IF you weren’t able to make it to Grahamstown for this year’s National Arts Festival, fear not. Wits Theatre is bringing 16 of the latest, most innovative productions to heat up Johannesburg’s stages.
The twelfth instalment of the much-anticipated 969 Festival runs from July 15 to 26 and promises an exciting, eclectic and moving line-up. From women in India to the complex relationship between Kafka and his father to the life of a Holocaust orphan and a funeral in Soweto – this year’s festival pushes the boundaries across continents with its diverse range of topics, from the macabre to the hilarious.
Tickets cost between R25 and R80, and are on sale through Webtickets.
The line-up includes Singarevva and the Palace by well-known Indian theatre and TV artist Laxmi Chandrashekar, a solo theatre adaptation of a novel by Dr C. Kambara, and a powerful depiction of the suffering of women in feudal India.
Other international shows include the hilariously heartbreaking off-Broadway play Ndebele Funeral, which brings to stage the music, dirt, and dreams of modern Soweto.
Alon Nashman, renowned Canadian actor plays two characters in Kafka and Son and Hirsch. Kafka and Son examines the complex relation between Kafka and his father while Hirsch depicts the colourful life and character of John Hirsch, an orphan of the Holocaust who emigrated to Canada and turned the tragedy of his childhood into live art.
Kafka’s Ape based on A Report To An Academy is an intriguing interrogation on identity and what it means to be human. Directed by Phala O Phala, it stars Tony Miyambo as Red Peter who also happens to play a grief-stricken son attempting to come to terms with his father’s death in Cenotaph of Dan wa Moriri.
Father Father Father is a zany Black comedy about three sisters locked in a basement awaiting their father. The question though is the waiting one of anticipation or dread? Toni Morkel, Joni Barnard and Roberto Pombo play the sisters.
Pombo is Jemma Kahn’s irreverent side kick in We Didn’t Come To Hell For The Croissants: 7 Deadly New Stories For Consenting Adults, the eagerly anticipated sequel to the international cult hit The Epicene Butcher with stories that seduce the sinless and astonish the immoral.
A completely different take on identity and what it means to be a man is made via the unique visions of three exceptional directors Quintin Wils, Sylvaine Strike, Megan Willson in Simply Sapiens, a play in three acts performed by Craig Morris and Greg Melvill-Smith.
The innovative, cutting edge director Quintin Wils has two other shows at the festival: Smaarties with Jannes Erasmus as a man who finds himself in a psychiatric ward after the death of both of his parents and aLEXA, literally a “mobile thriller” with household TV personalities Carina Nel (Generations) and Vianney Farmer (Crave). Audience members get into a car with “Alexa” and into a totally immersive theatre experience.
Two girls going nowhere sitting on the side of a road is the setting for Actress and Girl, a whimsical and dark story about the kindness and cruelty of strangers.
Boegoespruit Ext 25 by third and fourth year Wits School of Arts performance students focuses on people living in a coloured township somewhere, marginalised for different reasons and all hoping that winning a local talent show will rescue them from the poverty of their lives.
Inspired by Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions, Crossing directed by renowned actor /director Mncedisi Shabangu explores the subject of death in the stories of five women.
And in Dead Yellow Sands, the audience will meet ghosts from Graham Weir’s past, coming face to face with a South Africa that may be fading, but that lingers on in corners and alleys and institutions we all know well.
Music and poetry
To round off a versatile, unconventional programme, Colombian Carlos Fernando Balanta’s showcases the complex cultural rhythms of his native country through percussion instruments, voice and drums. The performance called Baterimba has excited audiences all over the world.
For poetry lovers, a diverse selection of poetry tastes ranging from slam poetry to prose, free verse will be on offer under the Poetry Overload banner.
For more information, visit http://www.wits.ac.za/witstheatre
To buy tickets, go to http://www.webtickets.co.za