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Sunday, July 13, 2014


(Mtho Zulu, Adam Dore & Marc Kay in “Super Mokoena”)

Report by Latoya Newman, courtesy of Tonight. Apologies for late posting (due to internet problems)

The Not the Grahamstown Festival wrapped up in the last weekend of June on as high a note as it started just over two week ago.

The only disappointment was the virtually empty Catalina Theatre, at least for almost all of the shows we reviewed. This is particularly sad, considering that this would have been an ideal opportunity for locals to enjoy some great, fresh, out-of-the-box kind of theatre, as well as support small production companies (through buying a ticket) who are now taking their shows to the National Arts Festival (NAF) in Grahamstown.

That said the shows did go on, as is the case in this business.

Here’s a brief wrap of two of the closing-weekend productions we caught.

Let’s start with The Actors Unemployed Company’s Super Mokoena which will have you rolling on the floor with laughter. A slapstick take on the Super Man story, Super Mokoena tells the story much like that of the original Super Man story, except this Super Man crash lands in Umlazi township on Earth.

The infant super hero is discovered by local Umlazi resident, Mr Mokoena, who raises the boy as his own. Years later, the young hero finds his feet in - terms of understanding his powers and purpose for being on earth - and comes out to the public as ‘Super S’ as he goes about saving people in need around him.

After he gets a job at a local newspaper and befriends Lewis (a male journalist) Super S - in disguise as a nerdy young journo – and Lewis stumble up a local corporate giant’s plan to buy out the locals of Umlazi as part of a larger wicked plan of domination.

Can Super S save the day or will the discovery of his only weakness bring him down? The creative team of Clare Mortimer (director), Bryan Hiles (designer), Marc Kay (writer, performer), Adam Dore (performer) and Mtho Zulu (performer) ensure that their audience is engaged in this adventure from start to finish with not just their super funny script,  also great use of shadow puppetry techniques that bring all the action to life on stage. No doubt, Super Mokoena is headed for a great run at the NAF!

A very interesting and relevant production which also formed part of the festival’s closing weekend was SoundGaze: Moving Images of Marie in Woyzeck. Adapted from Georg Buchner’s Woyzeck, this production is based on the true story of a soldier who murdered his lover over infidelity.

The South African / Zimbabwean collaboration is directed by Juanita Chitepo and features Chitepo, Michael Kudakwashe and Edgar Langeveldt; with live music performed by iThembalethu Academy for the Performing Arts.

This production is attractive on a number of levels.

The story line is interesting in that it looks at what is nowadays becoming a growing occurrence and this is femicide – the murder of women by their intimate partners. But this production does not just scratch the surface of the issue. It investigates the matter holistically taking into account issues like the role that both partners play in their tumultuous relationship and outside factors that influence their behaviour.

That the production is based on a true story means that your connection with it is all the stronger. The way the production is played out on a stage is also very different with a mix of live music, drama, poetry and photographic imaging projected onto a screen coming together to create a wonderful theatrical experience that literally transports you into the story.

The entire cast – which juggles between either singing or playing instruments and acting – do a good job of it.

The Not the Grahamstown Festival made a comeback at the Catalina Theatre this year after a few years. The idea of the event, which ran over two weekends, was to give Durban audiences a bit of a taste of what local production companies are taking to the NAF. At the same time, part of the door takings was donated towards the different groups to help them fund their trip to the National Arts Festival.

It is hoped that the Not the Grahamstown Festival will take on more elements and become an annual event at the Catalina in the years to come. – Latoya Newman,