Cape Town Fringe ’17: The Critter’s festival guide

We know you love our fringe guides.

We love writing them. So, for your ease and pleasure, here it is. We’ve scrutinised the Cape Town Fringe Festival 2017 programme and whittled down their impressive offering to some (just some!) choices, with a sprinkling of ‘advice’ here and there.

Choice is what the fringe producers supply this year. 44 theatre productions, 18 music shows, 16 comedies and 16 productions which fall under dance, visual and physical theatre, 5 family shows, and 3 magic and illusion shows… all spread out across 13 Cape Town venues.

Lekker.

Sjoe.

Where to start?! you ask. Well, have a little look-see at what we’re eyeballing this year based on our previous watching of a performer’s or director’s or a company’s work. And see if this humble selection tickles your performing-arts-viewing fancy.

There’s plenty of new stuff on this year – works we haven’t seen at the National Arts Festival or elsewhere yet… so we’re as excited as you to see what the fringe artists are conjuring up.

Ready? Taking notes? Let’s go! (For this fringe guide, we’ll break it down by genre, to keep ourselves fresh, you know.)

The ones with jokes, and (promises of) laughter:

The Book Detectives
The Book Detectives sees comedy duo Westley Cockrell and Stuart Cairns investigate a murder committed in Fairy Tale Land. It promises to be wacky and offbeat and possibly nonsensical, oh ja, and funny. ‘cause it’s a comedy.

Critter Steve reviewed these two actor-comedians’ other show The Plothole (read here) at this year’s National Arts Festival (NAF), of which he said “they’re actually quite funny. In a dry, ridiculous sort of way.” So there you have it.

Butlers and Bloopers
The Butlers team are bringing their Butlers and Bloopers instalment of the franchise, much to the delight of those seeking frivolous and fun entertainment. The Critter attended a past instalment, Butlers and Broadway, which had “some of the worst stage deaths and character stereotypes I’ve ever seen but even I found myself laughing” (read review here).

The ones that are physical, with lots of moving:

Access Me
Two years ago I saw Unmute Dance Company at the National Arts Festival in Unmute (review here). That piece dealt primarily with what the company says they’re about: inspiring inclusion of people with disabilities within society, through the arts. Unmute was impressive, but I felt then, a more convincing performative connection to the acrobatic movement was needed. Access Me is about ‘accessibility or the lack thereof’ drawn from the performers’ personal stories. Which should create that previously lacking connection. Either way, audiences are in for a challenging work.

Doda
Musa Hlatshwayo presented Doda as part of a double bill, Kubili (2) at this year’s NAF (where it won a Standard Bank Merit Award. I liked the relationship between the first part which centred on women and part two (Doda) which focused on masculinity (review here) so it’ll be interesting to see how Doda works as a standalone piece. Also, Hlatshwayo and Sbonelo ‘China’ Mchunu are excellent dancers and performers.

Let’s Eat Hair
Last year Vukallective gave us Era which we were mostly keen on. I said, “Considering their brave choices in Era, and their clear working to create a distinctive voice, Vukallective will be an interesting group of young artists to watch” (read more here). So yeah, let’s watch what they’re offering in the nausea-inducing oddly-titled Let’s Eat Hair.

One Big Blink
With a ‘fragile performance collage’ Nomcebisi Moyikwa is back at the CT Fringe in a collaborative work with Mlondiwethu Dubazane. Dubazane performed in Moyikwa’s work Waltz, which took The Critter “on a genuine journey with people whose humanness is revealed and felt. Waltz asks us to be accepting; asks us to open up to possibilities. A future where sexual and cultural and political and religious differences elicit no negative reaction. A dream? Sure. But why not?” (read here). We also get to see Moyikwa’s sensational moving in One Big Blink, which is reason enough to see it.

Phefumla / To Breathe
Phefumla / To Breathe uses the cast’s personal stories to create a work dealing with gang culture. This work is from the same director (Thando Doni) and cast that gave us Ubuze Bam at the NAF 2016. The Critter reviewed: “[The actors] supply a morality lesson of a different kind: actual truth. It’s worth taking the time to hear what these marginalised voices have to say – they’re not trying to say crime isn’t the individual’s responsibility and they’re not shifting the blame. What they do is shift the conversation and understanding around crime, being criminal, retribution and reconciliation and rehabilitation.” (review here).

Rock to the Core
Mamela Nyamza writes and directs. Her work is complex and it’s intense. Read what we’ve said before on Wena Mamela here (when I first encountered this extraordinary artist) and on last year’s De-Apart-hate here. Undoubtedly, this work will be provocative and hardcore.
p.s. Chuma Sopotela performs (see The Holy Plan B further below).

The ones with story lines (usually), and lots of talking:

The Alchemy of Words
Dryfsand’s new work is an interdisciplinary – puppetry, film, music, and sand art – immersive work inspired by the diverse imagery of Arthur Rimbaud’s poetry. We’ve reviewed their work Kontinuum here which was a “…rare and beautiful find … Atmospheric, surreal and evocative…”. We are keen to see The Alchemy of Words, oh yes.

The Blue Period of Milton van der Spuy
The Critter is a fan of Greig Coetzee’s plays. Yep, here on Blood Orange, here and here on Johnny Boskak is Feeling Funny. And again here on Termite! Tall Tales for Big People which Peter Mitchell directed. Critter Steve said he “puts these two fantastically energetic actors through their considerable paces to deliver a rollicking piece of theatre that is a lag for all”. Mitchell directs The Blue Period of Milton van der Spuy so we’re sure to have a good one here, we reckon.

The Champion
No doubt The Champion has grown and developed over the last few years, from when I first saw it at the Cape Town Fringe in 2014. Back then I said “The power is in the story … Khayalethu Anthony has written a poignant, painstaking work, presenting unique perspectives on certain topics: the role of the mother, retribution, breadline poverty. Debate will surely be stirred.” (review here). Khayalethu Anthony starred in Holy Contract at last year’s CT Fringe, and although Steve wasn’t convinced by the overall production he said “great performances by the cast”. (review here).

The Edge of the Light
The Edge of the Light is a story of loss and perception and family relationships. We have raved about director Wynne Bredenkamp’s work before here and about Andrew Laubscher’s performance here. The cast is completed by Sarah Potter, Margot Wood and Emma Kotze, so we’re betting this stellar team will deliver something special.

The Holy Plan B
The Holy Plan B sounds fascinating: “a demonic church turns holy”. It’s co-directed by Thandolwethu Mzembe and Chuma Sopotela. Sopotela performed in Oomasisulu at the 2016 NAF and Critter Mike wrote, “Indalo Stofile and Chuma Sopotela give lithe, punchy performances working like avatars, they are a vibrant foil to the dignified, encompassing presence of Mtshali-Jones” (review here). Oh yes, and she happened to be in the much-lauded, exceptional Karoo Moose, for which she won Best Actress when it first hit SA stages a decade ago. So, if her performances are anything to go by, expect powerful and lithe, punchy, vibrant touches in The Holy Plan B.

Steke
Although we haven’t reviewed the piece yet, Critter Steve covered the Art Incubator’s Trade Fair, held at the Market Theatre in June. Steke competed, and actresses Boitumelo Mohutsioa and Saree van Coppenhagen won in the Best Female Performer category. Read what Steve said John Kani had to say about the groups at the fair, here.

Now, here’s our ‘Should Be Good’ selection. We haven’t reviewed these shows, but either have it on good authority they’re good or their blurb promises good things.

  • Bayephi: Although we tried, the Critters didn’t manage to squeeze Bayephi into their schedules at NAF. But almost everyone we talked to raved about it madly. And it won a Standard Bank Ovation Award.
  • iKhaya: Indoni Dance, Arts and Leadership Academy presents iKhaya. Award-winning artist Sbonakaliso Ndaba choreographs an energetic cast of young dancers. iKhaya is about home, and explores questions such as ‘what makes a home?’ in a country with so many child-headed households.
  • Naked Girls Reading presents Queerly Beloved: Well, yes, the title is enticing. And according to them, yes, they are nude. They say they’re devoted entirely to “queer-themed readings, queer authors and LGBTQI stories”. And so, yes, it’s an anticipatory yes from us!
  • Powers of Lightness: Tossie van Tonder is a highly respected dance veteran whose solo work is the incarnation of fringe. Enough said. There are only two performances of Powers of Lightness at the start of the fringe so don’t dilly-dally in booking.
  • Skop: Sjaka Septembir’s poetry melded with music from Gertjie Besselsen (of Mr Cat & the Jackal fame)… about sex, love and death. Die een gaan skop, se hulle.

Let’s not forget the ones with jivey boogying, and lots of singing:

We know the Slaapstadians have no shortage of live music the year round. But the CT Fringe is pumping more choice into the mix. We like the looks – ahem – sounds of the folksy Jenny and the Jameses (sporting a banjo, fiddle, accordion and even a harp!), the soulful Samthing Soweto, and the jammin’ Reggae Heritage Experience (on Heritage Day).

Alright, folks. That’s where we’ll leave it until the Cape Town Fringe opens on Thursday. Three more sleeps.

Soooo… enjoy it people. Get out there. Go to venues you haven’t yet visited. Let yourself be pleasantly surprised. Let yourself be shaken up. Laugh and cry and live a little!

  • The Cape Town Fringe Festival 2017 runs from 21 September – 8 October. For information and bookings visit www.capetownfringe.co.za 

This content was sponsored by the National Arts Festival.

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