Newsletter » Bravery on the boards at 2013 National Arts Festival

Bravery on the boards at 2013 National Arts Festival
18 April 2013

Deepest desires and darkest fears explored in the 2013 National Arts Festival Grahamstown theatre programme.

Asinamali marks the debut of the Soweto Theatre as an Associate Producer with the Market Theatre and the National Arts Festival on the Festival’s Main stage. Originally created in March 1985, Asinamali has travelled widely internationally and is one of the most important plays from apartheid South Africa. This revival of the production is directed by the 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist, Prince Lamla, a graduate of the Market Theatre Laboratory. Asinamali follows hot on the heels of Lamla’s revival of Woza Albert which enjoyed a six-month season at the Market Theatre and a month-long season at the 2012 Edinburg Festival. Written by Mbongeni Ngema, this classic South Afri can play is a tale of five black prisoners brought together in a South African prison. It is inspired by events that surrounded the 1983 rent strike in the Lamontville township, led by the martyred activist Msizi Dube, in which the rallying cry was “Asinamali” - Zulu for “We have no money!”

Mbongeni Ngema also returns to the Festival’s Main stage this year with the South African premiere of The Zulu, a dramatized story about the events that led to the Anglo/Zulu War of 1879. Combining his skill as a consummate storyteller and musician, Ngema’s premiere musical will narrate the encounter of these two Nations in a battle that is popularly known as the Battle of Isandlwana. This will be the first time that Mbongeni Ngema will return to the stage as an actor accompanied only by a guitarist. Mbongeni Ngema was the Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre in 1988.

Drawing its inspiration from conflict zones, Hearts and Eyes Theatre Collective, a company that has forged its reputation with staging human stories: the real and the personal in pursuit of truth and understanding, will present My Name is Rachel Corrie. Based on Rachel Corrie’s writing, directed by Jaqueline Dommisse and featuring Kate Liquorish, this one-woman play composed from Rachel’s own journals, letters and emails creates a portrait of a messy, articulate, Salvador Dali–loving chain-smoker (with a passion for the music of Pat Benatar), who left her home and school in Olympia, Washington, to work as an activist in the heart of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist from Olympia, Washington, travelled to Rafah in the southern part of the Gaza Strip as part of her college assignment. On 16 March 2003, Corrie was killed by an armed bulldozer operated by a member of the Israel Defence Forces while trying to prevent the demolition of homes belonging to Palestinian people. Exact details and responsibility for her death have been in dispute since the incident occurred. First staged at the Royal Court Theatre, My Name is Rachel Corrie went on to win Theatre Goers’ Choice Award for Best Director, Best New Play, as well as Best Solo Performance, and Newsweek said “Here is a play where the real dialogue begins when the curtain comes down. My Name is Rachel Corrie is theatre that not only stirs our hearts but sticks in our heads”.

Tom Coash’s play written before 9/11, Cry Havoc also draws its inspiration from conflicts in the Middle East. Cry Havoc is an unnerving East-West love story set in a small apartment in Cairo, about a naive British writer and an Egyptian university student who covertly live as lovers. Surrounded by poverty, religious fundamentalism, and political repression, these educated, morally-centred, yet disenfranchised men pursue divergent paths toward escape and extremism. Cry Havoc, featuring the award winning actors David Dennis and Brenda Radloff, challenges its audiences to consider what lengths people are prepared to go in the name of God and country; and marks the UJ Theatre’s professional debut on the National Arts Festival’s Main stage.< /div>

Canadian playwright Morris Panych’s award-winning black comedy Vigil is one of those wicked little plays that comes along all too rarely and leaves the audience wondering whether they should have laughed or been shocked at the protagonist’s deathbed conversations with his sickly aunt. This is a story about reality, about life, and serves as a reminder of the perils of isolation for all of us, whatever the age – “a funny play that makes you want to cry” (Legit Reviews/Off Broadway). This South African premiere of this multi-award winning play, which has been translated into 19 languages and played all over the world, features Graham Hopkins and Vanessa Cooke, directed by Christopher Weare and designed by Julia Anastasopoulos. 

Starring SA theatre legend Tim Plewman of Defending The Caveman fame, The Last Moustache, is an outrageous one-man satire with a serious bite; reminding us that what we are sold as truth is often far from it.

Adapt or Dye was inspired by the words of President PW Botha suggesting that white South Africa must adapt or die. Pieter-Dirk Uys took the slogan and adapted it to read ‘Adapt or Dye’ and gave his satirical onslaught against separate development a title out of the mouth of the leader. Recently a spokesperson the unruly ANC Youth League, radically opposed to President Zuma and the ancient regime of the party, stated that if whites did not like a future under their radical youth leadership, they could adapt or fly. As Pieter-Dirk Uys says: “Isn’t this what I brought to Grahamstown for the first time in 1982?” Maybe history doesn’t repeat itself in South Af rica. Maybe it just rhymes – from apartheid to tripartite.

Now in his late sixties, Pieter-Dirk Uys can vividly recall the recent history of South Africa with ease and is probably the most up to date person on current South African politics. He engages his audiences, speaking to the young, the expat, the gay and the gatvol. After a sell-out show in 2012, he returns to the Festival for An Audience with Pieter-Dirk EISH.

The Performing Arts Centre of the Free State (PACOFS) presents Madonna of Excelsior - adapted by Kobus Moolman from the novel by Zakes Mda. Set in 1971, nineteen citizens of Excelsior in South Africa’s white-ruled Free State were charged with breaking apartheid’s Immorality Act, which forbade sex between blacks and whites. This play focuses on the story of one such fallen Madonna, and her family, who are at the heart of the scandal. Adapted for the stage by Kobus Moolman through a commission by PACOFS, the idea for the production was incubated in the Novel-Script Project, a development workshop held for writers at the National Arts Festival in 2010. Funded by the Netherlands Embassy and coordinated by the Twist Project, the workshops brought together emerging South African writers and Dutch writers to explore the possibility of adapting Mda’s novel for the stage.

A showcase of work produced under the umbrella of The Market Theatre features Woza Albert (directed by Standard Bank Young Artist Prince Lamla), Cadre (Omphilo Molusi), The Island (directed by John Kani), The Line (directed by Gina Shmukler). There is also a showcase of playwright Mike van Graan’s work, a showcase of Eastern Cape theatre companies presented by the Port Elizabeth Opera Houses with the support of the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts & Culture Council; and work by Standard Bank Ovation Award winning companies and international companies selected by the World Fringe Alliance, which are programmed as part of the Arena.

The 39th edition of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown will take place from 27 June to 7 July 2013.

The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Eastern Cape Government, Department of Arts and Culture, National Arts Council, City Press and M Net.



About the National Arts Festival: The National Arts Festival, now in its 39th year, has proved its sustainability and has grown to be one of the leading arts festivals in Southern Africa. Its objectives are to deliver excellence; encourage innovation and development in the arts by providing a platform for both established and emerging South African artists; create opportunities for collaboration with international artists; and build new audiences.


Date : Thursday, April 18th, 2013

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