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THE first annual Not the Grahamstown Festival started at the Catalina Theatre at the weekend with two productions staging.
This weekend three varied productions will stage, but let’s look at how the first part of this fest fared.
Friday’s opening night production was She Put the I in Punchline (written and performed by Kamini Govender, directed by Verne Munsamy) and it got the festivities off to a hilarious start.
This one-woman show is seen and experienced through the eyes and thoughts of a young Indian woman who explores her identity on a number of levels –from her South African-ness to her cultural identity, her place in society as a woman in general, her racial identity, gender and more.
Working through her personal history, within a political history, Govender provokes thought on a number of issues and provides some enlightenment, too, for example on cultural differences, political thought and gender matters.
As a writer, Govender succeeds in combining comedy with provocative thought. She also draws the audience in on a personal note, letting them into her world. Director Munsamy has done well in helping co-ordinate different elements on stage and in Govender’s performance that give life to her story.
After seeing Govender in a more reclusive role in Munsamy’s play Consenting Silence, which tackled the taboo issues around rape, it was very interesting to watch her burst out on stage in a funnier and more relaxed role.
An added bonus was getting to learn more about Govender as a writer and, in the case of this play in particular, getting inside her head in way.
You laugh throughout the 60- minute show. Definitely one to catch at the National Arts Festival this year, or should it tour after that.
The second production staging at the Not the Grahamstown Festival this weekend was Prince Senie – The Curse of Logozo (Part One). This vibrant African musical theatre piece was inspired by and features the music of Angelique Kidjo (the Grammy Award–winning Beninoise singer, songwriter and activist).
The tale takes us through the life of Prince Senie whose mother is killed by her evil sister soon after he is born. In an attempt to save the baby, a servant runs off with him and raises him in secret. However, years later, on hearing of his history, the troubled prince vows to take revenge on those responsible for his mother’s death and his situation.
Written, directed and choreographed by Lenin Shabalala, this original African musical is very entertaining to watch with a number of twists in the tale complemented by contemporary dance, poetry, and comedy.
The minimalist set has been boosted with beautiful African attire and costumes.
The cast do a wonderful job in their performances, keeping pace throughout. The one disappointment was that there was no live vocals, as was noted in the musical’s synopsis. I’m not sure if this was because of a sound problem at the theatre, which occurred on opening night, or if, for some reason, they decided to opt for music from a CD – but live vocals would have complemented all the hard work put into their piece so much more. That said, this was a great effort on the part of Shabalala, who does well in all three departments (writer, director/and choreographer).
The Not the Grahamstown Festival continues this weekend with:
• Ex-Men: The Last Stand on Friday at 7pm and Saturday at 6pm. Popular stand-up comedians Jem Atkins and Glen Bo tackle issues of crazy exes, the Guy Code, surviving dangerous relationships and dating mutants.
• Super Mokoena stages on Saturday at 11am and Sunday at 4pm. The Actors Unemployed Company presents this piece with Clare Mortimer (director), Bryan Hiles (designer), Marc Kay (writer, performer), Adam Dore (performer) and Mtho Zulu (performer).
• SoundGaze: Moving Images of Marie in Woyzeck stages at 4pm on Saturday and 6pm on Sunday. Adapted from Georg Buchner’s Woyzeck and based on the true story of a soldier who murdered his lover over infidelity.
• Ticket prices are R60, proceeds partly help fund the different groups’ travel costs to this year’s National Arts Festival. A dinner special is also available at R120. Pensioners, students and block bookings pay R40. For more information, contact 031 837 5999 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For details of these shows at the National Arts Festival, visit www.nationalartsfestival.co.za.