national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, August 15, 2015


(Philip Dikotla, Shaun Oelf & Mncedisi Shabangu. Pic by Oscar O’Ryan)

Innovative, richly textured and memorable drama conveys important messages of hope and survival. (Review by Keith Millar)

The annual South African Woman’s Art Festival (SAWAF) presented by the Playhouse Company in Durban is a wonderful celebration of woman in all their diversity. Running until August 22, the festival offers an eclectic mixture of entertainment including fine drama, dance, slam poetry, children’s theatre, panel discussions and music.

A standout drama production from this varied programme is multi award winning writer/director Lara Foot’s excellent Fishers of Hope.

Known for plays which tackle issues of social injustices Foot has on this occasion produced a deeply atmospheric, poetic and emotive piece which explores the theme of hope and survival.

Fishers of Hope tells the story of a family group of fisherman who live in poverty on the shores of a lake somewhere in Africa. Foot did her research for the production in Kenya. The stock of fish in the lake which has sustained the populace for centuries has been decimated by the introduction of foreign species.

There is no food and John, the breadwinner, has had his leg severely damaged in a confrontation with a hippopotamus and is no longer able to provide for his family. As they struggle for survival all they have left is hope. Hope for a better future and the possibility for a little happiness and peace in their lives.

This innovative production uses a mixture of traditional African story telling along with dance, video projections, and music to tell the story.

The live music is of particular note. Sitting to the side of the stage musician Nceba Gongxeka sings and plays a variety of traditional African instruments with consummate skill and sensitivity creating a unique and meaningful atmosphere for the piece.

The set for this production is wonderfully imaginative. The family’s shack is situated beside a lake. Alongside is a rack of dried-out fish skeletons which allude to a past of plenty. White fishing nets serve as a backdrop and are also the screen for the video projections. A fishing jetty stretches out over the edge of the lake which contains real water.

It is beautifully authentic and enhanced by moody lighting which creates reflections of lapping water and depictions of the African sky in all its moods. The magnificent soundscape of lapping water, crickets and birds completes what is a very effective setting.

The performances by the small cast are out of the top drawer. Philip Tipo Tindisa as the fatally-injured John depicts a beaten man - not only by his injuries but by the circumstances of his life. Lesedi Job is Ruth, his gentle and loving wife who will go to any ends to support her family. Byron Klassen is Peter, their adopted son, who is mute. He expresses himself through acrobatic dance moves. His is a superb athletic performance.

Rounding off the cast is Phillip Dikotla as Ruth’s brother and the splendid Mncedisi Shabangu as the tour guide. He is the storyteller in the production and also provides all the humour.

The opening performance of Fishers of Hope was marred by a largely invited audience who seemed to have little understanding or, in fact, interest in the action on stage. Apart from laughing at the most inappropriate moments, conversations carried on unabated throughout while several patrons seemed to arrive or leave at will. Packets of crisps and sweets seemed to enjoy more attention than the drama and the resulting rustling was very distracting.

What they missed was an innovative, richly textured and memorable drama production which conveyed important messages of hope and survival

There is one more performance of Fishers of Hope tomorrow (Sunday, August 16) at 14h30 in the Playhouse Drama. Booking is at Computicket. – Keith Millar

For more information about the festival visit or Facebook at The Festival hotline number is 031 369 9456. All bookings are through Computicket or through the Playhouse box office on 031 369 9540/ 9596. Special discounted parking is available for all Playhouse patrons at the Albany/ Royal Hotel parking.