There’s this 240-page book. It’s A4 size and glossy and is published once a year. You used to get it free at Exclusives now you gotta pay R75 and order on Takealot. Which is fine, because what with the price of petrol it would cost about R75 to get to the nearest Exclusive’s anyway. More if you live in the Eastern Cape.
It’s the National Arts Festival programme. It has hundreds of shows in it. You can pretty much open the Main section and close your eyes and point and chances are what you choose will be worth the ticket. Because it is carefully curated.
But the Fringe is another story. It is uncurated. Anyone can put a show on. Which makes it the only uncurated festival fringe programme in the world. (Ja, even Edinburgh Fringe is curated – by the venues). It also makes it hella tricky to choose what to see. It’s a lot to take in.
Enter us, The Critter, and behold the following list of things we would buy a ticket for. But only for the theatre section, mind. We’re not so much interested in the Comedy, Parliament provides all the laffs we need, and we’ll give you some info on the Dance in a day or two.
Here’s our suggestions, part I. You can print this out, throw darts at it and book from there. There are also loads we haven’t included which you should try out. The show dates and details are on the NAF programme, either the real deal that you can get delivered to your door, or the online one on nationalartsfestival.co.za
Starting roughly from the back of the alphabet:
Winging It! The Turbulent Revelations of Meghan and Shivan: No need to bother browsing through the comedy section, you’ve got Meghan and Shivan (that’s pronounced Meghaawn and Shivaaawn). We saw them at the Alexander Bar’s upstairs theatre in Cape Town, and they’re really funny and sad and silly and entertaining, and it’s well-made theatre.
That director Kei-Ella Loew and actor Rosa-Karoo Loewe are fellow Critter writer Mike Loewe’s daughters doesn’t mean we’re biased. Promise. These UCT graduates grew up with theatre. They will not disappoint.
(W)Asem: We haven’t seen these guys, but they won Freshest Show at the Cape Town Fringe two years ago. Using breath and air as an allegory, their work deals with the angst of being part of one of many marginalised groups in SA. Not a lot of laughs, we’re guessing, but offering an interesting perspective.
Verses @ Work: Dig Hip Hop? We got one of New York’s best on the Fringe in Makhanda. ‘Nuff said. Check out Malik Work’s rhymes here.
Warona: We were impressed with director Thando Doni’s work in Ubuze Bam , so reckon he’s got the nous to bring puppetry, dance, and music together in a show that borrows aesthetics from African traditions to explore street justice and Cape Town drug culture.
Unfathomable: If you’ve ever seen Athena Mazarakis perform, you would have fallen in love. Like those kung-fu masters who can paralyse you by touching seven points on your body, Athena in performance seems to unlock your soul without you even realising what happened. She’s not performing in Unfathomable, but is transferring her supernatural ability by directing Alex Halligey in an intriguing, poetic play that “wades through the waters of unprocessed grief”. We will be taking our shoes off and going in.
Tswalo: “Tswalo invites us to dance to a rhythm we have never heard but know, and then allows us to watch ourselve dancing. It is an extraordinary accomplishment.” If you haven’t seen Tswalo, then you must. If you have, you probably want to see it again. See what else we had to say about it here.
Trash Hound: Freaky left field ingenious real-life sculptural animations of the trash that lines our streets and gutters and streams is something Mike da Silva and co have been doing for awhile. They were doing eco-theatre before it was a thing. Trash Hound is going to be good.
Something about Still says quality. Writer and director Olivia Fischer is unknown to us, but the presentation is good, we’re betting the play is too.
Sounds Like You and Me is from the Hillbrow Theatre where Gerard Bester is involved. This means it is certainly worth a look. There’s something about jazz running through generations. Also: Hillbrow.
Silkworm: “Taryn Bennett’s performance perfection in clowning allows us to feel Georgina’s loneliness and yearning for companionship, underneath her smiling mask. Georgina is flawlessly pitched, and she ropes us right in with her unique charm.” Read what else we had to say about Silkworm.
#Selflove: Instagram and futuristic data collection (not so futuristic actually) make it to the stage thanks to Fringe newbie Ursula Botha.
Kafka’s Ape: It’s Tony Miyambo. It is brilliant. It might be the last time it is playing on the Fringe. Don’t miss it.
Isithunzi: “… punches straight to the gut, and reveals the power theatre has to make us reassess our world and the society we inhabit.” Read what else we had to say about this play created by Market Theatre Laboratory graduates.
Induku: Directed by Jade Bowers, who received the Standard Bank Young Artist award for theatre in 2016. We weren’t particularly impressed with the resultant Scorched, but she did direct Jungfrau.
The Gospel According to Jan Coetzee: It’s got a Cape Town all-star cast of Emma Kotzé with David Viviers, and directed by Wessel Pretorius, who was responsible for Undone.
Fruit: Want to see this one ‘cause it is written and directed by Paul Noko, who starred in Tau, which won a coveted Gold Ovation Award at NAF two years ago, so he knows what good theatre is.
Electric Juju: Rob van Vuuren is much more than a stand-up comic and MC. He is a brilliant physical performer. If you don’t believe us, go watch Electric Juju. We reviewed this show years and years ago in the days of the Artsblog before The Critter came alive. Unfortunately that review is lost in some digital netherworld but it was embarrassingly glowing. Rob says this is his 25th and last NAF, and although we don’t believe him because he’s an addict like us, don’t take the chance. Electric Juju is a must-see.