Thought-provoking fare on offer at the 2016 Hilton Arts Festival



WILLEM Defoe once said: ‘Great theatre is about challenging how we think and encouraging us to fantasise about a world we aspire to’.  And at the Hilton Arts Festival, which takes place at Hilton College from September 16 to September 17, festival-goers can look forward to plenty of thought-provoking work.

Fresh from winning an Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown is Hilda Cronje’s and Nicholas Ellenbogen’s three hander, Ebola.

The play, which delivers a haunting take on a terrifying disease, is filmic and spellbinding. It is a play without genre, a physical theatre piece about disease, love and desire set in the heart of Sierra Leone.

True to Theatre for Africa’s form of storytelling, Ebola is raw and visceral, using the actor’s physicality and ingenious manipulation of the set to challenge the audience.

Hilda has garnered numerous accolades for her acting prowess. The New York Times called her sensational in her performance in the title role of the award-winning Mies Julie.

Ebola is being staged in the Drama Centre at 7.30pm on Friday, September 16 and 3pm and 8pm on Saturday, September 17. Tickets for the play, which carries a 14+ age restriction, are R150.


Fiona Ramsay stars in Blonde Poison

Veteran actress, and festival favourite, Fiona Ramsay, will be performing in Blonde Poison, directed by Janna Ramos-Violante, in the Grindrod Bank Theatre at 8.30pm on Friday, September 16 and 3pm on Sunday, September 18.

Written by South African playwright, Gail Louw, who now lives in the United Kingdom, Blonde Poison is a play about beauty, treachery and the high price of survival in a world beset with mistrust, espionage and duplicity.

Fiona plays Stella Goldschlag, who lived illegally in war torn Berlin where she was betrayed, beaten and tortured. When offered the chance of saving herself and her parents from the death camps, she became a “greifer” or “catcher” for the Gestapo, giving them information and ratting on Jews in hiding.

Stella’s character ranges from a tortured and pitiful victim to a callous cruel agent of death; from a beloved and loving daughter to the pitiless betrayer of friends; from a gentle and tender lover to a woman of depraved and decadent promiscuity.

She was dubbed the Marilyn Monroe of Berlin and awarded the alias Blonde Poison by the Gestapo, who embroiled her in the murky world of espionage and treachery.

Decades after the war Stella agrees to an interview with a childhood friend, now a respected journalist – which offers her a last chance at redemption. Can she ever be released from her past?

Tickets for Blonde Poison, which has 15 years + age restriction, are R199.


Emily Child and Janna Ramos-Violante star in Contractions

Janna Ramos-Violante (Venus in Fur) swaps directing for acting to star alongside Emily Child (Born in the RSA) in Contractions, which can be seen in the Grindrod Bank Theatre at 10am on Saturday, September 17 and 12.30pm on Sunday, September 18.

Mike Bartlett’s play was first presented by London’s Royal Court Theatre, and debuted in South Africa at the Alexander Bar in January 2016 playing for three weeks to completely sold-out houses.

Directed by Greg Karvellas (Bad Jews, Cylbourne Park) this dark comedy explores the transformative dynamics of the corporate world and, quite literally, tests the limits we are willing to put on the company we keep.

Emma is summoned to her manager’s office more than once. From the initial meeting where banal pleasantries are offered and politely refused, it is clear who has the upper hand. By the final meeting one dreads the squeaking of the door as it announces her presence in the room which has more in common with a police interrogation room than a boardroom.

The text is so razor sharp that one could listen with one’s eyes closed and still picture the tension. Sharp, wily and resolute – this is potent theatre!

Tickets for Contractions, which has an age restriction of 15 years +, are R199.


The Graveyard

Another must-see at the festival is The Graveyard, which is being staged in the Memorial Hall at 12.30pm on Saturday, September 17 and 1.15pm on Sunday, September 18.

Written and directed by award-winning Philip Rademeyer and featuring Bo Petersen, Gideon Lombard and Sarah Potter, the play tells the story of a man who returns to the basement of his childhood home to dig up his past.

Through a series of musings, scenes, flashbacks, and interactions with his estranged sister and ghost-like ethereal mother, the man’s past and family life are uncovered. The piece weaves together strands of the man’s life and teases apart notions of memory, masculinity and its pressures, domestic violence, addiction, heredity and, ultimately, family.

The Graveyard is a stripped-down reinterpretation of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts, about a society in decay and the sins of the past returning to haunt a mother and her son. Here, too, the family’s lot is decided in a final climactic encounter between mother and son.

Tickets for the show, which has a 16 years + age restriction, are R170.


James Cairns in The Snow Goose

Returning to Hilton is the truly beautiful production, The Snow Goose, which is being staged in the Memorial Hall at 3pm on Saturday, September 17 and 11.15am on Sunday, September 18

Nominated for two Fleur du Cap and three Naledi theatre awards, the play is an adaption of Paul Gallico’s classic novella played out on the desolate Essex marshes and set against the background of the miracle of Dunkirk.

A wounded snow goose brings a young girl, Fritha, and the recluse Philip Rhayader together in a moving story of friendship and courage. A universally well-loved book has been lovingly brought to life on stage.

Produced by KB Theatre Productions, The Snow Goose is directed and designed by Jenine Collocott, stars James Cairns and Taryn Bennett and features puppet props by Alida van Deventer, set construction by Duncan Gibbon and sound design by Peter Cornell. Tickets are R170.


Graham Weir in Dead Yellow Sands

Graham Weir delivers a tour de force performance in Bo Petersen’s Dead Yellow Sands, which is being staged in the Grindrod Bank Theatre at 5.30pm on Saturday, September 17 and 10 am on Sunday, September 18.

The play is a return to minimalism: an actor lit with sophisticatedly simple lighting; speaking the stories he has lived. The production is the combination of a haunting original South African script and the consummate skills of a veteran production team.

Written and performed by Graham, Dead Yellow Sands, received a best performance in a one person show award at the Fleur du Cap Awards. The play’s lighting designer Darron Araujo won the best lighting design for his work at the same event.

Tickets for the show, which has a 16 + age restriction, are R199.


Nox Donyeli, Sisonke Yafele and Macie Jali perform in Falling off the Horn. Photo: CuePix/Jeff stretton-Bell

Examining issues of xenophobia, migration and displacement makes Falling Off The Horn, which is being staged in the Memorial Hall at 5.30pm on Saturday, September 17 and 9.30am on Sunday, September 18, very topical.

The play, which won a 2016 Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival, uses a captivating style of visual theatre that combines mime, masks, dance and shadow puppetry to tell the moving story of a young man’s flight to South Africa and the extraordinary struggles he must face on arrival: from dealing with jealous locals, to shady officials, and crooked cops.

Inspired by the xenophobic lootings in Grahamstown in 2015 which left hundreds of foreign people jobless, homeless, or both, this production is both hilarious and tragic. Audiences can expect to laugh a lot, but should bring along a few tissues just in case.

Tickets for Falling Off The Horn are R170.


Rebecca Makin-Taylor and Michele Belknap in Sillage. Photo: CuePix/Ivan Blazic

The Memorial Hall is also the setting for Sillage, which is being staged at 8pm on Saturday, September 17 and 3pm on Sunday, September 18.

Written and directed by Penny Youngelson, the play stars Rebecca Makin-Taylor and Michele Belknap in a disquieting story of domesticity between a mother and daughter packing up their family home.

Sillage is both a deeply personal retelling of the fissures between family members that erupt when they are forced to move on from a life they are used to, and an analogy for the state of white South Africans in a crisis of identity, belonging, longing and guilt.

The past year has seen disruptive change in our country; where a nation refuses to inherit a legacy of whitewashing and the propaganda of rainbowism as a panacea. Here, with cloying tensions heavy in the air, and lifetimes measured out in lost earrings, orphaned pen lids, and long-forgotten postcards, mother and daughter have to resolve their lives.

In Grahamstown, Sillage received the only Gold Ovation Award for 2016. Tickets for the show, which has a 16 years + age restriction, are R170.

To book for all these shows email

For more information, visit or like the Facebook page, Hilton Arts Festival. Inquiries: 033 383 0126/7 or email







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