national Arts Festival Banner

Monday, July 15, 2019


(Cellist with Rabies. Pic by Mark Wessels)

Cellist with Rabies, created and performed by Jemma Kahn, will be the flagship drama production at this year’s Hilton Arts Festival.

It is supported by other excellent dramas, as well as music and comedy, in an excellent line-up for the 27th annual event at Hilton College, near Pietermaritzburg, from September 13 to 15, 2019.

Cellist with Rabies … words cannot describe how amazing it is. An absolute must! Only one person is known to have survived full-blown rabies by undergoing a radical form of treatment called The Milwaukee Protocol. In this romantic tragedy loosely based in the sciences, virologist Joan Remy is extremely sceptical of the Milwaukee Protocol. She is also in love with rabies.

Director Jaco Bouwer and writer Jemma Kahn, both winners of the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre Award collaborate here for the first time. They have created a piece of post-modern theatre that can be described as erotic, intelligent and utterly engaging.

Cellist With Rabies premiered to sold-out houses at this year’s National Arts Festival in Makhanda.

The drama selection is for the serious minded.

(Tony Miyambo in “Ape”)

Kafka’s Ape is a solo performance about a primate’s struggle to overcome the confines of captivity. The play takes a metaphorical view on South African society. It highlights the complexities of identity in post-apartheid South Africa and in the human race in general. Red Peter, the ape, embarks on a journey ignited by finding a way out of a cage he was confined to after his capture; a journey in which he contests identity based on outward appearance. The script is an adaptation of the famous A Report to An Academy, by Franz Kafka. This production is performed by Tony Miyambo and has won a slew of national and international awards and nominations.

The Revlon Girl, Winner of the Silver Ovation Award at The National Arts Festival 2018, and nominated for four Naledi Awards, with Heidi Mollentze winning the Best Supporting Actress Award, is set 52 years ago in the small coal-mining town of Aberfan in Wales, which was hit by a devastating event that killed 116 children and 28 adults.

The Aberfan disaster was the catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil tip at 09h15 on October 21 1966, engulfing the local junior school and other buildings.

Beautifully written by Neil Anthony Docking, and poignantly told through the eyes of four grieving mothers, it is brilliantly infused with humour, and honours those who lost and survived the loss.

‘… an astonishingly fine piece …. The performances are so close to the bone that you understand these women from the inside out …. Beautifully written and directed with a sophisticated edge ‘…. R Sassen, My View

(“Feedback” with TQ Zondi and Mpilo Nzimande)

Feedback is a fantastical murder mystery that, in the peculiar logic of playwright Andrew Buckland, becomes a hilarious, poignant, lyrical and quirky. This satirical comedy cunningly explores topics as diverse as food-consciousness and globalization, and, in the hands of physical clowns, TQ Zondi and Mpilo Nzimande, becomes an intense action-packed celebration of humanity and our capacity for greed and altruism. The actors take us on a rollercoaster ride as they play scores of characters in this tale of two brothers, a detective, and a host of flying cheeses (amongst other foodstuffs), pitting their wits against the villainous Grave Brothers and aided by Mother D’Earth. First performed by Buckland and Lionel Newton, they won numerous awards for the piece. This team has also won several Ovation Awards and a Musho! Award for their high energy off-the-wall treatment of several of Buckland’s works, including this one. A classic SA script brilliantly re-invented.

(Tim Redpath appears in “Breasts - A Play about Men”)

Breasts - A Play about Men featuring Tim Redpath and directed by Lynn Chemaly was first presented at The National Arts Festival in July 2000, performed by award-winning writer, Greig Coetzee. Twenty years later, the content remains relevant, not only in terms of its insight into gender relationships and masculinity, but also in highlighting attitudes to race, class and culture that continue to permeate our society. Redpath takes on the challenge of presenting nine white male characters who talk about the women in their lives. Under a magnifying glass, exposed and in the spotlight, these characters give us tremendous insight into the attitudes of white, patriarchal South Africa. In the face of the #MeToo movement, and the startling statistics around gender-based violence, our ultimate goal in presenting this piece is to open a discourse about sexism, toxic masculinity, and the gender divide.

The Hilton Arts Festival, now in its 27th year takes place from September 13 to 15, 2019.

The full programme will appear in KZN copies of The Sunday Times on Sunday August 11. Booking opens on August 12, and the programme will be live on the festival website from the morning of August 12. For more info visit or contact the Festival Office on or 033 383 0127.

The Hilton Arts Festival is presented by Hilton College and tiso blackstar group, in association with Grindrod Bank; Black Coffee; Extreme Events; DWR; Bidvest Car Rental; Stella Artois; BASA; the KZN Department of Arts and Culture; Tsogo Sun; Redlands Hotel; FNB; the Caxton Group; Maritzburg Sun; Loud Crowd, The SA Artist and Sappi.