Brett Bailey to shake up the arts scene

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st brett bailey 2 INLSA STAND OUT: Brett Bailey, founder of Third World Bunfight during the Grahamstown Arts Festival. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Brett Bailey is thinking of the apartheid musical. He says – slyly: “I have to work out what take to give it.”

The theatre superstar is serious. It’s planned for 2016. And that would be in keeping with what Bailey, of Third World Bunfight, feels about the arts.

Currently in Grahamstown as part of the artistic committee (specifically theatre) of the National Arts Festival, he feels current models have been in place for a long time and the time has come for things to be shaken up.

He confirms; “Shaking things up is very much part of who I am.”

As one of our global stars who travels internationally more than staging his provocative productions locally, he marches to his own drum. He is quick to query anything he feels isn’t thought through.

That’s why his choice of productions that he sees at the festival are fascinating. You know that he has his ear to the ground and wants to watch people he thinks have something to say.

But he is also checking to see if he made good choices when programming. Bailey is quick to point out that local audiences don’t necessarily queue around the block for his productions. When he staged medEia in Cape Town last year they played to 50 percent capacity. But he knows that is the price you pay when the work is challenging.

He has been asked to return to Cape Town with his Macbeth – The Opera which tours to London in September followed by a season of his hugely successful Exhibit B which was staged at the Festival in 2011 as Exhibit A and has simply been extended slightly hence the title change.

Anyone who has witnessed any of Bailey’s productions or installations will know that you never leave untouched or untroubled. He pushes you to ponder the world around you, how you relate to the African landscape and its people.

He does this in a way that is often quite simple, putting the viewer in a position of discomfort.

Another agenda he hopes to push is more international content at local festivals. “We’re isolated geographically but no more than before and we need that lifeblood.”

Bailey’s Macbeth – The Opera of course turns the norm on its head starting with the action set in the Congo on the Rwanda border. There’s rape and horror. The witches are represented by international capitalists and there’s a fictional group of refugees who serve as a choir – which he never lets on isn’t the real thing and audiences buy into it completely.

Bailey’s work has become more socially conscious.

“I used to work with miracle and wonder,” he says, admitting: “I’ve moved into the world of shadow.”

• The festival runs in Grahamstown until July 13. Read daily coverage on www.iol.co.za. - The Star


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