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IT’S as if the Clover Aardklop National Arts Festival decided to aim for the stars this year as it celebrates many of theatre’s big names from the past, yet also reminds us of the future of play making.
Take names like Anna Neethling-Pohl, Cobus Rossouw and his wife Sandra Kotze, Athol Fugard, whose 80th birthday is being celebrated, while the death of extraordinary playwright Reza de Wet is being sadly commemorated.
Journalist/playwright Schalk Schoombie’s Liefde, Anna turns the spotlight on to one of the great dames of Afrikaans theatre, Neethling-Pohl. Even in her later years, when she wasn’t seen on stage anymore, she played a huge role in the lives of young up-and-coming actors like Sandra Prinsloo, who was one of her students at the University of Pretoria. Prinsloo will interpret her former teacher’s life on stage.
Many are too young to know Rossouw, the celebrated veteran actor. He is not often enticed back on stage, but who can resist an invitation from director Marthinus Basson? Rossouw, who in his younger days played the anguished Prince Hamlet, takes a talented actor of a different generation, Eben Genis, through his paces while actress/director Kotze leads the young man through the many passages of Elsinore on his journey from student to artist. Titled Kind Hamlet, the play is partly documentary, partly ode and full on theatre. The text was workshopped by Basson and the company.
For the first time since her shocking death earlier this year, playwright De Wet is honoured with a production of Op Dees Aarde, one of her earlier dramas and part of the Free State Trilogy. The cast includes another veteran, who mesmerised in her last stage performance in Basson’s Klaasvakie, Wilna Snyman, as well as Joanie Combrink and Genis. It is directed by longtime De Wet devotee and friend, Basson.
Bringing the young bloods to the fore, a political satire, Ubu en die Secrecy Bill, directed by Christiaan Olwagen, is testament to exciting new Stellenbosch talent. As a bonus there will be two performances of Woza Andries?!, one of the first productions by this group of young actors that drew attention.
N is vir Neurose, written and directed by Olwagen, stars Hannah Borthwick, daughter of Rika Sennet and dad James; Roeline Daneel, Elsabe’s daughter; Mariechen Vosloo and Wessel Pretorius. It’s about friendship, growing up, staying young, sex and marriage. It is worth seeing not only to watch the young talent blossom, but also to hear what young voices have to say.
Another young force, director Tara Notcutt and her Pink Couch partners Albert Pretorius and Gideon Lombard – responsible for the sublime Miskien... – return with a new production with the haunting title of Nagwond. Written by Pretorius, it’s what we say when we’re silent and what we shout when whispering. Notcutt’s production of Mafeking Road will also be staged.
It’s a contemporary take on Herman Charles Bosman with two bright young acting talents, Andrew Laubscher and Mathew Lewis.
Fugard is celebrated with the first professional production of Master Harold en die Boys in Afrikaans. Directed by the seldom seen Zane Meas – on stage that is – and starring powerhouse actors Jody Abrahams and Christo Davids, this is an extraordinary match up.
Also sticking to the modern classics, director Henry Mylne engages with an Afrikaans version of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming, Huis Toe, with another star cast that includes the powerful Neels van Jaarsveld and Deon Coetzee, as well as two 7de Laan actors, Amalia Uys and Werner Coetser.
Nicola Hanekom will also be in Potchefstroom with Hol, the only production that won a Gold Ovation at the National Arts Festival and one worth the journey. She has been encouraged to translate the text into English because it would then be able to travel internationally and there was huge interest from international producers.
If you are only aware of her as writer/director because of her site-specific trilogy, Babbel, which is also showing at the festival, catch her excitingly layered performance in Hol.
Meanwhile, Prinsloo, who is maturing like good wine, not only pays tribute to Tant Anna, as Neethling-Pohl was known, but she also goes solo for a second time in Oskar en die Pienk Tannie directed by Lara Bye (London Road). It’s the story of a cancer patient, Oskar, and his gran, Rosa, and sounds as if it’s going to keep Prinsloo travelling for a long while.
The actress is also performing a translated Naaimasjien at next month’s Edinburgh Festival.
She will also be directing PG Du Plessis’s latest play, Teerling, starring Milan Murray and Marcel van Heerden.
It’s a challenging text, with Du Plessis writing three sketches for the same actors, but in different characters and styles.
Two more intriguing solo productions are the Basson-directed Medea, with Dieter Reible’s text, starring Coba-Maryn Wilsenach, as well as David Butler stepping into the shoes of the mighty Bram Fischer in Die Bram FischerWals, written by acclaimed Harry Kalmer. Butler is also performing Bosman in A Teacher in the Bushveld, directed and adapted by Nicky Ribelo.
Finally – and there is more – there’s Magnet Theatre’s latest jewel, Kragbox, with Ephraim Gordon and Dann-Jaques Mouton telling a story with much aplomb about Greg January who wants out. But he has a debt to pay – a quick one in and out he tells himself. But he walks into a gun, a poodle and a drunk woman.
• The Clover Aardklop National Arts Festival in Potchefstroom runs from October 2 to 7. The programme is available at www.cloveraardklop.co.za and bookings can be made through Computicket.