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Firsts, finales and f(r)iction on the Fringe

Published on 12 June 2014

The Fringe at the National Arts Festival is always a vibrant, diverse collection of performances because participation is open to all and no selection criteria is enforced. As SA’s ‘most democratic Festival’, if you have the will and a way, you can apply to find yourself ‘on the Fringe’.

This year there are more than 400 shows and exhibitions on the Fringe encompassing children’s theatre, film, music, comedy, drama, physical theatre, dance, cabaret, visual art, performance poetry and musical theatre; all supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund.

The 2014 programme promises firm favourites and, of course, some bold newcomers. The Abangani Theatre returns after the success of last year’s controversial Money Maker made them one of the most talked about productions at the Festival. This year they’re staging SUNSET BLUES. As the play unfolds, we learn that marriage is the only war where one sleeps with the enemy, making the argument that your marriage can be a better marriage, or it can a bitter marriage – the choice is entirely up to you. Catch ‘the best of Cape Town’ at Artscape and Cape Town Edge’s curated venues, including the premiere of Mike van Graan’s newest script, RETURN OF THE ANCESTORS, KBT Productions’ UNDERMINED – at 10am daily – a mash up of comic book and African story telling; SALT, a combination of physical performance, drama and fantasy about a long time psychiatric patient, lost between reality and hallucinations, lying forgotten in her ward until a young doctor arrives, intent on curing her; and the Rust Co-operative’s SIEMBAMBA – a multi-lingual memory play exploring two very different people, a black domestic worker and the white child she raised, forging an intimate mother-child bond at a time when they were socialised to hate one another.

THE EPICENE BUTCHER AND OTHER STORIES FOR CONSENTING ADULTS has developed something of a cult following. Since its premiere on the Fringe in Grahamstown in 2012, where it won a Silver Standard Bank Ovation Award, the show has travelled to the Amsterdam Fringe, the Edinburgh Fringe, the Musho Festival, Fringe World Perth, and Adelaide Fringe – amassing a string of awards. This year will be your last chance to catch it on the Fringe. Jemma Kahn brings a brand new production to fill the gap – AMATEUR HOUR! promises not to disappoint ‘butcher’ fans.

THE THREE LITTLE PIGS also toured to acclaim, nabbing 3rd place in the ArtRage Theatre Award at Fringe World Perth, sustaining a month-long run at the world’s biggest Fringe Festival in Edinburgh; and appearances at the Amsterdam (where they won a Silver Award for Best International Production) and New York Fringe Festivals. It’s also been nominated at home for Fleur du Cap Awards for Best Actor, Best New South African Script and Best Director. It too is taking a last turn on the Fringe programme, along with popular productions BOET ‘N SWAER, MIX TAPE, PANTS ON FIRE, and THE BROTHER’S STREEP. So don’t miss out!

Serious drama and hard-hitting commentary is not the domain of the Main programme exclusively. A number of productions in the Fringe drama and comedy sections engage with themes that reflect on South Africa’s history, 20 years of democracy, and our society’s everyday struggles. BORN FREE is a funny, hard-hitting, satirical commentary on our twenty years of democracy. In an election year that will have politics coming at us 24/7, Born Free will provide a cathartic antidote as popular stand-up comedian Siv Ngesi takes us through the A-Z of the Rainbow Nation, where apartheid only gets blamed once. Or twice.

AGREED is directed by 2014 Festival Featured Artist Sylvaine Strike and performed by Lionel Newton. The production comprises of a trio of monologues, genially underscored by the emotive voice of the cello, played on stage by the renowned Kutlwano Masote. DEMOCRAZY is a depiction of the thriving contrasts in our country. When the Rainbow Nation is in a state of emergency from what it should be, here’s how it is… “Here, dem fail to come together and divided in our plans, let them live without any freedom in Mzansi, deep in the sand”. What is to become of our nation’s song, which calls us to reclaim our nation’s dream?

1976 – the year that changed South Africa forever. Roles were scrambled: students became adults, adults felt like children, families were polarised and action overtook reason. Adapted from the Diary of Maria Tholo, “1976” reveals the fear, confusion, pressure and determination of the age. Nothing is certain – except there is no going back. CORNER MADIBA AND NELSON MANDELA is a play based in a busy intersection of Pretoria. It explores the given circumstances of post-apartheid in the eyes of two ordinary South African citizens. This story unapologetically mirrors the uncensored thoughts and incredible events that have occurred post-1994.

The programme also features some of the country’s most beloved performers, writers and directors – plus a host of shows returning to the Fest after their successful debuts last year. CRAZY IN LOVE is back. The Standard Bank Ovation-winning, top-selling show on debut at NAF 2013, returns matured, developed, and looking to break your heart with its tragicomic father-daughter story of love, loss, and skin. Andrew Buckland and Liezl de Kock are phenomenal and bound to be one of the hottest Fringe tickets again this year. An adaption of Paul Gallico’s classic novella, THE SNOW GOOSE, played out on the desolate Essex marshes and against the background of the miracle of Dunkirk. A wounded, storm-tossed snow goose brings a young girl, Fritha, and the recluse Philip Rhayader together in a moving story about love and courage.

Roland Perold returns to Grahamstown with his hit one man show MUSICAL THEATRE MEMORY LANE after performances around the country and in the U.K. Perold entertains from the piano, breathing new life into show-tune favourites, while paying homage to composers from The Golden Age of Musical Theatre. Standard Bank Ovation Award-winner 2013 underwater adventure Get Kraken! returns – expect the unexpected, and big belly laughs. Directed by Christopher Weare, Lynita Crofford performs in the Standard Bank Ovation Award-winning production of Tony Jackman’s one-hander AN AUDIENCE WITH MISS HOBHOUSE about the campaign against conditions in Britain’s Boer War concentration camps. Also look out for GHOST STORY; ROB VAN VUUREN’S WHAT WHAT, BITTERSWEET, THE UNEXPECTED MAN, and the next instalments of the ever-popular series, RAIDERS: THE GREAT WAR and BUTLERS & BRYL CREAM plus many more top returning shows.

If stand up comedy, farce and parody tickle your fancy, look out for BIG BOYS II (and their new show BIG GIRLS); I CAME, I TAUGHT, I LEFT; SINGLE DAD II; WACKY WIZARD and LORD OF THE FLINGS which pokes fun at hit movies like “Lord of the Rings”, “Harry Potter”, “Twilight”, “Star Wars” and more! For those who like a side of the magic with their entertainment, there’s ILLUSIVE (PREVIOUSLY “UNREAL”), THINK TWICE and CURIOUS THINGS: A SLEIGHTLY DIFFERENT DISPLAY OF MAGIC.

Film fans can catch the Fringe Film programme at The Atherstone Room, including the full length feature films THE HEART OF THE WHO, UKHAMBA and OUTCAST.

Be sure to check out the 95 MANDELA POSTER PROJECT TRAVELLING EXHIBITION, a collection of 95 posters submitted by graphic designers world wide and curated by the Mandela Poster Project Collective. The Posters – representing Mandela’s 95 years – are on a global journey and will eventually be auctioned by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust to raise funds. There are an additional 60 visual art exhibitions on the Fringe covering all manner of media from fabric art to lino, sculpture, photography, paintings, drawings, graphic art and installations – a visual art lover’s heaven!

The Chairperson of the National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund, Prof Alfred Nevhutanda congratulated the National Arts Festival on their 40th anniversary and reiterated their commitment to the arts, and in particular the platform for development that the Festival provides. “We are proud to be associated with the National Arts Festival Fringe programme this year in particular, and salute the country’s biggest open access fringe. We see the importance of arts and culture in South Africa as a vital thread in our cultural economy,” he said.

The 2014 National Arts Festival takes place in Grahamstown from 3 – 13 July. Booking is open, and tickets can be purchased through the website or 0860 002 004. Programmes can be obtained through selected Exclusive Books and Standard Bank branches.

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