Lara Foot, featured artist at the 2016 NAF

Lara Foot - Pic Rolex

Lara Foot Newton. ©Rolex/Bart Michiels

Three productions by featured artist Lara Foot will be staged at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown from June 30 to July 8.

Acclaimed playwright, director and producer, Lara Foot, was named the 2016 Featured Artist at the 43rd National Arts Festival this year, leading the charge on the Main programme which is made up of 80% of work written, directed, curated or headlined by women.

Foot is the CEO and artistic director of the Baxter Theatre Centre, a former Rolex protégé to Sir Peter Hall in the prestigious Rolex Mentor and Protégé programme and a Sundance Fellow.

As the National Arts Festival 2016 Featured Artist, she will stage three productions this year – the world premiere of her latest play The Inconvenience of Wings and restaging two of her previous multi-award-winning works Karoo Moose and Tshepang.

Following their seasons at the festival The Inconvenience of Wings transfers to the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio from July 12 to August 13 and Karoo Moose from August 31 to September 24.

With The Inconvenience of Wings Foot tells the story of friendship, dysfunction, addiction and angels, set in a landscape of memory and dreams. Sara (Steyn) has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder; she is compulsive, alive and hates women who know how to make cupcakes. Andrew (Buckland), her husband, is on a mission to find a cure for her afflictions and Professor James (Shabangu) quietly tries to save Andrew from the inconvenience of his wings.

This dynamic new production was inspired by author Abraham J Twerski`s book Addictive Thinking that examines the notion of compulsion, addiction, denial and abuse of self as well as conversations on bipolar disorder which she had with celebrated psychiatrist Dr Sean Baumann. It was further stirred by her father who has suffered from dementia for more than a decade. There is an age restriction of 16.

Nearly a decade since its premiere and 15 top South African awards later, Foot’s Karoo Moose returns to the stage with the original cast, who reprise their respective roles, having earned respect and acclaim in their own right over the years.

The story is vividly brought to life by Zoleka Helesi, Mdu Kweyama, Bongile Mantsai, Thami Mbongo, Chuma Sopotela and Mfundo Tshazibane. The actors each perform a key character and double up to play multiple additional characters adding to the magic of the story.

Performed in English with isiXhosa, the story takes place in a remote and impoverished village in the Karoo, where the inhabitants are struggling to survive. A young girl called Thozama ends up killing a moose. But what is the moose doing there, and how did it get there? The disintegration of the family unit and the violation of innocence endured by so many South African children is the focus of the play which cleverly and creatively combines African story-telling and magical realism.

When Karoo Moose made its international debut at the Tricycle Theatre in London, the media raved. The Guardian described it as “… fresh, immediate and often delightful” and the Daily Telegraph said, “… deeply felt, constantly imaginative production.” Local media also praised the production highly, with Cue saying “See it, see it, see it – and be assured you will exit the venue richly rewarded” and “The entire cast is simply superb” from the Cape Times. The Next 48Hours went further saying, “… one of the most acclaimed and beloved productions of recent times, and pretty much as close to a phenomenon as you can get in the area of locally-penned, locally-produced theatre productions.”

Tshepang, which will only be performed at the National Arts Festival and not at the Baxter this year, is based on the true story that rocked the nation and shocked the world, and stars the original cast. Mncedisi Shabangu reprises his role as narrator and sculptor Simon with Nonceba Constance Didi as Ruth, in this haunting and uplifting masterpiece of redemption. Shabangu, renowned for his unique style of physical theatre received the 2003 Fleur du Cap Best Actor award for his performance.

The play garnered several awards and accolades and has been translated into Zulu, Afrikaans and Croatian. It has been published in English and Zulu and has been performed in prisons and rural settlements throughout South Africa. While the content of the play is influenced or motivated by factual evidence, the story is purely fictional, weaving together twenty thousand stories – the number of reported child rapes in South Africa per year. Tshepang is ultimately a story of love, forgiveness and coming to terms with a devastation of this magnitude.

The production has played in New York, London, Brisbane, Stockholm and Amsterdam, and toured Germany and Switzerland. It became an international success as it presented a rare and necessary foray into a world that few have seen before. It draws on a South African style of story-telling, combining striking visual imagery with an African sense of magic realism while cleverly and sensitively layering the story with complex psychological and personal issues. Although the topic may be brutal, the way it is handled is sensitive, even poetic, earning the production praise from audiences and critics around the globe.

The Stage in London described it as a “searing and compassionate, powerfully acted play … a committed act of remembrance”, while the South African Sunday Independent encouraged, “If you only see one show this year, Tshepang demands to be the one … superbly written and performed”, and What’s On, London, said “Deeply moving”.

Two decades after being awarded the 1996 Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre Lara has come full circle.

“In a year when the National Arts Festival sharpens the spotlight on women writers, directors, choreographers and artists Lara Foot’s contribution to South African theatre both in South Africa and abroad, positions her as a leader in the field,” says NAF artistic director, Ismail Mahomed.

“She is one of South Africa’s most prolific theatre-makers. Her prowess as a formidable arts manager under a challenging funding climate is most admirable. Under her wing the Baxter Theatre Centre continues to be one of South Africa’s leading theatres.

“Her commitment and passion for strategically devised development initiatives has also created opportunities for many emerging artists to be catapulted into the mainstream. Presenting her as the 2016 Featured Artist honours both her achievements and her contribution to the sector over the past 20 years.”

Most recently Lara’s production of Fishers of Hope scooped four awards at the Naledi Theatre Awards in Johannesburg, including the coveted Best Production of a Play accolade.

National Arts Festival showtimes:

  • The Inconvenience of Wings – Rhodes Theatre. Sunday, July 3 at 8 pm; Monday, July 4 at 2 pm and 8 pm; Tuesday, July 5 at 2 pm and 8 pm.
  • Karoo Moose – Rhodes Theatre. Thursday, June 30 at 86 pm; Friday, July 1 at 12 pm and 6 pm and Saturday, July 2 at 12 pm.
  • Tshepang – Rhodes Theatre. Wednesday, July 6 at 12 pm and 6 pm; Thursday, July 7 at 12 pm.

Booking for these shows is through Computicket. Go to www.nationalartsfestival.co.za for more information and to download a copy of the programme.

Booking for The Inconvenience of Wings from July 12 to August 13, and Karoo Moose from August 31 to September 24, at the Baxter’s Golden Arrow Studio, is now open and can be done through Computicket. For corporate, block or school bookings, charities and fundraisers, contact Sharon Ward on 021 680 3962 or sharon.ward@uct.ac.za or Carmen Kearns on 021 680 3993, or e-mail carmen.kearns@uct.ac.za

Did you know?
Lara Foot is a multi-award-winning playwright, director and producer. She completed her BA (Hons) degree at Wits University in 1989 and in 2007 attained her Master’s degree at the University of Cape Town.

In 2005 she became the Resident Director and Dramaturge at the Baxter Theatre Centre – a post which she held until 2007. In January 2010 she became the first female to be appointed as CEO and Artistic Director of the Baxter.

With a passion for the development of new indigenous work, young writers and directors, she has put most of her energy into helping playwrights and theatre-makers realise their work, having nurtured several dozen new South African plays to their first staging. She has directed over 50 professional productions, 38 of which have been new South African plays.

Since heading up the Baxter Theatre Centre she has, together with a dynamic team, transformed the theatre’s development programme – the Zabalaza Theatre Festival – to become recognised and respected as one of the most vital and important platforms of its kind in South Africa. As a former Rolex protégé to Sir Peter Hall, she hosted a unique cultural gathering at the Baxter with Mentors William Kentridge, Wole Soyinka and Peter Sellars alongside seven protégés.

With a host of South African theatre accolades to her name, her own hard-hitting plays tackle social issues in South Africa and these have earned her great respect and recognition locally and internationally.

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