Posts tagged "National Arts Festival"

One-man show cracks head, then heart, wide open

Review: Kafka’s Ape, Alexander Bar until June 22, after that at National Arts Festival in Makhanda, formerly known as Grahamstown

Adapted and directed by Phala O. Phala; original design by Liesel N. Retief
Performed by Tony Bonani Miyambo

If Tony Miyambo’s performance in Kafka’s Ape wasn’t so riveting the goings on on-stage would quickly have faded into a sideshow to the fireworks set off in my head.

I felt like I was transfixed, yet somehow I was also engaged in an intense Q and A with myself throughout. The show set off a quickfire interrogation of myself (“Did you really think that?”, “Oh no, don’t go there”, etc). Very confronting indeed.

Billed as “a performance about a primate’s struggle to overcome the confines of captivity”, this play is about the cruelty, beastliness even, of humans.

Miyambo’s extraordinary ape-like antics and sounds are both convincing and confusing. Through his eyes we get a disturbing look at that most primitive and barbaric of creatures, mankind. We can almost see the soul of the ape; man, on the other hand, is a drunkard and a fool.

Watching a black man discussing being captured and enslaved is so close to home and it’s downright confronting. Man versus beast is a proxy for that other great battle, man versus man, in this adaptation of Franz Kafka’s ‘A Report To An Academy’.

First my heart was cracked open, then my head. If Kafka’s Ape is hard to watch, performing it must require a pair that are made of steel.

I left wondering: Are we just the product of our lives, experiences and surroundings, or do we indeed have our own beautiful, independent souls?

Kafka’s Ape is on until June 22 at the Alexander Bar, which has a special place in the hearts of Capetonians with a love for independent theatre. Even on a blustery Tuesday night in winter Alex delivered with an interesting cast of theatregoers watching sensational independent theatre.

Artists given licence to disrupt (as if they needed it)

2017 looks like the year disruption will come full circle at Grahamstown’s National Arts Festival, from June 29 to July 9. Last year’s call for proposals urged, challenged, prodded and provoked the original disruptors – artists – to shake things up a bit. We have just a few weeks to wait to see how they responded.

Urging dare devils and disruptors to enter their work for the 2017 festival, incoming executive producer Ashraf Johaardien said last year: “We want to examine how the arts challenges mainstream ways of thinking, its responses to disruptions to the status quo, as well as how it disrupts conventional artistic boundaries and conventions to create new artistic territories.”

‘Do more than think outside of the box … throw away the box…’

Johaardien said he hoped artists would “do more than think outside of the box” when responding to the theme, Art and Disruption.

“For me, this theme asks artists to throw away the box completely. Airbnb has revolutionised travel, Uber has reshaped transport and Netflix has changed the way we digest television. I am hoping we see submissions that do the same for the arts.”

Sounds like a challenge that the bad boys and girls of the arts world would have found irresistible. Roll on June 29!

But before I have a look at this year’s schedule let me take a look back at some of my (kinda disruptive) favourites from the National Arts Festival of 2016:

An ever-speeding descent into madness. Sound familiar?

AnimalFarmAn interpretation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm set in the modern South African context left audiences at the 2016 National Arts Festival struggling for air as they laughed and winced their way through an orgy of greed and corruption.

The show pulls no punches as it documents an ever-speeding descent into madness when the liberated become the oppressors. Hints that this ruling class at war with itself references recent goings on in Parliament in Cape Town builds more and more obviously until we have no doubt about whose “fire pool” we are splashing about in.

One can’t help thinking that some people really do set themselves up to be made fun of. This show capitalises cleverly on South Africa’s surplus of excellent material for satire.

This adaptation was originally created to help South African high school children better understand Animal Farm, a school set work, which should explain why it might, in the words of director Neil Coppen, “sometimes feel a bit 101 to people who are more political”.

Animal_Farm_-_1st_editionLeaving little room for misinterpretation didn’t come across as dumbing down at all, though. Stating what might be obvious to some is brave in a world where things are intentionally kept a bit vague so as to keep all options open.

The cast of five black women morph in and out of masculine and feminine roles and gender often seems to disappear. There are, however, moments when the audience is reminded of the overwhelming masculinity of most of our real-life power players.

The tempo and suspense builds to a crescendo, with all of us hanging to know what happens next…

The story behind the story: also deliciously demented

In her new play, In Bocca Al Lupo, at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Jemma Khan takes a slight detour from the delicious and demented make-believe world we know her for and tells us a little about her life, and it turns out to be quite delicious and demented too.

Kahn is best known for her two previous shows, the international cult hit The Epicene Butcher and last year’s sellout success, We Didn’t Come To Hell For The Croissants.

She plays all characters in In Bocca Al Lupo herself, employing various cunning tricks and technologies that make it feel like we are watching her interact with others.

JemmaKahnAfter finishing her degree, Kahn tells us, she decided not to follow the well-trodden path of a drama graduate (along the lines of get degree, get agent, develop eating disorder, become estate agent). She has the audience in stitches as she paints a very funny and somewhat scandalous picture of a few horrible, if interesting, years travelling the world and trying to work out what she was going to do with her life.

Bocca Al Lupo translates to Into the mouth of the wolf, which she tells us Italians use as a good luck phrase much the same way as English speakers say Break a leg. Into the mouth of the wolf sounds about right as a description of her time in Japan and Ireland.

If her life is not, in fact, filled with lovable and loving people, she does a very good job of making it look like it is. With the exception of the Speed-guzzling, posh-hating Irish boyfriend, who sounds like he could have done with a good telling off and probably a scrub, her characters are all damn near adorable. Who wouldn’t like a granma called Fufu who helps fund your dreams.

The play has its sad moments (whose life doesn’t?), but mostly this beautifully illustrated tale has us laughing our way around the world. Her use of Kamishibai, a form of Japanese street theatre where a sequence of images are displayed in a frame to help tell stories, is as slick as it is visually pleasing.

A great storyteller telling a great story!

https://www.nationalartsfestival.co.za/

 

 

 

 

Crossing from the sane side

IntelligentLife2The Search for Intelligent Signs of Life in the Universe at the National Arts Festival is amazeballs! And, forthwith, I will be using amazeballs and other words that I have previously avoided because they sounded a bit too loony.

After this brief tour of “sanity” with Trudy, our crazy bag-lady guide, I am happy to be associated with the fruit-loops and the nut-jobs on her side, rather than with many of the functional lunatics in the “sane” world.

Trudy tells us that going bat-shit crazy was the best thing that ever happened to her. She says that now she refuses to be intimidated by reality, “which is the leading cause of stress in those who are in touch with it”.

It sounds quite tempting (if not exactly amazeballs), but Trudy is quick to warn us that it is not for everyone.

Michelle Douglas, as our lovable bag lady, tells us that she wasn’t always so, she used to be a creative consultant to “big companies”. Now she is creative consultant to aliens (her “space chums”), who have recruited her to help them in their search for intelligent signs of life.

She is well placed to help her space chums since some rewiring of her brain circuitry done during her time in a lunatic asylum means she is able to channel other people’s thoughts, which turns out to be a very useful tool for collecting data for aliens.

After getting to know Trudy a bit we are treated to glimpses of many of the people she channels. While these people are not actually certifiable, they all seem absolutely bonkers in … you know … an ordinary, modern way.

IntelligentLifeFrom the bored housewife to an air-head aerobics bunny who is obsessed with personal improvement, through health junkies who “looked like organic Ken and Barbie dolls” at their wedding to an angry punk performance artist and a delusional coke-head jock, they all seem stark-raving mad. Douglas takes us on a whirlwind tour of hysterical and hilarious characters from mainstream life, with a couple of hookers and a homo thrown in for good measure.

What these people have in common apart from being “carbon-based life forms” seems to be that they are unhinged in some way or another without actually being certifiable. Functional lunatics, you might say. Amazeballs!

Douglas absolutely owns each one of these characters and switches between them with enormous skill. Steven Feinstein directs this razor-sharp version of Jane Wagner’s play, which debuted on Broadway to amazeballs reviews in the 1980s.

– African News Agency (ANA)