cellphone switch-off warning. Presented by Rolska Productions, directed by Garth Tavares and featuring Roland Perold and Delray Burns, it offered an amusing and entertaining hour-long programme of musical titbits – some familiar, some adapted and some unknown – well, to me, at least! These include a number about a handsome latte waiter, El Delfo, Lydia the tattooed lady and a fun song presented by Mother Christmas who is now sick and tired of being on her own every Christmas Eve! On familiar ground for me was Brad and Janet’s duet from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Copacabana and the battle for bust-supremacy between Otto Titsling and Philippe de-Brassiere. The final 90 seconds’ Nations of the World was a delight!

As the Oatlands exhibition venue was close at hand, I dropped in to see Gustav (Jack) Kaltenbrun’s exhibition. An old friend from many years back when I used to produce the D’ARTS magazine for Durban Arts, Jack was unfailingly supportive of the magazine as a regular advertiser. His exhibition comprises paintings and metalwork inspired by the shamanic method of meditation and metaphorical thinking. The exhibition is dedicated to the shamans of the Free State who enabled Jack to work among them for many years and gain some insight into their unique creative power. While the paintings are spiritual and moving, Jack’s metalwork will always be the drawcard for me and there are some simply beautiful pieces on exhibition.

Then it was off to see Is It Because I’m Jack? written by Mike van Graan, produced by MVG Productions and directed by Yvette Hardie. As always, the multi award-winning Mike van Graan’s writing is pure joy to connect with as well as his capacity to tell a story through witty and amusing conversation that has an underlying threat of satire and un-political correctness without being overt. As the four friends, the cast is well chosen with Clyde Berning (Jack), Morne Visser (Marty), Anele Matoti (Farai) and Andrew Laubscher (Tim) putting in excellent and credible performances.

Farai, a Zimbabwean stand-up comic living in South Africa, has discovered that he has cancer and is handling it the best way he can – through being humorous and positive about it. However, as his body weakens and the fateful day draws nearer, he has a dream in which he – out of the four friends – is the last to leave this earth. This causes various reactions from the other three and thus the play proceeds. As each outer layer of bonhomie and congeniality is stripped away, secrets are revealed and the friendship is severely threatened. If you like your theatre intelligent and thought-provoking, this is for you … and it’s not all dark, laughter is always the overriding factor. - Caroline Smart