Many of South Africa’s foremost performers, producers, directors and choreographers are returning to the stage where they were first noticed – the National Arts Festival’s Fringe – to take advantage of the opportunity to experiment with their craft and be part of the unmatched energy and camaraderie it generates.
The event gets a boost this year with the announcement of a partnership between the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) and the National Arts Festival that will see R10-million invested in the Grahamstown event this year. The sponsorship will contribute to the logistics, overheads, artistic budget and marketing of the event, and sees the NLC get naming rights to the “National Lottery Fringe”.
As part of the agreement, Fringe artists will receive a R1 000 rebate on their venue hire costs.
“It is important to us, apart from the ‘beneath the skin’ investment the Lottery is making in equipment, marketing and so on, that their contribution sees a direct financial benefit flow to Fringe artists who take the risk of bringing their work to Grahamstown,” Festival CEO Tony Lankester said. “This rebate will, hopefully, make it a bit easier for them to realise a profit from their Festival run.”
Prof Alfred Nevhutanda, the chair of the National Lotteries Commission, says: “The National Lotteries Commission is committed to making a positive change. At the 2016 National Arts Festival, we welcome the opportunity to see South Africa’s artists perform on new stages and we want to see South African talent being nurtured through these opportunities.”
Among the 369 productions on the National Lottery Fringe, which runs from 30 June to 10 July in Grahamstown, are plays about politics, identity and sexuality, tales of triumph and tenderness, as well as stories that have arisen from history, circumstance, pain and belief. There’s also plenty of fun to be had with a roll call of fantastic comedy and pure entertainment as well as a wide range of music, dance, visual and public art.
Here are just a few of the highlights of the 2016 National Lottery Fringe:
ALL THE LAUGHS AND SOME SERIOUSLY GOOD SATIRE
Hot tickets for this year include Rob van Vuuren with a trio of one-man shows: Dangle, Life and The Best of Rob van Vuuren. He has also helped put together The Very Big Comedy Show IV, that features big-name Fringe artists such as Mark Lottering and Tumi Morake. Stuart Taylor returns with BeSpoke, Mojak Lehoko wonders irreverently How Did I Get Here?, and Tim Plewman (alongside Russel Savadier and Mike Huff) muscles up for his new show, Gym and Tonic.
Tyson Ngubeni takes a few swipes at xenophobia in The Dark Ages, while Thenx presents Aza-Nya is Five-To. Copy Dog’s B!*ch Stole My Doek returns to the Festival along with new show Sweetie Darling. Catch Lynita Crofford in Violet Online, a play about online dating, while Aaron McIlroy and Lisa Bobbert will be Defending the Planet.
Written by Mike van Graan, Siv Ngesi’s production Pay Back the Curry! slices and dices everything from the Zuptas to zombies and sparrows to statues. Politrix Kurup sees Johnnie Campher extending his range across 30 characters in a rollercoaster-ride of social satire.
ENDLESS OPTIONS ON THE THEATRE FRINGE
Independent Johannesburg theatre company POPArt hope to build on the success of their 2015 debut with the return of Jemma Kahn’s crowd-pleaser We Didn’t Come to Hell For The Croissants, and the brand-new UnFairLady, a satire of the content in women’s magazines
Klara van Wyk delivers “laugh-out-loud pop-com for the YouTube generation” in You Suck: And Other Inescapable Truths, while Tumi Morake shares the stage with Vanessa Frost in Tease!, a tale about sex, love and life set in a hair salon.
Community-based theatre groups are abundant on the programme, and many productions reflect on the gritty complexities of township life. Umsindo Theatre presents 10 Days In A Shebeen, a tale of abandonment and greed. Clues On The Sand by Moagi Modise is brought to the Festival by the Galeshewe Theatre Organisation in the Northern Cape, while Narrative Dreams is directed by rising theatre star Omphile Molusi.
Sibikwa Arts Centre’s Chapter 2 Section 9 tells the stories of persecution suffered by lesbian women in South Africa, and Wushwini Arts and Culture and Heritage Centre presents 1976 the Musical, a story told through the eyes of a young man who questions the responsibilities of South African youth.
The FEDA Award winning play Eclipsed, written by Tony Award nominee Danai Gurira, presented by St Mary’s School and the runner-up Born Naked, presented by Lebone College, will be showcased on the National Lottery Fringe. Both productions received rave reviews throughout the competition.
FROM PHYSICAL THEATRE AND POETRY TO DANCE
Physical theatre piece Giftig (Matchbox Theatre Collective) has recently returned from the Prague Fringe Festival. A two-hander, it features Micia de Wet and 2012 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance, Bailey Snyman – who also choreographed this piece along with If These Bodies Could Speak. Prince Lamla, another former winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award (2013), directs To 4rm, a piece workshopped with AFDA students to deliver a powerful presentation of four harrowing life stories.
Grahamstown’s own Via Kasi Movers, top 10 finalists in the 2013 e.tv Step Up or Step Out dance competition, present Loxion Story: Umavusana, and Rhodes Masters students present no less than three physical theatre productions: I Am… Dedanizizwe, Finding Upright and Ga(y)me(n)Play.
Extended choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf is directed by Khutjo Bakunzi-Green and Youth in Trust return to the Festival with the Standard Bank Ovation Award winning piece, 1606, which reflects on the events leading up to the 1976 Soweto Uprising.
Vibrant and energetic Pantsula dance pieces will super-charge audiences at performances of The Best of Gauteng II , while Moving into Dance celebrates 38 years with the powerful production, ‘,..feathers’, directed by Mark Hawkins and a choreography team that includes Oscar Buthelezi.
Indigenous dance weaves through the programme with The Isingqi Sakwa-Ntu Cultural Group exploring the process of becoming a traditional healer in Intwaso. The Kopano ke Matla Youth Group showcases Tswana dance and music in Ngwao Ya Rona and Nkwekhwezana Cultural Group celebrates our shared destinies within our own cultures and traditions.
FOLLOW THE TUNE TO CLASSICAL AND CONTEMPORARY
Classical performances on the National Lottery Fringe include a concert by 16-year-old violinist, Neo Motsatse; the Baobab Trio in concert; and performances by the Chisipite School Orchestra and Afro-Jazz Ensemble from Zimbabwe. Choral enthusiasts are spoilt for choice with the 100-voice Hoërskool Randburg / Horizons Project Choirs, the Seshego Choir and the St Paul’s Gospel Choir, while six-voice mixed a cappella group, The Boulevard Harmonists return to Grahamstown once more.
Contemporary music fans have a feast of music to choose from with Bianca Wood, Blaqseed, Nombasa, Hatchetman and Matthew van der Want on the bill. Not to be missed are Samthing Soweto, Msaki & The Golden Circle, Poeticsoul, Guy Buttery, and Chris Chameleon.
The Fringe Club in the Steve Biko Building will host a different band every hour between 11am to 8pm every day of the Festival. For just R30 cover charge you can grab a bite to eat or have a drink while enjoying the best of the Festival music line-up.
Snippets from Fringe shows can be enjoyed at the free SAfm Sundowner Concerts in the Monument Foyer at 5pm daily. All the visual art exhibitions – of which there are more than 40 – are open free of charge to the public and offer an astounding array of technique, talent and subject matter.
Numerous shows on the Fringe offer free and special discounts (marked in colour on the programme) and the Half Price Hut announces a selection of shows that offer half-price tickets. Keep an eye on the Festival newspaper Cue or enquire at the Box Office for specials and Fringe updates. The daily Standard Bank Ovation Award nominations are also a good indication of the critics’ favourites, and can tip a show to sold-out within hours.
For up-to-the-minute news on tickets, nominations and for audience shares on the best of the National Lottery Fringe follow the hashtag #NAF16 on:
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