It’s time to take a closer look at this year’s Clover Aardklop festival happening in Potchefstroom from September 24 to 28. It’s well established as one of the most important arts festivals in the country and they reach far and wide to draw in as large and varied an audience as possible. DIANE DE BEER explores the exciting events available to audiences, from theatre to the fine arts.
Drama has, to my mind, always been dominant at Aardklop, but it has also had a very strong art and music component – none of which needs to be language-driven.
This year’s festival artist is landscape whizz Strijdom van der Merwe, who recently returned from an exciting international exhibition in Washington DC. Striking the Land includes previously documented work as well as new installations, which will specially be made for the occasion.
Other artists have also been invited to come to the landscape party, including this year’s young curator, Luan Nel, who has gathered 28 artists to participate in a show titled Weerberig (Weather Forecast).
Gordon Froud has selected a clutch of artists who participated in the site-specific International Art Land Event in 2011 and 2013 in Plettenberg Bay. Anni Snyman curates an exhibition, Relocated, that photographically captured that art happening.
That’s just a whiff of what is happening in a fine arts sense.
But daily walkabouts are also part of the schedule led by this year’s visual festival curator Theo Kleynhans. He will make sure art lovers get to see everything that’s artistically important in Potchefstroom.
On the musical front, the menu stretches from musical theatre to classical concerts. The star of the show, Magdalene Minnaar (previously seen in Pieter Toerien’s Phantom of the Opera as Christine), features in a concert titled Waansin (Madness), for which she selects specific arias from various operas. Expect fireworks – the title alone suggests that.
An authentic Baroque concert on Baroque instruments, with famed Dutch Baroque violinist Antoinette Lohmann joined by the local Baroque Ensemble, is another one to savour. Taking a slightly lighter approach, From Mozart to Madonna says it all, with the Black Ties choosing the language option with Kliphard Afrikaans. Another artist with a big and beautiful voice, Zanne Stapelberg, joins hands with two very different men in two very different shows. First there’s a performance with Neil Rademan in what seems like a more dramatic turn in ZaZa en die Kunstenar (Zaza and the Articlown). This is followed by a return to old friend guitarist James Grace in Secret Songs, with a range of music she loves hearing performed.
From a celebration of world music, with guitarist Schalk Joubert, to rocking together with Valiant Swart, Mel Botes, Piet Botha and Albert Frost in Die Ruiters & Swart, a tribute to Lance James and Min Shaw, as well as Jannie Moolman and Riaan Hunter reviving the soul of Ge Korsten, they cover the musical memory bank.
Dance hasn’t been a huge hit at Potchefstroom. But if they don’t get Attachments 1 to 7 with Anthea Mazarakis and Craig Morris, it will be a sad day. These two artists are reviving a glorious ode to relationships, which they first performed in Joburg a few years back.
Even if you don’t have a clue about dance, you’ll get this. As they move from that early meeting to a married couple, who stumble and stay in a routine that becomes stultifying, it’s a familiarly endearing work worth travelling for.
Hopefully they will travel this one again.
It won’t ever lose its shine.
From a new adaptation of Macbeth and A Report to the Academy to acclaimed directors like Marthinus Basson, Jaco Bouwer and the youngster Christiaan Olwagen, actors Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Dawid Minnaar, Jana Cilliers and Antoinette Kellermann all on one stage, it’s blistering stuff at this year’s Aardklop.
Because of finances and the cost of a fullscale Macbeth, the wily Basson has been creative with Eitemal’s translation of Macbeth and stages it with nine actors. Naturally he then hits you with a cast that has theatregoers salivating. With Van der Merwe and Minnaar as the conniving couple, Kellermann and Cilliers as witches, Basson will enhance rather than diminish Macbeth: Slapeloos, as he builds majestic visions with his creative mind. The rest of the cast includes other Basson regulars including Herman Binge, Stian Bam as well as Charlton George, Edwin van der Walt and Senzo Madikane.
This is what he does best and Shakespeare afficionados should make a note.
In similar vein, Sandra Prinsloo gets to sway her sceptre in a Saartjie Botha translation of Edward Albee’s Wie’s Bang Vir Virginia Woolf? It’s the kind of play that gives actors the chance to give their interpretation of a classic with former players (Liz Taylor, for example) etched on people’s minds. Prinsloo is going to have fun with this. Taking her on with gloves off is André Jacobs, while the younger couple is represented by the remarkable Wessel Pretorius and Greta Pietersen, all of whom should have sparks flying.
Botha and Olwagen also collaborate on Wie Drink Wat? which dissects the party life and the way people get stuck into their drink and why. Again the cast looms large, starring Brendon Daniels, Martelize Kolver, Lee Ann van Rooi, Gideon Lombard, De Klerk Oelofse, Cintaine Schutte and Andile Vellum. Botha and Olwagen both wrote the script with the latter directing.
Another one with historical perspective is A Report to an Academy, translated and adapted to Na-Aap with the innovative Jaco Bouwer directing another of the talented youngsters, Oelofse.
There are a few special names that add to the thrill of any festival and here Nicola Hanekom always delivers. Her latest, titled Land van Skedels, is a new site-specific work which explores the Anglo Boer War with special reference to the concentration camps. It is specially created for the 100th anniversary of the Vrouemonument in Bloemfontein and the cast includes Tinarie van Wyk Loots, Albert Maritz, Grant Swanby, Wilhelm van der Walt and Magdalene Minnaar.
With music always a strong element in her work, Braam du Toit will compose some special sounds, adding to the nuance and textures of the piece.
Regular festival names including Deon Opperman, Chris Voster, Pierre van Pletzen, Louis van Niekerk, Brümilda van Rensburg, Nicole Holm, Mike van Graan and Gerben Kamper are all back with an exciting rundown:
• Opperman has written a drama set in an old-age home with Van Rensburg and Van Niekerk dealing with old age in As Ek Reg Onthou.
It’s the story of two famous actors who find themselves in the same retirement home with only one stage. Naturally neither of them wants to be in the audience. They have many memories between them and not all they want to remember.
• Tertius Kapp’s Oorsee has already been nominated for the ATKV drama prize and with a cast led by Kamper, Holm and Daniels, he looks closely at a landscape where a group of South African citizens find themselves at sea. Having fled their country, this is many years on and they still haven’t found their way.
• Van Graan is back with Gevalle Engel starring the promising Hannah Borthwick as a tough rebellious child who people can’t quite fathom. She’s only a child, but she seems a hard nut to crack as no one seems to be able to work though her demons.
This one is described as a thrilling human drama and appears to be new territory for the playwright. Brink Scholtz directs.
• Chris Voster returns as a player in his self-written Affairs vir Domkoppe which is directed by Van Pletzen (the two are colleagues on SABC2’s 7de Laan) and he invites audiences who don’t heed good advice to come and hear what he has to say.
Some of the productions to look out for from other festivals include Gys de Villiers in a translation of White Men with Weapons (Wit Manne se Wapens), comic Marion Holm in geMARIONeer, the antics in Platform 9, the way people party in Tjop en Dop and the innovative approach in Sfeer.
Dirt is the perfect vehicle to showcase James Cairns.
Catering to as wide an audience as possible, Aardklop has the luxury of selecting only the best when they look at a niche English market they hope to attract to the festival.
Here are some brilliant choices:
• It has its credentials in hand. An Audience with Miss Hobhouse, written by journalist Tony Jackman, performed by Lynita Crofford and directed by Christopher Weare, won a Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown this year. It is based on the writings and experiences of Emily Hobhouse and her translation of the memoir Tant’ Alie of Transvaal.
Jackman gives Hobhouse another chance to have her say about the conditions in which Britain incarcerated Boer women and children during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. It’s harrowing stuff, but masterfully presented.
• If you haven’t yet seen Nick Warren’s comedy Dirt, with James Cairns performing six distinct characters (and a dog), don’t miss out again. It’s the trifecta of theatre. There’s the Warren script, the Cairns performance and the astute direction by Jenine Collocott.
In his last two plays (Sunday Morning and this one), Warren writes about men of a certain age, their early to mid forties. Dirt tells the story of three estranged friends on their way from Joburg to Cape Town for the funeral of a fourth. It’s extremely funny, but also painful and offers some surprising insights into the nature of male friendships.
According to the director, Dirt is the perfect vehicle to showcase Cairns’s talent. And she’s right. It’s a powerful performance.
• But he graces the stage a second time and is as successful in the much-acclaimed The Three Little Pigs, which has done the rounds, but is most worthy of a viewing.
It’s won rave reviews nationally and internationally.
Brilliant young director Tara Notcutt (The Pink Couch) directs Rob van Vuuren, Albert Pretorius and Cairns in a satire that has both players and audience licking their lips. It’s been described as Animal Farm meets Reservoir Dogs and was written by the company which along the way found a novel way of telling a story that’s authentic, hysterical and hugely disturbing. And it has a way of putting things in their place with some semblance of perspective.
• Van Vuuren (who is known as Twakkie in certain circles) is also on stage in Rob van Vuuren – Live. This is another of his personae and is described as irreverent and side-splittingly funny as well as a Standard Bank Ovation Award-winning stand-up comedy show by the 2011 award winner of the Comics Choice Breakthrough Act.
What cannot be argued is that he will make you laugh. One cannot ask more than that.
• Writer and director Phillip Rademeyer’s The View won two awards at the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival and was nominated for three Fleur du Cap Awards.
It stars Gideon Lombard (Miskien, Bidsprinkaan) and Ella Gabriel and was inspired by a recent viral video in which an American pastor, Charles Worley, stated that gays and lesbians should be contained in separate electrified enclosures. That should get anyone thinking.
His argument was that eventually they would die out as they would not be able to reproduce. If not chilling enough, it gets the discussion going on a totally different level with actors who know how to tell stories of any kind.
For more infomation, go to www.cloveraardklop.co.za