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Monday, September 16, 2019


There’s nothing quite like the atmosphere of an arts festival to stimulate the senses and take us away from the mundane, troubled world, and Hilton 2019 certainly didn’t disappoint. Like-minded people react and socialise with each other, exchanging ideas and creativity across the arts spectrum.

I was fortunate enough to attend five completely different shows in one day as reviewer for the artSMart website – and this is in addition to the wonderful and innovative art on display around the Hilton College campus, showcasing the best that South Africa has to offer.


(Charlie Bougenon, Jessie Wolhuter & Natasha Sutherland)

In this time of activism against gender-based violence, Brutal Legacy reminds us that GBV has – sad to say – always been part of the fabric of South African life. It is the story of media darling Tracy Going, who thought she had found her dashing prince after the break-up of her first marriage. Unfortunately, things go very sour after a short few months and Tracy becomes a victim of some serious abuse.

The signs of an abuser are there for all to see – the excessive swearing at a “psycho ex”, the drinking, the loner image who won’t introduce her to his circle of friends – if indeed he actually has one.

The cleverly-constructed script, directed by Lesedi Job, is an adaptation of Tracy Going’s book Brutal Legacy, creating emotional counterpoints aplenty in its revelations of her childhood, attempting to highlight the good times against the emotional and physical abuse of her mother by a drunken father, abuse that no authority would investigate.
 Presented by Daphne Kuhn and Lesedi Job, the play takes us through all aspects of the relationship with Tracy’s abuser – the flirtatious beginnings, the abuse and the court cases - and is excellently performed by Natasha Sutherland, Jessie Wolhuter and Charlie Bougenon. For me on a personal note, it was great to see Natasha Sutherland on stage again, as I last saw her perform at the Playhouse in Durban, during her time with the Loft Company!

Brutal Legacy is a harrowing piece – for the actors and audience alike, but should be seen by all. Don’t miss it if it comes to a theatre near you!


(Bryan Hiles as the grumpy old man)

Coming out of Brutal Legacy and going straight into The Great Big Enormous Turnip was quite an emotional leap, but that’s what arts festivals are all about.

This delightful show for the younger generation (although it was thoroughly enjoyed by all the adults present) is based on an old Russian folk tale and tells the story of a very grumpy little old man and an equably grumpy little old woman who have been married for numerous years and have got to a point in their relationship where they simply can’t stand the sight of each other.

One day the old man sets out to grow the biggest turnip in the world to prove he is the best gardener. The problem comes in when he and his wife try to pull it out of the ground, which proves impossible for the two of them, and requires the assistance of various audience members, who become instant family members. The enthusiasm of the kids who ended up on stage has to be seen to be believed!

The Great Big Enormous Turnip was written by Peter Court of Creative Madness, and co-directed by him and Bryan Hiles, who plays the grumpy old man, ably assisted by Cara Roberts as the grumpy old woman. There are laughs aplenty in this production, along with some valuable life lessons to be learnt. A joy for all ages!


This was next on my list, and promised a “behind-the-scenes” glimpse of the story of Disney studios and the mind of the man behind it all. The audience was treated to some excellent singing and dancing by an exceptionally-talented cast of four singer/dancers and three on-stage musos (keyboard, bass guitar and percussion) as they performed hits made famous in the multi-generational Disney movie catalogue, from the likes of Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, The Jungle Book, Pocahontas, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Toy Story, Tangled and Frozen. Unfortunately, there was no cast list available in the pre-publicity, and the performers were never introduced, so I can’t mention individuals by name.

After a bit of internet research, I have learnt that the show was written and directed by Brett de Groot, who is also the narrator and lead singer. While he is an exceptionally talented young man, several of the older audience members found him a bit self-indulgent with his frequent ad-libs to the band members, some of which were a tad risqué for an all-ages audience.

While very entertaining, the show was also rather long for a festival piece, at approximately an hour and three quarters. One presumes that when the show has been performed in Johannesburg, it was split into two acts with an interval. No such luxury at Hilton, unfortunately, causing several younger members of the audience to indulge in a spot of seat-squirming.

Altogether, this was an entertaining piece, even if not the right show for a festival like Hilton.


(Bryan Hiles & Cara Roberts)

Following on the success of The King of Broken Things staged at last year’s Hilton Festival, The Place of Small Miracles is the latest venture by Theatresmiths. It was written and conceived by lighting supremo Michael-Taylor Broderick, and realised by him and probably the two most hard-working actors at the festival – Cara Roberts and Bryan Hiles.

The show is billed as suitable for all ages, and as one at the top end of the age scale, I found myself absolutely mesmerised by the creativity and intricacy of this production. Roberts and Hiles took us on a magical journey of puppetry, theatrics, shadows, magic and ingenuity as they led us on an expedition to discover the mysterious Place of Small Miracles.

Hopefully, this show can be staged throughout the country and appreciated by everyone who is privileged to witness it. All I can do is doff my hat in admiration at the ingenuity of Michael Taylor-Broderick and the amazingly talented duo of Cara Roberts and Bryan Hiles. I look forward to what they will come up with for Hilton 2020!


Followspot Productions’ Bijou was the last of my five Festival picks for the day. For me it was a “must-see” after the wonderful Caliente, staged at Hilton in 2018. Bijou was certainly no disappointment as it followed the same mix of comedy, cirque, song, dance and vaudeville, all wrapped up in a thoroughly entertaining and sexy 70 minute long cabaret.

All the ingredients for which they are famous were there – thumping music, incredible dance routines with the girls being flung about like rag dolls, trapeze, atmospheric lighting, smoke and even a mirrored floor in one incredibly sensuous solo dance sequence.

The action never lets up for a moment as these incredible performers held the audience in the palm of their hands with their unique mix of true entertainment. There really is no time to think, so if you get the chance to see Bijou anywhere in the future, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!

For more information on the Hilton Arts Festival visit – Barry Meehan