South Africa’s best drama is headed to the Hilton Arts Festival


Atwanda Kani (left) and Mncedisi Shabangu star in ‘Sizwe Banzi is Dead’ at this year’s Hilton Arts Festival. See the full story below.

ACTORS, dancers, musicians and artists from across the country will be heading to Hilton College from September 16 to 18 for the 24th the Hilton Arts Festival.

There are two flagship productions this year: Grindrod Bank sponsors Blonde Poison, written by South African playwright Gail Louw. The play reunites Fiona Ramsay and director, Janna Ramos-Violante, in a tale of beauty, treachery and the high price of survival.

The other flagship show is the timeless classic, Sizwe Banzi is Dead, described by the New York Times as “A joyous hymn to human nature”. This revival is produced and expertly lit by Mannie Manim, directed by John Kani and stars Mncedisi Shabangu and Atwanda Kani.

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Other dramas to look out for are:
Dallae Story — a non-verbal performance from Korea involving puppets, theatrical movement, traditional dance and music, shadow theatre and projection;
Pay Back the Curry — directed by Rob van Vuuren and starring multi-talented Daniel Richards, Mike van Graan’s wry comedy unpacks a myriad topical themes;
Contractions — Ramos-Violante and Emily Child star in this sharp, wily and resolutely-potent dark-comedy;
Dead Yellow Sands — in this return to minimalism, an actor lit with sophisticatedly simple lighting speaks the stories he has lived. Written and performed by Graham Weir, direction is by Bo Petersen and lighting design by Darron Araujo;
Sillage — a disquieting story of domesticity between a mother and daughter who are packing up their family home.
The Graveyard — a series of musings, scenes, flashbacks, and interactions, a man’s past and family life are uncovered.

Other must-see at this year’s festival include satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys who brings his brilliant one-man memoir Echo of a Noise to Hilton. There will also be a screening of the documentary about his life, Nobody’s Died Laughing, followed by a Q&A session.

Jemma Kahn brings two productions for grown-ups, both in the Japanese story telling Kamishibai style — We Didn’t come to Hell for the Croissants and In Bocca al Lupo; while Pietermaritzburg actors, TQ Zondi and Mpilo Nzimande, will both be in three productions, including the classic Master Harold and the Boys.

There are three mini festivals embedded in the main programme:
• the Jongosi schools programme taking place for one day only on Friday, September 16 for both senior primary and high school pupils;
• Christopher Duigan’s Music Revival series which hosts a comprehensive concert programme in the school chapel with an underlying Beethoven motif; and
• Assitej, which hosts a programme of theatre for young audiences.


Maestro Richard Cock.

For lovers of orchestral music, the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra will present two concerts, conducted by maestro Richard Cock — Frank Sinatra and Friends featuring soloist Nic Nicolaidis; and in chapel, members of the orchestra will perform the charming Peter and Wolf and other music for children under the age of 95.

Cock will also present a very entertaining and anecdote-filled presentation, Conduct Unbecoming, as part of the Hilton Festival lecture series.

More music will be on offer courtesy of the Pietermaritzburg City Orchestra, who will be performing al-fresco in a programme of several well-known classical pieces.

In addition to the shows, visitors to the three-day festival can enjoy a huge market, book stalls and great food.

For more information, visit, like the Facebook page: Hilton Arts Festival or follow the festival on Twitter @HiltonFest.

Inquiries: 033 383 0126/7 or email
Booking: email


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