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Saturday, July 9, 2011


(The cast of "Edges": David Fick, Louella Holland, Roland Perold and Shannyn Fourie)

National Arts Festival, Grahamstown: Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thursday … my last day of shows before wrapping up to leave on Saturday.

I had booked to see Iain “Ewok” Robinson’s Seriously but was thrown a curved ball of a deadline so was locked to my computer until late morning, meaning that I had to forego this.

The next production was The Swansong of Norrie da Silva, another Durban production, and one that I had missed back home when Belinda Henwood performed it at the Musho! Festival.

Written and performed by Belinda and directed by Michael Gritten, this is an endearing bitter-sweet story about an ageing lady whose brain has lost touch with reality. She lives in her own sweet world in a retirement home and she has made her umbrella - Ollie the Brolly - her companion. Her outfits are interesting, to say the least – black skirt with red flowers, wellington boots with pink roses, topped off with an orange scarf!

Forgetful and confused, one day she leaves her trolley behind and is thrown into distress as she realises that her secret will be revealed – she’s been stealing books from the library. We wander through her life, with all its disappointments and despairs. She travels a tortuous route trying to remember things and the process to avoid saying the oft-used four letter word was highly amusing.

The imagery is clever with an ornate hat-stand doubling as the receptacle for her makeup, cutlery, and other items while the use of torches as puppets and a photograph frame adds to the interest.

The Swansong of Norrie da Silva sends a strong message of respect for the aged or those living in a twilight zone and Belinda Henwood gives a sensitive and sustained performance throughout.

This emotive and intricate presentation was marred by a photographer who was obviously covering the show for her publication. She had what appeared to be a sophisticated camera but not only did she click away virtually every 30 seconds but added to the disruption factor by checking that her image had been captured which must have seriously distracted the people behind her.

In performances, people pay to see a performer – not a photographer – at work. Apart from being disruptive to the artiste/s, it’s extremely irritating for the audience and unacceptable behaviour. There is also the important factor of copyright to be taken into consideration.

This is something the National Arts Festival needs to address as I have since heard numerous other complaints from both audiences and performers about disruptive photographers. Perhaps a workshop on photographing performances live with the use of a camera with no shutter sound might be a good idea. Or else allowing photographers in five minutes before the doors open to capture an image that the performers can create, thus ensuring the perfect image.

Despite the photographic distraction, I was sufficiently warmed by this production to nominate it for an Ovation Award as I believe it has the potential to be developed further.

My final show of the festival was Edges presented by the National Arts Festival on the Arena programme in association with Rolska Productions and Big Leaf Productions

This production comes about from the company’s presentation of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change which appeared on the 2010 festival and was recognised for the Arena – the bridging section between Fringe and the Main festivals.

A song cycle written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Edges deals with relationships – those that work and those that don’t. Directed by Paul Griffiths, it features David Fick, Louella Holland, Shannyn Fourie and Roland Perold with Musical Director Garth Tavares on the piano. I liked the colour theme of the costumes which changed subtly throughout the show but stayed within the white/beige/grey spectrum.

“Who am I? … Where am I going? … Who am I going to become?” are questions that face those consciously entering adulthood. With that awareness, comes the whole new agenda of relationships, when so many are thrust into passion and sexual activity without really taking stock of where the process may lead. Or, if – or when - the situation arises, whether they have the confidence and determination to extricate themselves before serious emotional harm is done to either partner.

The show’s most famous song, Be My Friend, has come to be commonly known as the "Facebook song". This is just one of the highly amusing numbers in the show – which also runs the gamut of emotion from jealousy to rejection. The production has clever lyrics but the music isn’t easy, being full of difficult harmonies and deliberate dissonance. While everyone puts in good performances, Shannyn Fourie is a standout as a comedy actress and singer. - Caroline Smart