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Grahamstown’s National Arts Festival

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To Pants on Fire

Gaetan Schmid, writer and performer of "Body Language" shares the secret language of the human body with the audience, Grahamstown, 30 June 2011. All the hidden meanings behind your everyday gestures are uncovered in this comedy. CUEPix: Stephane Meintjes

Theatre lovers are in for a treat at this year’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

With a variety of shows to choose from, the Cape Town Edge theatre collective make it particularly difficult with their selection of ground-breaking work by established names under one roof at the Princess Alice Hall.

The seven shows will again be run by the stellar team of creative chameleon Jon Keevy – director, designer, performer, writer and stage manager – with Tara Notcutt, Matt Lewis, Gideon Lombard and James MacGregor.

Last year two of the six shows performed at Princess Alice Hall won Standard Bank Silver Ovation Awards while a third was selected as one of only two productions to represent the National Arts Festival at the Amsterdam Fringe last year.

In 2010, five of the 11 shows won Standard Bank Ovation awards, including a gold and silver award.

The line-up is:

A Tale of Horribleness

Making its first appearance at the festival, this is a play suitable for the whole family. Brought to the stage by the creative team of The Space Behind The Couch (Beren Belknap, winner of the 2010 Handspring Puppetry Award for best puppet debut; Merryn and Jeremy Carver, Madame Touxflouwe and Out Of Order), the show is inspired by the writings of celebrated author Tove Jansson and features a variety of creature puppets, original animation and plenty of surprises.

The story follows that of the second-to-youngest Whomper child with a big imagination who – with the irritating Mymble girl from next door and his toy ferret Gary – travels through made-up worlds and battles strange and horrible creatures in order to rescue his baby brother from the dreaded Aichump.

Throughout his journey he encounters mud snakes, giant tarantulas, a pair of shell-shocked Australian soldiers, screecher birds and invisible fungi, brought to life through creative puppetry and animation.

This is original children’s theatre that explores the way that children view the world.

While the presentation is magical and childlike, the themes interwoven throughout delve into topics of family and friendship, escaping from reality and the effects of losing a loved one.

Body Language

The wacky Belgian Gaëtan Schmid (The Dog’s Bollocks and Rumpsteak) is coming back with his latest one-man show, Body Language, which was sold out in Cape Town, sold out at the National Arts Festival last year and sold out at the Hilton Festival.

Hilarious and informative, Gaëtan will fascinate you with the hidden meanings behind your everyday gestures.

Underneath its irreverent and comical narrative, Body Language’s social message is of ever-increasing importance: human interaction and communication. The premise is that our entire societal system is based on communication. If we can improve the quality of our communication we will improve the quality of our society.

Tonight Neither Hamlet

A quirky, witty and intriguing show written by award-winning playwright Rainer Lewandowski, performed by creative actor, journalist and screenwriter Adrian Galley, and directed by Christopher Weare (winner of the Fleur du Cap Lifetime Achievement Award).

Tonight Neither Hamlet is an eccentric look at what happens behind the theatre curtain, as told by one of the theatre’s forgotten characters, the curtain puller.

Ingo Sassmann is a frustrated actor-turned-curtain puller. Finding himself unexpectedly forestage when a performance of Hamlet is cancelled, the limelight proves irresistible as he reveals to his captive audience the world beyond the curtain, and shares with them some reminiscences of parts played and dreams dashed.

Owl

Olivia arrived in town with her father; she was the new girl, the quiet girl, the weird girl. Then she met Kay, the girl with the scar.

Told in two parts, Owl begins with a new friendship in the heat of the Overberg summer between two 10-year-old girls, and finds them again six years later.

It’s an honest picture of growing up different in the middle of nowhere; a story about climbing trees, punching boys and kissing girls.

Briony Horwitz performs Jon Keevy’s script under his direction with choreography by Fiona Du Plooy and music by Brydon Bolton.

Okuya Phantsi Kwempumlo (The Meal)

Highly acclaimed and provocative choreographer Mamela Nyamza, the Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance in 2011, premieres Okuya Phantsi Kwempumlo (The Meal), as part of her Gipca 2012 Fellowship.

Nyamza’s work explores how a body can use its instrument outside of conventional expectations, using dance to gain access to the deepest parts of the body, emotions, lightness and fears, and to elicit higher demands of ourselves.

Practically, her interest lies in deep exploration of experimental forms of natural movement; and the simplicity of choreographing without using dance steps that are typical and conventional, often through the juxtaposition of movement by untrained and trained dancers.

Eden

Directed and written by UCT graduate Gabriella Pinto and featuring Siya Sikawuti, Oliver Booth, Stefan Erasmus, James Macgregor, Electra Hartman and Iman Isaacs.

Eden sees a street sweeper kidnapped by authorities, placed in a strange room and commanded to polish apples under the threat of having his teeth pulled out and other terrible ordeals.

He tries to plan an escape but upon his imprisonment encounters various apple packers who provide contradictory information and foil his plan to gain freedom.

Eventually his perceived powerlessness and thus frustration lead to an accidental murder and he becomes the very monstrosity that he despises and fears most.

This has an age restriction of 13 for language and violence.

Pants On Fire!

Pants on Fire! is a late-night comedy variety show with a twist, hosted by award-winning comedians Rob van Vuuren and Martin Evans.

These two 2011 Standard Bank Ovation Award-winning comedians have joined forces to bring festival-goers the quintessential National Arts Festival experience with their best stand-up, their wickedest banter and a smattering of sketches and interviews with the best comedians and musicians at the festival.


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