The National Arts Festival, Grahamstown is proud of the previous Young Artists and Festival productions that are doing exceptionally well, locally and internationally.
The Baxter Theatre Centre’s hard-hitting adaptation of Strindberg’s classic, Mies Julie, written and directed by 2002 Standard Bank Young Artist award-winner Yael Farber, has received unprecedented acclaim both locally and internationally. Starring Thoko Ntshinga as Christine, Bongile Mantsai as John and Hilda Cronje as Julie; the production was awarded the title of the Best of the Edinburgh Fringe, and made the ‘Top Ten in 2012’ lists of both the New York Times and UK Guardian; and is currently enjoying a run in London. It continues to make waves at home where it recently completed a run at the Market Theatre, and won four Fleur du Cap Awards, nominated a further four times.
The exhibition Making Way opened at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in June 2012, curated by Ruth Simbao, Associate Professor at Rhodes University. The project explores the ways in which contemporary artists based in South Africa and China engage with new paths of movement, with economic and cultural shifts, and with the rise of new regimes, new leaders and new social and urban spaces. A new version of Making Way, including works in diverse media by internationally acclaimed Chinese artists, opened at the Standard Bank Gallery in January 2013.
Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance 2011 Mamela Nyamza has made headlines over the past couple of years. These include inclusion in Oprah Winfrey’s 2012 Power List of Women, 2011 Mail Guardian’s Book of Women and Mail Guardian’s 2011 list of Young South Africans to take to lunch. She was a 2012 GIPCA Fellow, received a Standard Bank Ovation Award and a Fiesta nomination for her production Okuya Phantsi Kwempumlo – The Meal, which has toured successfully to a number of local Festivals; and after playing at the Ovalhouse in London, her production I Stand Corrected was nominated in six categories for the Off West End Theatre Awards.
Another production that is doing exceptionally well is Director Tara Notcutt’s political thriller Three Little Pigs, with the inimitable trio of Albert Pretorius, James Cairns and Rob van Vuuren. Its current tour; which includes Cape Town, Perth, New York, Amsterdam, Dublin and London; by invitation from members of the World Fringe Alliance; is being met with overwhelmingly positive response. Most recently, the show was Second-Runner up for the ArtRage Theatre Award at Fringe World, Perth. Dirt was nominated for the same award. Nominated in other categories were Stuperstition (Performance); and Follow Spot Productions’ Love @ First Fight (First Runner-Up for Comedy) and Face The Music (Second Runner-Up for Music), whose producers were given a travel grant by Fringe World Perth to tour Australia, the U K and Europe in 2013; based on their success at the 2012 National Arts Festival.
Notcutt’s multi-award-winning production of …miskien will make its American debut later this year, having already toured to The Netherlands and Australia. Rob van Vuuren – Live, and Cairns’ Dirtare also billed for performances in Amsterdam, Dublin and London.
The Epicene Butcher and other stories for consenting adults, told through the Japanese medium of Kamishibai by artist and performer Jemma Kahn also did exceptionally well at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival in 2012, where it won the Pick of the International Fringe, and the Critics’ Choice Award. It was then invited to Holland for the Jonge Harten Festival. The play has also toured locally to great acclaim, playing in Johannesburg; in Durban at the Musho! Theatre Festival, where it won Awards for Audience Favourite and Best Original Script; and in Cape Town where Annie Lennox saw it and described the show as “brilliant”, “extraordinary” and “mind-blowing” saying she “couldn’t recommend it more highly”.
Nicola Hanekom, who won a Fleur du Cap Award in 2012 for her performance in Hol, also received the only Golden Ovation Award at the 2012 National Arts Festival for this production, and travelled to the Amsterdam Fringe Festival in 2012, as part of the Best of Fringe programme.
In addition to winning a Standard Bank Ovation Award, Nicola Elliott and Underground Theatre’s production of Keepsake Minus 3 was recognised at the Fiestas for the best achievement in Dance and Physical Theatre.
Standard Bank Young Artist 2012 Mikhael Subotzky has had much success with the national tour of his exhibition Retinal Shift, which will have its final showing at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg from 17 April – 15 June 2013.
The Fleur du Cap Awards recognised Mbulelo Grootboom as best supporting actor for his performance in Just Business, and James Cunningham’s performance in Sunday Morning as the best in a one-person show. Nominations were also received for Fred Abrahamse and Marcel Meyer’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Nick Warren for his contribution to Sunday Morning; and Daneel van der Walt’s performance of Juliet Jenkin’s Big Girl.
Michael and Jeremy Richard were recognised by Naledi for their performances in Red, and 2011 Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre Neil Coppen’s Abnormal Loads won awards for Best Lighting Design, and Best New South African Script. The following productions which premiered at the National Arts Festival were also nominated for Naledi Awards: Sunday Morning, The Blue Iris, Little Foot,Somewhere on the Border; as well as 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre Prince Lamla’s Woza Albert.
Some artists are not only making names for themselves on the stage, but by providing space for other artists to do so. The Mahogany Room; brainchild of 2009 SBYA for Jazz Kesivan Naidoo, and his partners Lawson Naidoo and Lee Thomson; serves as a testimony to Naidoo’s continued commitment to the development of Jazz in South Africa. This venue in Buitenkant Street has gained enormous popularity as a home for jazz in Cape Town. Not far from there, Nicholas Spagnoletti (author of one of the National Arts Festival’s major Fringe box office success stories of the last few years,London Road) and his partner Edward van Kuik; have opened an intimate theatre space called Alexander Upstairs, creating a much-needed space for independent theatre and music performance.
The 39th edition of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown will take place from 27 June to 7 July 2013.
The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Eastern Cape Government, Department of Arts and Culture, National Arts Council, City Press and M Net.
Author: Fiona Gordon