Trying to navigate the fringe component of the National Arts Festival can be daunting when all you have to go on is the programme.
Often, the way so many people make a choice is simply by looking at the poster and going with whatever attracts their fancy.
If they recognise the names of actors or directors, so much the better, but the book is how most people get by.
The programme is now available online, or you can get hold of a physical copy, but what are you supposed to make of something that describes itself as a “thought-provoking dance work, incorporating music and storytelling. It’s a piece about the issues and thoughts that most people keep within.”
Some of the themes that are apparently in the blurbs seem to be forced marriage; ancestors having their say from beyond the grave; family secrets that won’t stay buried, at least three different magic shows and something that isn’t hinted at, but simply blurted out – identity in terms of your clan name pops up more than once.
And penguins on the family theatre side in Fishy Flippers. Because who doesn’t love penguins?
The creators of The Epicene Butcher and Other Stories for Consenting Adults (which returns to Grahamstown for one last run) presents a show with fewer words in its title, but more puppetry. Amateur Hour! is touted as theatre for the YouTube generation.
But, since I really liked The Epicene Butcher, I too will check this one out.
Miss Evers’ Boys is a story of four African-American men participating in the Tuskegee Experiment, which ties into a piece about intertwined genetic identity on the main programme called Hela, which makes its South African debut.
Jenine Collocot adapted Shakespeare’s work for her physical theatre piece Hamlet! – a 35-minute version featuring James Cairns, Jaques de Silva and Taryn Bennett. Okay, there are some names I recognise. Minus De Silva, the same team tackle The Snow Goose, which I vaguely remember as a primary school setwork.
Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi directs Here Manje Productions in Memory – the poster suggests that elephants are involved.
The last time I saw something by Gavin Krastin he literally wanted us to throw bread at him and the blurb for #omnomnom says “break some bread and eat me” with the poster featuring him lying on fruit. Okay. There’s food involved, I’m in.
Dann-Jacques Mouton plays multiple roles, directed by Brian Notcutt, in Ek Sien ‘n Man. Mouton stood out in last year’s Magnet Theatre production of Voices Made Night, so that is something to look out for.
Three Little Pigs returns triumphantly with a poster dripping in stars, always a good sign. The black comedy is an excellent one to catch if you’ve not seen it before.
Love the hair on the poster for F*ck My Hair, which it seems is a Dutch and English search for identity.
David Butler in The Ballad of Dirk de Bruin – that’s all the poster says, but Butler’s critical acclaim for his Herman Charles Bosman production and last year’s Silver Ovation for The Braam Fischer Waltz (which he will reprise this year) bodes well.
Lord of the Flings – great name there for a comedy that pokes fun at hit movies like Harry Potter and Star Wars – by Andrew Simpson. Because we always need a bit of fun about halfway through all the seriousness.
That’s just what a quick flip through the programme threw out. Now the real work begins, reading through all the blurbs to decide on what to watch.
• The National Arts Festival runs in Grahamstown from July 3 to 13. To see the full programme visit www.nationalartsfestival.co.za