Spotlight on best of SA theatre

Brett Adkins

CUTTING edge theatre – both fresh and retrospective – will feature prominently at the 2013 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in June, among a host of other genre highlights which have been announced by organisers.

While there would be offerings pushing new boundaries, there would also be a showcase of solid and established material that demonstrated the array of talent the country could boast about, festival director Ismail Mahomed said yesterday.

“This year’s festival is a celebration of a body of work that has stood the test of time,” he said, referring to a presentation of work produced under the umbrella of the Market Theatre.

This will feature such classics as Woza Albert (directed by Standard Bank Young Artist Prince Lamla), Cadre (directed by Omphilo Molusi), The Island (directed by John Kani) and The Line (directed by Gina Shmukler).

There will also be a showcase of work produced by the Opera House in Port Elizabeth as part of the initiative announced earlier this year whereby Nelson Mandela Bay will serve as a “gateway” to the festival with additional events being staged in the city.

Mahomed said as usual there would also be a mixture of South African and international work with the two components always working well together at the festival. He said this was where the work of the Market Theatre was so important. “International producers use the festival as a hunting ground.”

Mahomed said organisers were expecting a good turnout.

“We are very optimistic. We have a loyal following of festival-goers, while we are continually striving to attract new audiences all the time.

Among the drama line-up, the South African premiere of The Zulu – which will be presented on the main programme stage by Mbongeni Ngema – and Cry Havoc, which is described as an unnerving East-West love story set in a small apartment in Cairo, show the diversity of offerings during the 11-day event from June 27 to July 7.

According to organisers, Madonna of Excelsior – adapted from the novel by Zakes Mda – is set in 1971 when 19 citizens of Excelsior in the Free State were charged with breaking apartheid’s Immorality Act.

Canadian playwright Morris Panych’s award- winning black comedy, Vigil, promises to leave an impression on audiences while South African theatre legend Tim Plewman of Defending the Caveman fame stars in The Last Moustache – a one-man satire with a serious bite, reminding audiences that what is sold as truth is often far from it.

Iconic satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys returns with a double bill Adapt or Fly – seen by Port Elizabeth audiences recently – and An Audience with Pieter-Dirk Eish!

There are full and varied dance, music and art events as always, as well as the Standard Bank Jazz Festival, with the National Youth Jazz Festival taking place alongside the diverse programme.

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