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20 years of KKNK: all the top shows

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The Epicene Butcher

It’s 20 years on and the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK) has leapt through its teenage years with aplomb. Now it’s standing on the edge of a new era, a new director to be announced in the foreseeable future and theatre entering an exciting time of change in which artists take their destiny in hand and tell their stories their way. It’s a younger generation that has been taught by those with art pulsing through their veins as well as experience, and they’re ready to storm the palace.

For audiences it’s all good news and for the festivals, at this point, it has become the testing ground for new work. Many of those who get the nod of approval find a way of moving a step beyond this circuit route, especially as artists take the economy and their livelihoods into account. They want their stories told, and with this fantastic launch pad, it’s fingers crossed.

With celebrations in full swing from March 29 to April 5, there’s a feast of debut works for theatre lovers, and if you haven’t experienced some of the best work from earlier festivals including Land van Skedels and Macbeth Slapeloos, get those tickets now.

Here’s an overview of some of the players in this historic 2014 KKNK:

• Braai is journalist Willemien Brummer’s first text and the first winner of a new text development project and has been given every chance to succeed with director Lara Bye and a powerhouse cast including Gys de Villiers, Leon Kruger and Esther von Waltsleben. It details a former policeman who still sees terrorists, children who carry the guilt of their parents with rum and coke in hand, and one-eyed Flippie who is waiting for the tragedy to happen.

• When you have a cast with Albert Pretorius, Rolanda Marais, Chuma Sopotela, Tinarie van Wyk Loots and Christiaan Olwagen as the playwright/director, and title it Dogma, you’ve already raised expectations.This is the young Turk’s first site-specific work and deals with a young man’s exploration of the disintegration of his parents’ marriage when the father is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

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HOL Marion!

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• Talking of youngbloods, Olwagen also teams with one of his regular groups, Wessel Pretorius writes the text and the cast includes De Klerk Oelofse, Francois Jacobs, Hanna Borthwick, Roeline Daneel and Pretorius for Waterpas which tries to define life with swans, an unhappy mermaid, and Sally Field.

• Pretorius pops up again in Deon Opperman’s Boesman, My Seun joined by Louis van Niekerk as the father in this conversation between father and son in a drama that won Opperman the Hertzog Prize. It returns to the festival to celebrate 20 years.

• AR Gurney’s Love Letters has been translated as Kysbriewe and deals with 50 years of letters between a man and a woman who knew one another as children yet were never romantically involved. Diaan Lawrenson and Hennie Jacobs play the couple.

• Following her extraordinary debut with Die Naaimasjien, Rachelle Greeff follows with Rondomskrik, a piece that was written after the gruesome killing of Anene Booysen. Starring Shaleen Surtee-Richards, Lee-Ann van Rooi, Chrystal-Donna Roberts and Richard September and directed by Hennie van Greunen, this one tackles the reality of our country and hopes to move beyond the headlines.

• Festival favourite Van Greunen also translates and directs Tom Holloway’s Vir Ewig en Altyd (And No More Shall We Part) and casts Sandra Prinsloo and Marius Weyers as a couple who take that farewell ritualistic journey. Pitted against one another in the translated Wie’s Bang Vir Virginia Woolf, audiences will experience these two dynamic performers who were regarded as the premier pair in their younger days. Sit back and watch actors at the top of their game. Both shows will be worth watching.

• Another couple who should stop you in your tracks is the combo of Vinette Ebrahim and Chris van Niekerk in Die Ongelooflike Reis van Max en Lola. Max is 80 and gay. Lola is coloured and has a mouth on her, but their bawdy friendship goes way back – 50 years – when relationships like theirs were verboten. Ageing is the new enemy.

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Vir Ewig En Altyd

Rooi Rose

• Put the names Willem Anker (playwright) and Jaco Bouwer (director) in tandem and the results are explosive. Samsa Masjien, Anker’s latest work, attempts a conversation with Kafka’s Metamorphosis, so be warned, this will not be easy theatre, yet it will challenge and hopefully overwhelm you.

• Siembamba is done in Afrikaans, English and Xhosa with text by Philip Rademeyer and Penelope Youngleson, the exciting young duo from Rust Co-operative starring Nieke Lombard and Lesoko Seabe. It deals with early caretakers and what people remember. Where and who are they? It questions family structures and the meaning of family, home, mothering and identity.

Interesting solo performances

• Die Oudisie is exactly what it implies. Lulu Botha takes us through the paces of that monster that lies waiting for every performer. It can only be fun – if scary at that for prospective actors.

• HOL Marion! is comic Marion Holm’s latest in her run of successful solo shows that usually hit the sell-out button at festivals as soon as the tickets are available. She’s smart and sassy with stories that laugh at herself more than anything else. She also does a programme of poetry, Gedigte Sonder Grense, in which she recites/ reads some of the most popular poems but also invites the audience to bring their own poems – and who knows, she might read one of yours.

• The Epicene Butcher is not to be missed for those who haven’t yet bumped into this imaginative work at one of the festivals or in a theatre near you. Jemma Kahn will have you paying attention as she adopts the Japanese way of storytelling and moves into a world of pictures and poetry to blow your mind.

• The Tatiana Aarons Experience is the Dutch perspective of life by a young playwright who was picked up at a Flemish festival as one of the most promising. In a solo performance, Tom Stuyf has a meeting, a conversation, a search and finally a return to where everything started. It’s always intriguing to see the international perspective.

• Slaaf, written by Wessel Pretorius and Carel Nel, performed by Nel and directed by Pretorius, is described as a fix for the lost generation. Gregory is addicted to love, music and illusion. It’s the disillusioned journey to a vulnerable life without crutches and is based on a true story. These are two talents not to be missed.

• Ballade van ’n Banggat with Tobie Cronje is a tour de force for this comic actor who uses his wits in every way possible to suggest someone who doesn’t have the confidence to stride through life with the carefree attitude many seek.

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