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Friday, July 4, 2014


(David Dukas as Cecil John Rhodes and Greg Parvess as Colonel Kekewich. Pic by Val Adamson)

Unique opportunity of seeing the other side ... (Report by Keith Millar)
For some time now it has been my absolute pleasure to sit in the audience of numerous productions and watch entertainers create magic. 

What is more, thanks to commissioning from the artSMart website, I have presumed the right to pass judgement on the efforts of all involved in the staging of the production.
For the past week, however, I have had the unique opportunity of seeing the other side of putting together a professional stage play as I assist as a member of the production team.
The play in question is Duncan Buwalda’s absorbing “what if” creation, Hinterland, which will be seen on the Fringe at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown from July 3.
Buwalda’s story is based on the siege of Kimberly during the second Anglo Boer war. He has, however, indulged in a little re-writing of history and has placed Arch-Imperialist Cecil Rhodes and Sol Plaatje, the intellectual heavyweight who was also one of the founders of the ANC, together in an unusual relationship. Questions are posed as to what may have happened if these two had met, and what impact the meeting could have had on the history of South Africa. The truth about Rhodes’ sexuality is also probed during the production.
My first observation of the activities behind the scenes is of the impressively professional manner in which all involved went about their responsibilities. This was not an easy production to put together as the cast comes from all corners of the country. The two leads, David Dukas as Rhodes and Sipho Mahlatshana as Plaatje hail from Johannesburg while Greg Parvess, playing Colonel Kekewich who was Officer In Charge of Kimberley, is from Cape Town. From Durban is accomplished veteran Frank Graham as Rhodes’ personal physician, Dr Smartt.
Director Caroline Smart as well as her PA Pauline Dalais are also from Durban.  Producer Duncan Buwalda has also travelled from Cape Town.
This team was only able to assemble for the first time eight days ago to begin rehearsals and planning. Suffice it to say that it has been a hectic week of hard work and activity by all to get the production to the point where they were able to present a polished, professional and skilled preview performance at Durban's Stable Theatre on Monday night.
So after 11 hours on the road, dodging a few cows and many potholes on the way, the cast and crew of Duncan Buwalda’s enthralling “what if” historical drama, Hinterland, has arrived safely in the lovely Eastern Cape City of Grahamstown ahead its appearance at the National Arts Festival.
Grahamstown is a city alive with a sense of anticipation and excitement. Tomorrow, the fest gets underway, the 40th anniversary of this the country’s premier cultural event.
Crowds of festival goers are starting to gather, excited participants are rushing around plastering every available space with posters announcing their events, everywhere there is the sound of rehearsals and sound checks taking place.
Eleven days of amazing are about to begin.
As for Hinterland, the first port of call after a good night’s rest, was the NG Kerk Hall where the production is to be staged. The challenges were considerable. The stage at the Hall is about half the size of the venue where the production was rehearsed. The stage flats were very flimsy and ready to collapse when attempts were made to hang some of the set items. Also the technical crew in charge of the venue had never been involved with this production before.
Seeming chaos ensured. Instructions were shouted, suggestions, both serious and facetious were bandied about, and everyone seemed to rush about on their own missions
However, in a little more than an hour, all the problems had been solved and a successful technical rehearsal had been completed. Again one cannot help but to admire the professionalism and sense of co-operation amongst this cast and crew.
With that, Hinterland is ready go for what promises to be a successful run at the fest.
There are over 500 productions and 2,400 performances taking place at the National Arts Festival this year. For every one of these productions, the process described above has to be done - obviously at various levels. One can only marvel at the magnitude of the operation.
This impressive achievement has certainly given me a better understanding and an increased appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes. Catch Hinterland from July 3 to 8 at the NG Kerk Hall in Hill Street. I don’t think you will be disappointed. – Keith Millar 

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