Orpheus in Africa
Orpheus in Africa
Macbeth Slapeloos
Macbeth Slapeloos

WHILE theatres insist they book their stages months in advance, when it comes to telling you what productions they will present, they play their cards close to their chests.

A trawl around their websites gives an indication of what we will see over the next two months on Cape Town stages.

One of the smallest theatres around town, Upstairs at the Alexander Bar, is the most analytical about what they will focus this year.

Drawing on the software laboratory run by Nicholas Spagnoletti and Edward van Kuik who run the Alexander Bar, they have come up with a lowkey but sophisticated method of collecting feedback from audiences, integrating their ticket sales and marketing. So, this year they will focus on new writing, resurrect their play reading programme and push Play Things (last year this initiative saw John Keevy’s Dirty Words and Thoko Masikini’s Modern African become fully fledged works) and Anthology.

One of their highest-rated shows based on audience response was Jemma Kahn’s Epicene Butcher, which returns for a short run from January 12 to 17 and Anthology (short plays written by different writers) is tentatively scheduled for May. (Also tentatively scheduled for May at the Baxter is Denise Newman’s Cold Case: Revisiting Dulcie September, which is in the last week of it’s Thundafun scheme to make the run a reality.)

On the other side of the city, David Kramer is hard at work rehearsing a new production, Orpheus in Africa, which starts the new year at The Fugard Theatre.

Aubrey Poo (Muvhango, The Wild) tackles the role of Orpheus McAdoo – an African-American singer and minstrel show impresario who travelled around South Africa in the 1890s with his African-American Virginia Jubilee Singers.

Kramer’s young company will recreate the vocal style of that period, singing spirituals like Roll Jordan Roll and Swing Low Sweet Chariot as well as songs especially composed for the musical. Orpheus in African runs from January 28 to February 22 at the Fugard Main Theatre.

Nik Rabinowitz takes his soldout What the EFF from the Fugard to the Baxter Main Theatre from February 23 to March 15.

The Baxter Theatre start their new year with an Afrikaans season though, showcasing two acclaimed dramas and a comedy and featuring all-star casts.

Director Jaco Bouwer (Rooiland, Balbesit) brings his award-winning Samsa-masjien to the Baxter’s Flipside from January 16 to 31.

Samsa-masjien debuted at last year’s KKNK where it not only picked up awards for Best Actor, Actress and Director, but also the Herrie Prize which is awarded for “mind-shifting” work. The play, which has a no persons under-16 age restriction, was co-written by Bouwer and Willem Anker, is a drama which heavily references Kafka’s Metamorphsis and features Gerben Kamper, Antoinette Kellerman, Ilana Cillers and Ludwig Binge.

Kellerman and Binge will will also be seen in Marthinus Basson’s macbeth.slapeloos which played to acclaim at last year’s National Arts Festival and has picked up awards and nominations at festivals around the country. Together with Anna-Mart van der Merwe (Lady Macbeth), Jana Cilliers and Dawid Minnaar in the title role, and Stian Bam, Charlton George, Edwin van der Walt and Senzo Madikane, the stellar cast bring Shakespeare to life, in Afrikaans.

The Afrikaans tragedy runs from February 4 to 21 in the Baxter Theatre with English surtitles.

Vinette Ebrahim and Chris van Niekerk have teamed up to present the dark comedy, Die Ongelooflike Reis van Max en Lola, which runs in the Golden Arrow Studio from January 20 to February 7. Written by Ebrahim and Hugo Taljaard (who directs the two-hander), it tells the story of the 80-year-old gay, white man Max and 79-year-old sharp-tongued, coloured woman Lola, who have been friends for more than 50 years. Lola is the only guest who arrives at Max’s 80th birthday party and the Afrikaans comedy has an age restriction of 13.

It is a theatre institution to go watch Shakespeare in the park at Maynardville Open-Air Theatre at the beginning of the year, and this year’s production is Othello. Presented by Abrahamse/ Meyer Productions, the tragedy is this year’s grade 12 setwork, and Artscape came under fire from the local theatre community for combining the two productions into one. But, in the absence of a Trust to manage the production at Maynardville, Artscape is somewhat at a loss when it comes to managing the process.

At a public forum regarding the production last month, Artscape acting CEO, Marlene van Niekerk, said they would be rethinking the whole procedure of who does what Shakespeare production at Maynardville in the new year.

But, before then we get Muntu Ngubane in the titular role, Marcel Meyer as his best friend Iago and Melissa Haiden as Desdemona between January 14 and February 21.

As per usual CT City Ballet also present a production, and this year it is La Sylphide, every Sunday during February.

Artscape Theatre will host two different celebrations of the work of Adam Small between January 14 and 31. The one is music orientated (Celebrating Adam Small – Bejazzed), while the other incorporates spoken word and performance (Celebrating Adam Small – The Man).

The theatre really steps out of its comfort zone when Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance 2012, Bailey Snyman, presents his highly controversial Moffie from January 27 to 31. The dance play about love, loss, survival, sexuality and violence was inspired by Cape Town-based author Andre Carl van der Merwe’s novel about the brutality of trying to survive as a gay conscript in the South African Defence Force in the early 1980s.

Jou Ma se Comedy Club on the V&A Waterfront go back to their regular five-day-a-week schedule in the middle of this month. Normally they are closed on a Monday and Tuesday nights, but during the festive season they were open the whole week to accommodate the tourists.

Loukmaan Adams and Kim Cloete have revamped the Old Holiday Inn Theatre in Woodstock as The New Garden Court Theatre and will present Vocal Mania starting from this Friday on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Their lease of the 160-seater theatre is for six months and they will also be restaging My Wonder Years, which sees Cloete direct Adams as he tells his life’s story, from February.