Expect the unexpected

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Versatile and exciting young theatre-makers and artists will break new ground and excavate forgotten histories this year in Grahamstown, premiering a number of new works, including a thought-provoking new play by 2017 Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre Monageng ‘Vice’ Motshabi.

Standard Bank Young Artist Monageng Motshabi’s brand-new play Ankobia is set in Pelodikgadile, a land where history is forbidden. He uses sound, silence and text to explore the pain of not being allowed to remember – and what happens when children are reminded of our past. The voices of those who used to fight for land and truth and rights have been muted and, using a new invention called ‘the joy machine’, people’s memories are kept in check. The past exposed is also examined in Nadia DavidsWhat Remains. Directed by Jay Pather, dance, text and movement combine to tell the story of the unexpected discovery of a slave burial ground and a city haunted by the memory of slavery. When the bones emerge from the ground everyone in the city – slave descendants, archaeologists, citizens, property developers – are forced to reckon with a history sometimes remembered, sometimes forgotten. South African legend Jennie Reznek returns to the National Arts Festival with her acclaimed one-woman show I Turned Away and She Was Gone. Nominated for four Fleur du Cap and two Naledi awards, the show poetically explores the passage and cycles of life of three generations of women – mother, daughter, grandmother, and the relationship we all have with our past, present and future selves. In this captivating and accessible reworking of the ancient Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, Reznek takes the audience on a journey of discovery of the bonds that connect mothers and their children.

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Cult Clit Image by Lebogang Thulare

South African legend Jennie Reznek returns to the National Arts Festival with her acclaimed one-woman show ‘I Turned Away and She Was Gone’

NewFoundLand is the latest play by multiple-award winning theatre-maker Neil Coppen and focuses on the intertwining lives and dreams of two South African men. Coppen’s play has been described as a hallucinatory and unusual exploration of sexuality, love and loneliness in contemporary South Africa, and asks the question, ‘is forgetting a way of healing or an ultimate form of denial?’ The Arena Theatre programme promises some incredible new works from previous winners of Standard Bank Ovation Awards, which reward productions on the Festival Fringe. Look out for the irrepressible Roberto Pombo and Joni Barnard in KidCasino; Jade BowersBlack; and Hungry Minds ProductionsReparations.

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Blood wedding

Monageng Motshabi’s brand-new play ‘Ankobia’ is set in Pelodikgadile, a land where history is forbidden. He uses sound, silence and text to explore the pain of not being allowed to remember – and what happens when children are reminded of our past

The Fallist movement and other protests last year put student activism firmly onto the news agenda and into the centre of conversation in South Africa. Each year, universities and colleges are invited to participate in the National Arts Festival and the 2017 Student Theatre line-up is as wide-ranging and complex as the issues faced by young South Africans – there’s revolt and contestation (University of Pretoria’s Blood Wedding, Wits Theatre/Wits School of Arts and Theatre and Performance Division’s MMU), dance (Oakfields College’s 4), a focus on black women (Gender Unit of the Western Cape’s The Citizen, Sol Plaatjie University Drama Group’s Lerothodi La Sebukwabukwane), moral dilemma and identity (University of the Free State’s Soverign, AFDA’s Zenith and AFDA Cape’s The Couch); as well as sex and sexuality (Market Theatre Laboratory’s Pop iCherri and Rhodes University’s Cult Clit). Tshwane University of Technology’s Molora uses a highly physical performance vocabulary to express the textual nuances in Yaël Farber’s adaptation of the Greek classical tragedy, The Oresteia.

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The crows that plucked

Coppen’s play has been described as a hallucinatory and unusual exploration of sexuality, love and loneliness in contemporary South Africa

There are works with a lighter, funnier touch too with Ben Voss and John van de Ruit co-writing Mamba Republic, a rapid-paced satirical sketch-comedy that takes a look at all that is wrong in South Africa. British stand-up comedian Stephen K Amos will be doing two shows in Grahamstown and there are two other UK acts on the Arena programme too: athletic comic duo The Pretend Men in the Fringe smash hit, Police Cops; and Louise Reay, fresh from the Brighton Fringe with It’s Only Birds, ‘a comedy in Chinese for people who don’t speak any Chinese at all.’

For a short guide navigating through the programme, check out: National Arts Festival programme open for booking or visit one of our pages:

FILM  Disruption, Dissension, Decency, Disobedience & Defiance
THEATRE  Expect the unexpected
TARTUFFE  the story of…
MUSIC  Traditional, innovative & experimental
DANCE  ‘Curious, furious and poetic’
VISUAL/PERFORMANCE ART  Combining the historic and the contemporary
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