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Tuesday, September 4, 2012


An impressive array of theatre, from throughout South Africa, and further afield, has been selected for the 20th Witness Hilton Arts Festival, taking place at Hilton College from September 21 to 23.

The international flagship production is Paul Zerdin: Comic Ventriloquist. The UK’s leading comic ventriloquist / comedian. Stage Magazine says “A ventriloquist for the South Park generation,” this is not a kiddies’ birthday party!

Productions are sourced from throughout South Africa. Among the line-up of top shows this year are Delirium - a playful and pertinent allegory for the ethnic and nationalist divisions we see across the world. The action is set against the backdrop of invented lands at war where an elderly couple, played by the formidable David Dennis and Fiona Ramsay, hang onto a series of delusions as a means to survive against the insanity of borders that have been created by State and family.

… Miskien - performed mostly in English with some Afrikaans, is a simple story of two guys. Best friends who are stuck in similar dead end jobs and nondescript lives. It is a controversial, intimate and internationally-acclaimed play which received 5 star reviews at the Amsterdam Fringe in 2011 and full houses in Perth at Fringe World 2012.

Mike van Graan has written two productions which play Hilton this year. Just Business reflects on the Lolly Jackson / Teasers / Brett Kebble saga. This is a scathing, provocative satire on the economic practices and associated morality of the “New South Africa”, with plenty of black humour and rapid-fire dialogue. Brothers in Blood is an explosive drama about prejudice set within the volatile context of Muslim, Jewish and Christian relations in Cape Town, but at the same time a touching human story of love.

Ever topical, Horn of Sorrow - Nicholas Ellenbogen’s extraordinary piece of physical theatre created in the mid 1980’s highlights the plight of the rhino and the issue of poaching. The current production is directed by Brendan Grealy who was part of the original production.

Sie Weiss Alles, performed in English, is set in Berlin. It is a fascinating, tense, layered and complex drama about an interrogation between an SS commanding officer (a brilliant bristling James Cairns, who wrote the play) and intriguing young woman (Taryn Bennett). Cairns also features in a rapid-fire, clever, wry satire – Three Little Pigs alongside Albert Pretorius (…Miskien) and Rob van Vuuren (Rob van Vuuren Live) in a taut psychological thriller set in a world where Animal Farm meets Reservoir Dogs, directed by Tara Notcutt.

In Sunday Morning, Mat is a successful photographer who has his life exactly how he likes it - ordered, neat, and beautifully composed - until the day his girlfriend tells him she is pregnant. This one-man play written by Nick Warren, directed by Jenine Collocott and performed by James Cuningham has garnered much praise.

From closer to home, Durban productions have a good showing this year at the festival – KicksArt presents Venus in Fur - the South African premiere of a sexy, funny, acclaimed new play by theatrical mastermind, David Ives, starring Janna Ramos-Violante and Neil Coppen. This production is directed by Steven Stead, designed by Greg King with lighting design by Tina le Roux

Authentically vintage South African, Daisy Spencer directs Fugard’s classic, Boesman and Lena, with Rory Booth and Caitlin Kilburn in the title roles and Mthokozisi Zulu as Outa.

Callum’s Will is a heartwarming and intimate story that takes the audience on an almost filmic experience as the unlikely relationship between two men evolves from an awkward first encounter to a deep and lasting friendship which neither expects or understands. Written by Janna Ramos-Violante the play is inspired by the accident which befell Darren King a few years earlier which, miraculously, did not leave him in a wheelchair. Janna directs and the piece is performed by Darren King and Clinton Small.

Birdman is the fictionalised account of a con artist-turned-pioneering aviator in the late 1800’s, one Augustus St. John Merriweather who wishes to build a machine capable of manned human flight ... at least that’s what he’s telling everyone. Performed by Adam Doré, it is written and directed by Marc Kay.

One of the perennial highlights of the festival is the fun dinner whodunit murder mystery! This year it is The Strange Case of the Naked Socialite featuring Annie Robinson and Paul Spence.

Interspersed with the drama are two great national comedians – Rob van Vuuren and Marc Lottering both enjoying the solo spotlight and performing some acclaimed topical stand up

There is also a comprehensive programme of theatre for the very young: Clinton Marius brings two shows: i-Puppeti is a fun and frolicking show for primary and pre-primary children, that explores the many types of puppets and puppetry, including sock, hand, stick, string, shadow and giant puppets. And The Fantastical Flea Circus featuring Shika Budhoo and Dhaveshan Govender.

The Actors Unemployed Company is proud to present their first show aimed at children, Pied Piper of Hamelin. Adapted for the stage from the Robert Browning version of the classic tale by Marc Kay, and directed by Clinton Small, the show stars Adam Doré as the title character… and many more!

The Snowman is a delightful tale, based on the children's book by Raymond Briggs, which tells the story of a young boy who builds a Snowman that magically comes to life. The puppets and sets were constructed by Peter Court and Bryan Hiles of Creative Madness, and manipulated by the members of the Actors Unemployed Company, Marc Kay, Adam Doré and Clinton Small. Clare Mortimer is heard as the Narrator, and the production is directed and conducted by David Plank.

Detailed information can be found on or phone 033 383 0126 /7. Booking for the Witness Hilton Arts Festival is now open. Printed programmes will be available from selected Spar & SUPER SPAR stores throughout KZN, most bookshops, galleries, theatres, tourism offices and public libraries.

The festival would not be possible without the support of The Witness, Grindrod Bank, SPAR, TOPS, Black Coffee, Budget, SAB, Star Hire, KZN Dept of Arts & Culture