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FOR THEIR 40th anniversary the National Arts Festival (NAF) has gone big – on the main programme alone, artists from 26 countries will descend on Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape between July 3 and 13.
More than 550 performances in theatre, dance, performance art and music will be featured, with nine commissioned musical works and an ambitious, sprawling Creating of the Nation project spanning the town.
The main programme will look back at the same time as forward by featuring works by some of the strongest festival alumni as well as the brightest, newest voices from around the country.
This year’s featured theatre artist is Sylvaine Strike, who’s been impressing South African theatregoers since her breakthrough at the 2002 NAF. Her programme will comprise five productions: Cargo: Precious; On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco with Andrew Buckland; a reprise of Black and Blue with Atandwa Kani; plus two of her latest shows – Agreed and The God Complex – on the Fringe Festival.
Professor Ruth Simbao – who curated a performance art programme in 2012 – will this time draw together a collaboration across five site-situational performance works under the title Blind Spot.
Following the successful France-South Africa Season of cultural exchange last year, we now get a UK-South Africa Season.
On this particular programme will be one of the hits of the 2010 NAF festival, British author, poet and playwright Lemn Sissay MBE, who will share the stage with performance poets Lebo Mashile and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers.
FOR THE FAMILY
In recent years the festival’s children’s programme has grown from being a pseudo-babysitting service into sophis- ticated productions created specifically for children and intriguing shows aimed at the family. This year the touring ensemble The International Chicago Choir will return to South Africa, while the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra will perform the children’s concert, Peter and the Wolf.
Oatlands School will again be the venue for family theatre, while The Fingo Festival will take the entertainment to the kids of Jozi.
Australian beatboxer Tom Thum will collaborate with compatriot singer, songwriter, guitarist Jamie MacDowell on the Arena programme to entice the teens.
STANDARD BANK YOUNG ARTISTS
This year marks 30 years of Standard Bank Young Artists awards and in addition to eight 2014 winners, the main programme will feature the works of 65 former winners.
The 2014 winners remain the primary focus of the festival though, with the line-up taking its cue from the strong artists who form the backbone of the programme.
Theatre – Greg Homan: Oedipus @ Koö-Nú! is based on the tragedy Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles, reworked as a playful allegory, offering a subversive and satirical take on South Africa’s political landscape.
Performance art – Donna Kukama: The Museum of Non-Permanence is a series of events, encounters, interactions and public announcements meant to interrogate our relationship with our complex history.
Dance – Nicola Elliott: Bruising explores the tension that exists between the inner and outer worlds in our individual notions of love.
Music – Njabulo Madlala: his varied programme includes works by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Schubert and Strauss as well as the South African Songbook.
Jazz – Kyle Shepherd will perform in a quintet and a trio with Shane Cooper, Feya Faku and Buddy Wells.
Visual Art – Hasan and Husain Essop will bring their aesthetic and socio-political perspective to the Settler’s Monument.
Film – Jahmil XT Qubeka: Of Good Report and A Small Town Called Descent.
The previous Young Artists on the theatre programme represent some of our most cutting-edge theatre-makers. These include:
Lara Foot’s Fishers of Hope; Aubrey Sekhabi’s Marikana – The Musical; Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom’s Protest; Geoffrey Hyland’s Slowly; Marthinus Basson’s Macbeth.Slapeloos; and Princess Zinzi Mhlogo directing Cooking with Elsa.
Janni Younge will revive William Kentridge’s Ubu and the Truth Commission, while Cargo: Precious will be a collaboration between four Young Artist winners – Sylvaine Strike, choreographer PJ Sabbagha, musician Concord Nkabinde and dancer Fana Tshabalala.
There will be a free public art performance every day of the festival and a must-see will be Herbert’s Dream by a French street theatre company which has performed more than 400 times at festivals around the world since its creation in 1997.
The programme booklet will be available from May 9 at certain Exclusive Books and Standard Bank branches and this year should see the introduction of a new ticketing system as well as a mobile app and new website. This means you will be able to virtually track the Hopper buses on your smartphone – just another one of those little touches the festival has been working on thanks to their partnerships with other international festivals.
• For more info keep your eyes on www.nationalartsfestival.co.za