THE Playhouse was abuzz with activity, day and night, throughout last week with its yearly South African Women’s Arts Festival (Sawaf), which came to a close with a theatre programme on Sunday.
The arts event was jam-packed, providing for a broad range of tastes – from pure entertainment and food for thought to fine theatre and dance productions, while keeping the focus on women.
Some highlights included a gala concert featuring A-listers in South African music, such as Mafikizolo, The Soil and Naima Kay.
Among the items delving deeper into matters affecting women was a leadership and mentoring workshop with international theatre veteran, Jude Kelly.
The annual intergenerational dialogue also marked a celebration of women after 20 years of democracy, featuring Shado Twala, Krijay Govender, Kelly and others.
Poetry and spoken-word enthusiasts were treated to a slam poetry and open mic session. There were also jazz performances.
On the theatre front, choreographer Mark Hawkins’ From Then Til Now was a major hit. The piece celebrates the milestone of 20 years of democracy, and is contextualised with images from before and after apartheid.
The images reflect on the country’s past, present, future and its possibilities – paying tribute to people (like Nelson Mandela) and issues (such as the rights guaranteed by the constitution) that have contributed to the South Africa of today.
Hawkins’ concept brilliantly ties together numerous aspects, in a stunning, well-rounded work.
Visually, this piece is amazing. Lighting and audiovisuals designer, Wilhelm Disbergen, deserves a pat on the back for a job well done.
On the dance front (choreography by Hawkins in collaboration with the Playhouse Dance Residency dancers), the piece is engaging and accessible, using contemporary, tribal and modern dance influences.
Presented by arrangement with Dalro, directed by Ralph Lawson and starring Lisa Bobbert, Shades proved to be a warmly thought-provoking piece about a woman trying to come into her own.
Pearl is a middle-aged widow who – on top of trying to deal with the loss of the love of her life – has to balance her role as a single mom with coping with a domineering mother. Her fears and anxieties surface as she prepares for and goes out on a date.
A heart-warming, true-to-life story that is brought to life through a great performance by the cast.
Often, productions staged at Sawaf aren’t seen again. With the runs being short, to accommodate a shorter programme this year, it is hoped some of the productions will be restaged for a wider audience.