Well Worn Theatre Company is one of acts that will be showcasing at the National Arts Festival this year. Photo: Well Worn Website.

Theatre and the arts are proven to expand the minds of children and have a significant impact on many teens. 

Through storytelling and symbols, the arts can assist children in better understanding cultural diversity, their own emotions and fears, how to deal with social situations and learn about historic events. Teens also grow empathy as actors play out numerous circumstances familiar to them. And sometimes it’s all just really good fun.

The National Arts Festival, now in its 45th year, offers excellent theatre, dance, music, movement and interactive pieces for children to enjoy throughout the 11 days, from 27 June to 7 July. Falling in the school holidays, it can be part of a compelling Eastern Cape winter holiday or a great day trip for those nearby.

Amazing shows for all ages

South Africa’s most innovative theatre-makers will present a wide offering of family-friendly shows at the 2019 Festival. Well Worn Theatre is a Johannesburg youth theatre company with a special interest in making work around climate change and environmental issues. This year they are bringing Rat Race, a pop-up storybook play for the very young about an unlikely friendship between stressed-out city rat Miles and kind, easy-going farm mouse Melissa; and Galela, the thirst-quenching story of a small community deeply affected by South Africa’s water issues.

Well Worn Theatre will also present Plastocracy, a play that highlights the catastrophic effects of plastic waste on the Earth’s ecosystems; and Burning Rebellion, an ecological protest poem about global warming, that uses elements of spoken word, movement and song to give voice to a fear of what is to come – both productions aim to inspire the future-conscious consumers our Earth so desperately needs.

Two National Arts Festival favourites The Gruffalo and Florence and Watson will be back and, in an exciting first, will both be presented in isiXhosa – iGruffalo and uFlorence noWatson kunye noMpuku yoMoba. Dani Bischoff and Rob van Vuuren’s newest edition to the Florence and Watson series, The Great Pangolin Mystery will be presented in English.

From the creators of the award-winning Taking Flight comes a new adventure, Flying Solo. Little Sophia lives in South Africa. She is an avid reader and an enthusiastic explorer – and is about to board an old Tiger Moth biplane with Roald Dahl. Fly with her on this phizz-whizzing adventure as she loop-di-loops through Dahl’s brain, from memory to fantasy, finding new ways to tell old stories.

 ZikkaZimba Productions and Hijinks Theatre have teamed up with Jade Bowers Design and Management on this production. Taking Flight received three 2018 Naledi Theatre Award nominations, scooping Jacques de Silva the Naledi for Best Performance in a Production for Young Audiences.

Award-winning New Zealand theatre company Trick of the Light presents The Bookbinder in which an old man sits down to read the tale of an erstwhile bookbinding apprentice. As he speaks, the story spills from the pages and into the bindery… From pop-up book to puppetry, story-telling to live action, The Bookbinder weaves an original dark fairy tale in the vein of Neil Gaiman. The Bookbinder won the International Excellence Award at the Sydney Fringe and BDO Children’s Theatre Award at Fringe World in Perth. It has toured internationally, including to the UK and the US. 

The Fringe family productions include Avril Cummings’ Veronica’s Monster, Contagious Theatre’s adaptation of Alex Latimer’s The Boy who Cried Ninja; Ubom Drama Company’s Fundisa’s Fabulous Adventure and a host of other stories of surprising courage and bravery, magic, kindness, family and adventure. And don’t forget Celebrity Storytime with new stories and storytellers every day.

Visit the NAF website here to see more of what the festival has to offer.