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Peek behind the curtain: more top shows revealed

Published on 13 March 2019

The 45th National Arts Festival is all set to open on 27 June for 11 amazing days, and the organisers have revealed more top shows confirmed for the 2019 programme.

The full programme will be online from mid-April and all shows will be open for booking on 7 May 2019. The Festival runs from 27 June-7 July 2019 in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown).

Nobesuthu Rayi, the National Arts Festival Acting Executive Producer, says: “This year’s Main programme is layered with exceptionally interesting work. Much of it defies genre and challenges notions of category or stereotype. Throughout the programme we are seeing an interrogation of some of our biggest issues around land, identity and place on a scale from thoughtful to urgent.”

National Arts Festival Fringe Manager Zikhona Monaheng says there will be a wide range of entertainment for families and all visitors to the Festival. “From our free concerts on the Standard Bank Village Green to live music, comedy and street performers there will be endless options for everyone.”

Details of the shows on the National Arts Festival Fringe programme will also be revealed in mid-April.

Here’s a peek behind the curtain at some of the shows audiences can look forward to at the 2019 National Arts Festival:

18 Hot Shows on the 2019 Programme


[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][2019 Standard Bank Young Artist for Music] Megan-Geoffrey Prins, the 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist for Music, will perform a 90-minute solo piano recital that reflects the ever-changing landscapes of Western Art Music. The programme includes popular works such as Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz, Rachmaninov’s Études, and Debussy’s Prèludes, along with J.S. Bach reimagined by Feruccio Bucconi and the more modern sounds of Carl Vine.



Drakensberg Boys Choir
Drakensberg Boys Choir

[Main – Music] One of the leading boys choirs in the world, the Drakensberg Boys Choir is known for their varied, energetic performances and wide variety of musical styles. “The world-renowned Drakensberg Boys Choir is a unique institution with a 51-year history. Throughout this time it has been a beacon of the performing arts in South Africa. The calibre of our old boys speaks for themselves: Deon Lotz (actor), Terence Bridgett (actor), Paul du Toit (author), Loyiso Bala (tenor), Phelo Bala (baritone), Dawid Boverhoff (musician) to name but a few,” says Bernard Krüger, Artistic Director. The Choir will perform a selection of classical, African gospel and choral pop music. This will be followed by their unique, semi-theatrical presentation of indigenous South African music, centred on the theme of ‘Water=Life’. Audiences will be entertained with a wide variety of hauntingly beautiful music. The programme will include works to satisfy musical connoisseurs as well as arrangements of chart-topping pop songs and gospel numbers. The Choir will also incorporate some of the songs and music from Xhamissa into their programme, performed as a ‘concertante’.


[Main – Music] Bringing together isiXhosa songs, string and piano instrumentation, free improvisational and electro-acoustic techniques, this project represents a fresh South African sound — an integration of varied sonic spaces, performative techniques, indigenous instruments and forms. 
VUMA is a collaborative compositional project created and facilitated by the composer-performers Lungiswa Plaatjies and Matthijs van Dijk. It is a programme of traditional amaXhosa songs arranged for chamber ensemble, structured improvisations with electronics, and newly composed fusion works. The programme is performed by the Night Life Collective, which brings together a contemporary string quartet sound with piano, umrhubhe and uhadi musical bows, and various vocal timbres. The group actively pushes musical boundaries and freely experiments with genre, instrumentation and performance spaces, exploring new collaborations with artists in interdisciplinary fields.


[Main – Music] The legendary SA rock band returns to Makhanda this year. The band released a new album last year (Beautiful Evolution, 2018) so will be bringing both new and old materials to the Festival stages. Frontman Arno Carstens has said of their performances, “The live shows are loud and high-energy so get fit!” No doubt a favourite for this Festival these tickets will be likely to fly.


[Main – Music Installation/Visual Art] IN SITU is the development and re-contextualising of two audio visual artworks that use data to inform musical composition. The materials of study are a foetus in utero and the planet Mercury — neither of which are visible to the naked eye. To truly perceive them, we must turn to the objective scientific eye, to methodologies that allow us to view and map these places. It is the transmission of data, zeros and ones, that fabricate these monochrome images. Mira Calix has gathered imaging data by collaborating with specialists in their respective fields — ultrasound and interplanetary geology. Using her custom software, she has transformed the data of foetal activity and a simulated journey over Mercury from the visual to the sonic.
Watching the films requires an act of continuous inference, the score correlates to the temporal, spatial and frequency resolution of the visual. What you see informs what you hear. Award-winning artist and composer Mira Calix was born in South Africa but is based in the UK. Music and sound, which she considers sculptural material, are at the centre of her practice.


[Main – 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre] This year’s Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre, Amy Jeptha will explore displacement in her new play ALL WHO PASS. The work time-ravels between a 1974 eviction – as a family spend their last night together in their District Six home – and a 2019 restitution, in which a daughter returns to claim her inheritance and exorcise the ghosts of what took place there; a journey that will bring her back to a landscape of memories, past and present.


[ Main – Theatre] Brett Bailey’s new work SAMSON brings the popular biblical myth into the 21st century in a hard-edged, anarchic music-theatre production, which plays out within a global context of unbridled capitalism, ethnic extremism, human displacement and rage. It is set in a dystopian present in which a rapacious and supremacist Master Race feeds off the labour of the Downtrodden Masses. Performed with opera, choral singing, punchy animated video scenography, black humour, brooding swagger and the booming sub-bass of dub-step music. In an era of intolerance and polarisation, a young man with a hero mission channels the fury of his oppressed people, and inflicts terror on the population that he holds accountable for their subjugation. As the body count mounts and war surges, Delilah — an ambivalent enemy agent — seduces and ritually castrates him. His brutal punishment in the detention facilities of the authorities spurs him to an act of suicidal devastation… Playwright and director Brett Bailey says, “My take on the well-known Old Testament hero myth brings the tale crashing into the 21st century. I locate it in a dystopian contemporary context of political extremism, unbridled capitalism, inequality and violence; and indulge my fascination with shamanism, ritual, the repressed and the non-rational.”


[Main – Theatre] Magnet Theatre’s G7: OKWE-BOKHWE (like/of a goat) is set in the emotional and tension-filled environment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing. Here is where the horrific truths of the apartheid government’s dealings are laid bare. Retold in gruesome detail, the families and friends of deceased activists are forced to relive and bear witness to the circumstances that led to the deaths of their brothers, sisters, parents and children.
Through the story of the murdered Umkhonto we Sizwe members who were betrayed by security forces in 1986 known historically as the Gugulethu 7, G7: Okwe-Bokhwe is about South Africa’s difficult past and its now, widely considered, failed attempt at reconciliation. The production is both healing and regenerative, allowing the wounds of our history to be exposed, attended to and validated.In G7: Okwe Bokhwe, Artistic Director Mandla Mbothwe has created a powerful mourning play, an attempt to engage with a process of healing the pain of our collective past.


[Main-Theatre] Told with humour, song and unflinching honesty, CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON BOY is the inspiring true story of storyteller Steven Fales’ journey from being a devoted, sixth-generation Mormon and father of two to coming out as gay and being excommunicated from his church. Riding an emotional roller coaster of extremes — from perfect Mormon boy in Utah to perfect rent boy in Manhattan — Fales discovers what it means to finally come home, if only in your heart. Based on original Off-Broadway direction by Tony Award-winner Jack Hofsiss, this soulful solo play is performed with “an astonishing generosity of spirit, fierce comedy, and sharp intelligence” (Boston Globe). The climax has a simple, self-revelatory coup-de-theatre that “hits us between the eyes like a shot with a two-by-four” (Chicago Sun-Times). American actor and playwright Steven Fales has been performing ‘Confessions’ for over a decade across the US and around the world. He was nominated the Overall Excellence Award for a Solo Show at the New York International Fringe Festival and the Oscar Wilde Award for Outstanding New Writing for Theatre at the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival.


[Main – Theatre] Engaging with loss, heartache and hope, MOONLESS uses magic realism to tell the story of two characters — a man consumed with grief, and a woman who has decided to give up speaking and live in isolation. While their interaction only spans the course of a single evening, the audience will be taken on a journey to the moon and back.
Inspired by personal narrative, MOONLESS combines live performance with projection and technology in a provocative and fresh way. Much of the performance is physically driven, deviating from the primacy of the spoken word, actively engaging audiences’ senses to construct meaning.
Gopala Davies is an award-winning actor and director and a regular at the National Arts Festival. He has received two Standard Bank Ovation Awards — as well as eight Naledi nominations, and was named one of the Top 5 Theatre Makers of 2017 by the South African Theatre Magazine.

Micia de Wet is a performing artist, writer, director and educator. She has written and performed in a number of productions that have premiered at the Festival, including Go sa nne le leina and the critically acclaimed Giftig.


[Main- 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art] In THIS SONG IS FOR… Gabrielle Goliath returns to, and re-performs, the popular convention of the dedication song, in collaboration with a group of women-led musical ensembles as the 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art. Entering an immersive filmic and auditory environment, audiences are confronted with a unique collection of dedication songs, each chosen by a survivor of rape and performed as a newly produced cover version. This riveting and emotive piece will include collaborations between Nonku Phiri and Dion Monti and singer song-writer Msaki with Lebogang Ledwaba and Thembinkosi Mavimbela.


[Main-Visual Art] Luke Kaplan’s HINTERLAND is, in part, a response to the environmental threat posed by extractive mining in the Karoo. The work documents the land and environment as a unique place at a critical moment in time. It is also a study of how a physical landscape can resonate with an inner, psychic landscape. The body of work incorporates ritual and performance as core elements of creative practice, and so stands as a series of intensely private performances presented as photographs. Images were taken using a large-format homemade wooden camera, and printed by hand. Photography is used both to document the performance as well as to form a central element of the performance.
Luke Kaplan is an artist and photographer whose practice concerns itself with landscape and history, in particular how people, through interaction and through time, form an identity with the natural world in which they move.


[Main- 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance] The 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance, Kitty Phetla joins forces with Nduduzo Makhathini, the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz in a work that fuses dance and jazz. This is a tribute to the divine lineage of souls who occupy, inform and influence the spaces of these artists and their work. Says Phetla, “Space has continuous conversations with those who pass through it – that same space has memory – that space carries our heritage. The theatre is a space for confession. Listen to the echo, the ancestors are speaking.”


[Main-Dance] Bailey Snyman’s GAS LANDS is a poetic meditation on the displacement of women due to war, trafficking and migration in the 21st century. Set in a dystopian future that oscillates between ‘its’ present and ‘our’ history, the dance work explores the challenges of crossing borders into the unknown, being forced to run and hide from our identities, and seeking refuge through the empathy of others. GAS LANDS is a statement on resilience in the face of adversity. It is a sad, yet ultimately hopeful story — a requiem for all the women and men who have carved a path from the past into the present and beyond the future. The work has an original music composition by Daniel Geddes.


[Main-Performance Art] SWARM THEORY is a playful theatrical investigation into the possibilities of collective human intelligence. Swarming the streets of Makhanda, an agglomeration of physical performers engage with their environment as a single collaborative organism, exploring the street corners, green spaces and market places of life. Each swarming is unplanned, immediate, dynamic and unique to its ecosystem of sounds, smells, rhythms and people. The swarm manifests a group mind — self-sufficient, yet undirected and unpredictable, an adaptive, self-organising critical mass at the edge of chaos.
Created and directed by Well Worn Theatre Co’s Kyla Davis and physical theatre practitioner and theatre maker Daniel Buckland. Well Worn Theatre Co is a physical theatre company with a strong environmental ethos.


[Main – Comedy] In 2015 Dylan Moran became the fastest-selling artist in National Arts Festival history, with all three of his performances selling out in hours. He returns this time round with a brand-new show – DR COSMOS – which is touring to 42 UK and 32 international venues in 2019.
Moran will once again offer his unique take on love, politics, misery and the everyday absurdities of life, all served with poetical panache from one of the finest comedians of his generation. Moran has been called the Oscar Wilde of comedy and his famed style – deadpan, witty and crackpot lyricism – promises to be an unmissable journey through his interpretations of the world, swerving cliche to offer a cutting blow to our idiosyncrasies.

Dylan Moran is a comedian, actor and writer who, in 1996 at the Edinburgh Fringe, became the youngest ever winner of the Perrier Award. He went on to co-write and star in Black Books which won two BAFTAs. Other notable screen roles include Notting Hill, Calvary, Shaun of the Dead and Run Fatboy Run.

ARTIFICE Stuart Lightbody

[Fringe – Magic ] In the right hands, there might just be art in artifice. Stuart Lightbody, the master of misdirection, invites audiences to delve deeper into each moment of Astonishment. Winner of the Theatre Award at the Fringeworld Festival in Australia and a National Arts Festival award winning favourite, Stuart returns to pack out the houses with a new show ARTIFICE.

“There is nothing more splendid than sitting wide-eyed in the presence of the obviously impossible.”  – The Times

LOYISO MADINGA, ExploSiv Productions

[Fringe – Comedy] He’s been a guest of Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, he’s lighting up Netflix and he’s packing out houses with his easy comedic style and quirky storytelling. Loyiso Madinga is hot property and he’s back on the Makhanda stage to bring in the laughs.



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