This year sees the 10th anniversary of Artscape’s much anticipated annual Spring Drama Season that runs from October to November 2014 featuring four diverse plays and two showcases at the Artscape Arena Theatre.
The season forms part of the Artscape’s New Writing Programme that is devoted to the professional writing and production of new South African plays. The programme receives more than 50 unsolicited scripts per year from playwrights writing in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa. Once a play has been identified as having promise the playwright works with an editor/director to undertake re-writing, then the play may be given a Showcase performance or a Performed Reading, and if successful, is considered for a Full Production.
The 2014 Artscape Spring Drama Season boasts stimulating and varied productions from across the country, designed to entertain audiences, and provide a platform to exhibit local talent from new, young, up-and-coming theatre-makers to some of the most esteemed in the industry. Four productions, that have emerged from the Artscape New Writing Programme, will be presented – The Garage Sale, Ingubo Emhlophe (Showcase) and Chomi are all scripts that the programme received, and Undone is part of the Play It Again scheme, the latter being dedicated to the courage and commitment from young theatre professionals who produce plays at their own expense. Return of the Ancestors is by Mike van Graan (Associate Playwright at Artscape). A new leg of the programme is being introduced with the Artscape isiXhosa Classics, an annual theatrical adaptation of isiXhosa novels. Ndithungile Selani (Showcase) by DV Thom kicks off this project, adapted and directed by Thoko Ntshinga.
The Garage Sale, from 2 to 11 October, written by Rafiek Mammon and directed by Tara Notcutt, tells the story of siblings Avril & Mike Williams (Kim Cloete and Stefan Erasmus) – she believes in her fairy tale ending, a strut down some unsuspecting church aisle while he drives his cynicism like an open-top Ferrari, the sharpest thing in his luggage being his tongue. Throw in the pizza deliveryman, Flip (Carel Nel) and the scene is set for a ménage à trois with a twist that sardonically explores the darker, yet funnier side of Cape Town suburbia. Set and costume design is by Marcel Meyer and lighting design is by Franklyn Steyn. (No under 16’s may attend).
Ingubo Emhlophe, by Gcobani Zatu and directed by Peggy Mongoato, is the first Showcase and runs on 17 and 18 October. It is a play about the white blankets associated with the isiXhosa tradition: the ones worn by initiates (abakhwetha) at circumcision school; those worn by traditional slaughterers (Intlabi) when offerings are made to the ancestors; and the white blanket with black stripes worn by traditional healers. The fourth white blanket is the white duster coast worn by Western doctors. The play looks at and questions the deterioration of the tradition of circumcision in society in the 21st century, the equality of traditional slaughters, the increase in traditional healers who are in it for the money, and those who have turned the sacred art into witchcraft.
A double bill features Undone and Chomi from 21 October to 1 November (performing on alternate nights). Undone by Wessel Pretorius is a bewitching and sensual story of a boy and his dysfunctional family, in which Pretorius portrays numerous roles. Both poetry and comedy abound in this physical performance interlaced with sensuality, religion and literary references that make the play highly accessible. Awards received include Best Drama production at Woordfees 2012, Best Actor at Aardklop 2012, Fiesta awards 2013: Best New Afrikaans Production, Best Solo Show, Best Actor, & Most Promising Newcomer, Standard Bank Ovation (Gold). Nominations include Best actor KKNK 2013. The play is translated by Hennie van Greunen, directed by Wessel Pretorius and designed by Alfred Rietmann. (No under 16’s may attend – LVN). Chomi, written by Pfarelo Nemakonde, directed by Motlatji Ditodi and designed by Alfred Rietmann, is set in Johannesburg and follows the lives of four black openly gay 20-something men. Thabang an extroverted accountant, Sicelo a therapist, Percy who plans to renew his wedding vows to his partner and Rudzani, an artist battling to find himself. The play follows their unique personalities, their trials and tribulations and their greatest challenge…being themselves. Tragedy strikes the four friends and this throws them into turmoil forcing them to, through each other, face their inner demons. Provocative, honest and funny Chomi is a definite must-see that seeks to not only explore the modern black gay man’s life, but also to entertain. (No under 18’s may attend).
Return of the Ancestors from 06 to 15 November is a hard-hitting satire by Mike van Graan, genuflects to the South African classic Woza Albert, in which Jesus returns to South Africa during the apartheid era. In Return of the Ancestors, the Council of Ancestors decides to send a two-person delegation – Steve Biko and Neil Aggett – back to South Africa during its twentieth year of democracy to see if the sacrifices of those who were killed in the struggle against apartheid had been worth it. Biko and Aggett travel through the country, having a variety of encounters with living and inanimate objects along their way to Nkandla, where the major celebration of the benefits of democracy will take place. Two young actors, Mandisi Sindo and Siya Sikawuti, play a variety of characters in this piece which is directed by Mdu Kweyama who won acclaim for his direction of a version of Van Graan’s Brothers in Blood as a dance-drama piece. Set and costumes are designed by Francois Knoetze and lighting is designed by Kobus Rossouw.
Thoko Ntshinga’s theatrical adaptation of the novel Ndithungile Selani by DV Thom completes the season that forms part of a new project within the Artscape New Writing Programme entitled isiXhosa Classics. Ndithungile Selani runs from 20 to 29 November and is the second Showcase production that addresses the issue of customs – if they were explained properly, people would engage comfortably and follow them without doubt, but when a young woman is abused in the name of customs, people want to do away with them. Women want to identify the abuse and shame those who lie in the process. DV Thom explores the true meaning of ‘Ukwenda’ from his collection of stories in ‘Ndithungile Selani’ and Thoko Ntshinga directs.
The 10th Artscape Spring Drama Seasion runs from 2 October to 29 November 2014. Tickets cost from R40 to R90 via Computicket outlets and 08619158000 or 0214217695. Special discounts are available for block bookings (of 10 or more), pensioners, students and scholars (aged 16 to 18). Please note that several of the productions have high age restrictions.