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Saturday, September 10, 2011


( Pic by Val Adamson: “Bride and Monster”: Mayenziwe Zuma, Gisele Turner and Aphiwe Namba)

Durban University of Technology’s Professor Debbie Lutge has instigated a brand new festival of original plays to celebrate Heritage Month. The Children’s Theatre Festival, which has already become known as Kids Inherit! Festival (ki!f) is the week-long programme which runs at the Courtyard Theatre from September 23 to 29 and showcases the works of local educational theatre veterans Gisele Turner and Wendy Nel (from well-loved Madcaps Creative Education Company) and features the first year students of the Drama Department.

Students have the opportunity to make and manipulate a variety of puppets as part of the skills development component to the festival as well as working with lecturers Prof Debbie Lutge, Thomas Mpoeleng and guest director Gisele Turner whose play, Lucky Strike, was runner-up in the prestigious Trinity College of London International Play Writing Competition 2010.

“New plays don’t always have the opportunity to be mounted due to financial restraints,” says Debbie Lutge. “This Festival gives life to a local play which reflects aspects of our unique social and cultural environment and also gives our students a valuable opportunity to learn new skills and work with a local playwright.”

The plays featured at ki!f include Green Hat directed by Debbie Lutge. This popular piece is an environmental awareness comedy created by Gisele Turner and Wendy Nel with Aldo Brincat in 2000; it toured over 100 local schools and had a successful run at Grahamstown Festival. “Wendy and I also adapted and dramatised unusual folk stories mostly from the African continent,” says Turner, “As we believe that live theatre has a lasting impression on learners and is an ideal way of creating cultural awareness. The Bride and the Monster is a puppet presentation, working with rod puppets handcrafted by Wendy Nell.”

Rain, an ancient San story which examines the relationship between humans and celestial beings is also on the festival programme as is Silver Stream, an original myth interwoven with African folk lore, all with water as their central theme. These plays are directed by Thomas Mpoeleng, former Junior Lecturer and himself a graduate from DUT’s Drama Studies Department. He co-directed the musical, Have We Been Heard? with Durban acclaimed director Bheki Mkhwane.

Gisele Turner directs The Bride and the Monster and Lucky Strike. “This is such a wonderful opportunity to work with tertiary level students and to share my love of theatre for children which is a very rewarding way to earn a living,” says Turner.

ki!f will run over a weekend to allow family audiences to enjoy the selection of plays and then has a run for schools; it is geared to learners from Junior and Senior Primary Schools. The Festival is presented in association with the Performing Arts Network of South Africa: PANSA and booking is through Lebogang Sibisi on 031 373 2194. Tickets R10 throughout for everybody. The full programme can be found on the PANSA website: