With the 2023 National Arts Festival kicking off in less than a month, you should have already started browsing through the extensive offering of theatre, visual art, dance, jazz, performance art, live music and more.
But if it’s all a bit overwhelming, allow the below recommendations from the Creative Feel team to serve as a point of entry into this year’s Curated Programme (and keep an eye out for our Fringe Programme highlights in the coming weeks, too).
Following the success of her debut play, Île, Sophie Joans brings a new piece about a mother and daughter navigating their tumultuous relationship. Directed by former Standard Bank Artist of the Year, Jemma Kahn, Dog Rose stars Joans, alongside award-winning actress Anthea Thompson.
“The play raises awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder, which has historically been mis-diagnosed in women and girls. A possible diagnosis of high-functioning autism can sometimes explain social interactions and can help us to better understand each other which is more and more important.” – Lore Watterson
Presented in collaboration with POPArt Productions, Text Me When You Arrive is written and performed by Aaliyah Matintela, Thulisile Nduvane and Sibahle Mangena, directed by Sinenhlanhla Mgeyi, and mentored by MoMo Matsunyane.
“An exploration into the plight of South African women and their everyday struggles, this powerful satirical showcase promises an earnest view into the fears of women and the societal rules that claim to ‘keep women safe’ and should thus be a must-see for all.” – Thuli Mabaso
Celebrated conductor Benjamin Zander brings the award-winning Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra on tour to South Africa, which includes performances at the NAF.
“For my NAF top pick, I’m going with the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. You know I like the soothing sounds of classical music on crisp Thursday evenings at the Linder, but it’s pretty cool that the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra is touring South Africa. I’ve never had the opportunity to watch a youth orchestra perform, so I am quite interested in getting to listen to the young talent that’s been travelling the world. In the industry that is Classical Music, which requires exceptionally skilled and driven musicians, I can only imagine the enthusiasm these guys are going to bring to the stage in June. There are two concerts, by the way, on the 23rd and 24th of June – of course I would go to both.” – Angelia Müller
Playwright Nadia Davids and director Jay Pather team up for Hold Still. The play tells the story of a family shaped by different generational traumas who must confront their own histories to get through a single, life-changing night.
“There are a whole lot of far-reaching, and enduring themes being tackled in this play and I’m interested to see how they’re handled in a 60 minute production. Mostly, though, I am putting Hold Still on my must-see list because of the extraordinary team that’s brought it to life. In addition to the writer, director, and the incredible cast, having folks like Neo Muyanga on sound design and Wilhelm Disbergen on lighting design means it’ll be a production worth seeing.” – David Mann
Lastly, the Creative Feel team is excited to see the work of all of this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners.
Visual artist Lady Skollie will be exhibiting a solo body of work titled Groot Gat, which invites audiences “to look beyond the erasure of Bushman paintings and to see the beauty and complexity of a culture that has been too long ignored.”
Poet Koleka Putuma will present The Theatre of Beauty: Imvuselelo which “examines the connections between plant medicine, history, memory, and storytelling” while dancer and choreographer Thamsanqa Majela brings Don’t let the sun set on you here to NAF stages – a production that “intends to explore the current geopolitical, the racial and climatorial issues that keep the world under pressure.”
Embo Time Travel Experiment is Msaki’s large scale Standard Bank Young Artist for Music performance in the Guy Butler Theatre. “A sonic work that explores personal and collective healing through sound, Msaki will perform this definitive sound journey just once during the National Arts Festival and then begins a period of withdrawal from public performance.”
J Bobs Tshabalala’s Khongolose Khommanding Khommissars (KKK) gets the TheatreDuo treatment this year as Billy Langa and Mahlatsi Makgonyana bring it to the NAF. “This epic satire is a theatrical take on the conspicuous interactions and not entirely lawful activities of our modern day South African political camaraderie – Comrades.”
Lastly, Iladi: A Thanksgiving Meditation In Two Movements is saxophonist Linda Sikhakhane‘s offering to this year’s NAF. “Sikhakhane’s relationship to sound has always been linked to his Nguni traditions and this project is a further exploration on that, an investigation on cultural concepts that would serve as a map on his sonic journey.”
In case you missed it
The line-up and info for the National Jazz Festival Makhanda.