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Grahamstown Festival THEATRE Stage PDF Print E-mail
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News/Reviews - Grahamstown Festival News

Headlining the main THEATRE menu is Standard Bank Young Artists Ward winner for Drama, Neil Coppen, with his latest play Abnormal Loads. It is set in a fictional battle-field town known as Bashford, nestled in the once war ravaged valleys of Northern KwaZulu-Natal. With a narrative that whisks audiences through two centuries of South African history, Abnormal loads presents a theatrical universe where the past runs in tandem with the present and events shift seamlessly from the grandeur of a battle-field in 1879 to the intimacy of the bedroom in 2011. Movement, sound, music, multi-media and shadows combine to create breathtakingly original theatrical experience.

The Table
is created by Sylvaine Strike and presented by the Fortune Cookie Theatre Company in association with the Market Theatre and the Aardklop Festival. In this cutting-edge theatre production, Strike collaborates with an electrifying cast and the highly acclaimed writer/dramaturge Craig Higginson to bring an enticing slice of a family dinner for audiences. Four children re-unite with their mother over a Friday night meal where a world of love, sibling rivalry, confused genetics, domesticity, tradition and of course, food, is unveiled. Funny and deeply moving, this is a journey into the very heart of a family redefined by the South African existence.

The Baxter Theatre brings Ariel Dorfman’s riveting play Purgatorio directed by Clare Stopford to the Festival. Performed by celebrated actors Dawid Minnaar and Terry Norton, Purgatorio deals with a Man and a Woman in purgatory, a stark and soulless waiting room. Their identities are fluid, and as the drama unfolds it emerges that they are each other’s interrogators, searching for clemency and contrition. Their fates are bound together by a horrific past, and freedom depends on their willingness to sacrifice themselves, each for the other.

Created by Rob Murray and presented by FTH:K and Conspiracy of Clowns, Benchmarks is a small story of great hope and rebirth. In the Mother City, three desperate and lonely individuals - a middle aged clerk, a reclusive widow and a Zimbabwean refugee - get drawn into an unlikely relationship that will lead them on a journey of discovery, companionship, tragedy, and reconciliation. Set against a backdrop of the frailties and complications of human relationships, the violence and hardships of life in South Africa, and the dreams and desires for a better life, Benchmarks is a poetic celebration of the human spirit told by three performers in full character mask, by the crew that birthed Pictures of You, Womb Tide, QUACK!, and GUMBO, featuring a stellar conspiracy of collaborators.

Billed as one of the finest plays ever written by Alan Bennet, The History Boys, presented by Peter Toerien and directed by Alan Swerdlow, is packed with superb one-liners is about a group of mostly working class boys preparing for the entrance exams that will determine whether or not they will gain entrance to the elite world of Oxford and Cambridge.  Alan Bennett is a master craftsman of language. The History Boys is uproariously funny but it also possesses a tone of gentle seriousness that is perhaps cleverly packed with cultural and literary allusions which define Bennett’s genius.

The last pro in Yeoville, written by Martin Kobokae and presented by Utlwanang Theatre Company, is the witty and compassionately told story of the 45 year old Camellia, an ageing white prostitute who loses her sex appeal in an upmarket brothel in Rosebank. She is forced to migrate to the less illustrious streets of Yeoville to retire ungracefully. Entwined in the tale is a twenty six year old mystery in the form of a coloured boy’s picture which elicits conflicting about paths that have crossed dramatically in the past. Last Pro in Yeoville is humorous and fast paced. It is written with wit and compassion.

Written by Joe Carlaco and presented by Redcan Productions, the South African premiere of Shakespeare’s R & J is set in the 1950’s at an exclusive boarding school. Four pupils run into the chapel late one night in a bid to escape from their repressive school routines. One of them brings a copy of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and they start acting pieces out. Perceptions and understandings are turned upside down as the fun of play acting turns serious and the words and meanings begin to hit home and universal truths emerge. Shakespeare’s R&J ran for a year Off- Broadway, becoming the longest running version of Romeo and Juliet in New York history, and it earned the play the Lucille Lortel Award.

Sadako presented by Hearts & Eyes Theatre Collective makes use of video projection, puppets and live actors to tell the story of Sadako Sasaki and the legend of one thousand paper cranes. Sadako was two years old on the 6 August 1945 when the atom bomb was dropped on her hometown, the port city of Hiroshima. She survived one of modern history’s most devastating events only to die ten years later from what was known colloquially as “the atom bomb disease”, leukaemia. Sadako creates the opportunity to see our own humanity reflected in an unfamiliar story.

Death of a Colonialist, presented by the Market Theatre, deals with history, emigration, crime, national identity and family as it moves between a high school teacher’s bold perceptions of Xhosa history, the inter-personal relations within his family, and his wife’s quiet acceptance of her imminent death. The outcome is positive, amidst the personal tragedy. At a time when South Africans question matters related to history and what it means in terms of identity, Death of a Colonialist provides some illuminating perceptions.

Award winning director and producer Lara Bye is bringing Night, Mother to the Festival. This Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Marsha Norman deals with themes that resonate with universal relevance gives Sandra Prinsloo and Antoinette Louw the opportunity to showcase their talents in the broken and beautiful love story about a mother and daughter in crises.

The restaging of Anthony Akerman’s play Somewhere on the Border marks the 25th anniversary since it was first staged. After two decades of silence, the role of the military during those years has found its way back into public discourse. Many conscripts who went through those harrowing experiences as teenagers are looking back as adults and trying to make sense of it. It's clear that they feel the need to speak about what happened to them. Somewhere on the Border participates in that conversation. Set in South Africa, the play offers a catalyst to open a debate on the growing levels of militarisation internationally.

Using starkly elegant imagery, tender camaraderie and a dense and elegiac sound score, Melanie Wilson’s Iris Brunette delicately uncoils the remembrance of a friendship destroyed by the outbreak of war and the unfathomable demise of lost kinship and love. This is a warmly mournful and disarmingly engaging piece inspired by Chris Marker’s film 'La Jetee'. Brought to the National Arts Festival with support from the British Council Melanie Wilson’s Iris Brunette is the 2009 winner of the Absolut Dublin Fringe Best Production.

Mark Banks Live
will provide laughter in large dollops in the Festival’s popular STAND UP COMEDY programme. Mark Banks is one of the most recognised and respected comedians. His banter and uncontained one-liners have often lent him undeniable praise as he digs in to all and sundry with his potent brand of humour.

On the score sheet for the main programme MUSIC line-up, Standard Bank Young Artists Award winner for Music Ben Schoeman presents two piano recitals in which he features work celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of Hungarian composer Franz Liszt (1811) and the pianist and composer Australian Percy Grainger, who died fifty years ago.

The KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra will present two programmes. The Symphony Concert under the baton of Tibor Bogányi with soloist Jérôme Pernoo (piano) includes works by Offenbach and Brahms. Richard Cock will conduct the Gala Concert with soloists Ben Schoeman (piano) and Magdalene Minnaar (soprano). The programme comprises fascinating and charming works including Liszt’s Hungarian March, MacDowell’s To a Wild Rose, Grainger’s Country Garden and Ambroise Thomas’s Mad Scene from Hamlet to name but a few.

In two separate concerts The Goldberg Trio and Diamond Ensemble bring renditions of some of the most remarkable works in the chamber music oeuvre. Mozart’s Divertimento in E Flat, K. 563 performed by the Goldberg Trio – Zanta Hofmeyr (violin), Morkel Combrink (viola) and Wessel Beukes (cello). Samson Diamond winner of the 2010 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music has chosen two contrasting works, Franz Schubert’s deeply sublime String Quintet in C major, D. 956 and Tchaikovsky’s celebrated String Sextet in D minor “Souvenir de Florence” Op. 70 performed by the Diamond Quartet and two guest artists.

The Westhuizen Duo presents a programme, which includes the staple of the duo-piano repertoire: Rachmaninoff’s monumental Suite No. 2, Op. 17 for Two Pianos together with works by Schumann and Poulenc. They will also perform the world première of Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph’s It Takes Two to Tango and the South African première of American Groove for Two Pianos, by Evan Mack (USA). 

Inspired by text from the Book of Revelation Quartet to the End of Time (Quatuor pour la fin du temps) scored for clarinet, violin, cello and piano is a piece by French composer Olivier Messiaen. Written while a prisoner of war this major work of the twentieth century premièred in Germany in 1941 to an audience of fellow prisoners and prison guards. Performed by Samson Diamond (violin), Alan Thompson (clarinet), Anna Wilshire Jones (piano) and Wessel Beukes (cello).  Take one portion of Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata for piano and violin, sauté thoroughly and add four delicious tangos by Astor Piazzolla plus five well-known swing melodies and mix briskly until the consistency is almost that of jazz. Beethoven Tango is brought to you by Charl du Plessis (piano) and Zanta Hofmeyr (violin). This is music that you can taste!

Come and hear such favourites as Don’t cry for me Argentina (Evita), Memory (Cats), Music of the Night and All I ask of you (Phantom of the Opera), Love changes everything (Aspects of Love) and a host of other famous and popular songs in Lloyd Webber & Friends. Veramarie Meyer (mezzo soprano) and Nicholas Nicolaidis (tenor) are joined by members of the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra with narration by Richard Cock, who conducts.

Auriol Hays Behind Closed Doors features her mature, classy, alternative pop songs fused with jazzy soul wedged between some darker powerful ballads will, at one moment, have you dancing, and in the next, holding your heart heavily in its musical hands. Songwriter / producer extraordinaire, André Scheepers leads the band on keyboards. The programme will feature hit songs Take it Slow and Turn Up the Volume both of which received massive commercial radio success.

Ever since its début the Luca Ciarla Quartet has been appreciated by audiences and critics for its highly original tunes and arrangements, in which contemporary jazz and ethnic music happily blend together, creating an irresistible Mediterranean jazz sound. Presented by Violipiano Arts supported by the Italian Institute of Culture the quartet is sure to wow Festival audiences. 

Boo! was born in 1997 in the backstreets of Brixton, Johannesburg. Within seven years they acquired an enormous cult following worldwide brandishing their self-styled genre of “monkipunk”. After breaking up in 2004 Chris Chameleon surprised his punk pundits and cohorts by becoming one of the best-selling artists in Afrikaans music. In 2010 Boo! emerged again and soon won Suckfree Radio’s “Greatest unsigned Band in the World” competition with their remixed and re-mastered album “The Three of Us” which has already spawned two hit singles The Three of Us and To Do Today. 2011 is set be the “Year of the Boo!”

François Sarhan
will present a programme of two works: the Lectures of Professor Glaçon performed in English with three French musicians from the collective vocal-instrumental ensemble crWth. Telegrams from the Nose created by François Sarhan and William Kentridge which he performs with four South African musicians including Jill Richards with videos by Catherine Meyburgh. These multimedia creations are brought to the Festival with the kind assistance of the French Institute of South Africa, the Embassy of France in South Africa and the Institut Français.


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