Fantastic family theatre at Grahamstown National Arts Festival

The ASSITEJ Family Fare Platform returns to the National Arts Festival for a 4th consecutive year to promote rich and diverse theatre for young audiences and their families.

Since its inception, ASSITEJ Family Fare has provided a unique platform dedicated entirely to the needs of families experiencing the festival. The venues provide theatre which caters to the whole family, while Oatlands Prep, where the ASSITEJ Family Fare Platform has its base, specifically provides interactive, creative and stimulating Family Fare activities run by artists and ASSITEJ staff. ASSITEJ has built relationships within the Grahamstown family community, with local families returning each year. Denese Palm, a local mom and entrepreneur, has for the last three years provided wholesome and nutritious catering for audiences visiting the Oatlands venue.

The ASSITEJ Family Fare Platform has successfully gained recognition within the framework of the National Arts Festival. Of the handful of prestigious Silver Ovation Awards issued at National Arts Festival since 2012, the ASSITEJ Family Fare programme has already been awarded two: the first for Jori Snell’s critically acclaimed “Kitchen Fables in a Cookie Jar” in 2012 and the second to international ASSITEJ theatre company, Batida from Denmark, whose production “A Man Called Rolex” heralded in a new category of award for Family Fare in 2014. Many other productions on the platform have been awarded Ovation awards in recognition of their quality.

The ASSITEJ Family Fare Platform has now extended across the festival, with performances at Oatlands Prep, Memory Hall, Glennie and Centenary Halls. 2015 presents a rich diversity of 14 productions – entertaining, thought provoking and engaging – giving families the opportunity of “growing up and growing together through theatre”.

On the Main Programme, two international collaborations are featured – “Red Earth Revisited” and “True Confusion”:

‘Red Earth Revisited’ by Speelteater Holland and ASSITEJ SA is a re-imagining of the events around the Xhosa prophetess Nongqawuse, seen through the eyes of a migrant stork, and will follow its appearance on the National Arts Festival Main Programme with a tour of the Eastern Cape. The production stars local actors Macebo Mavuso, Thami Mbongo and Roshina Ratnam as well as a chorus of South African and Netherlands-based artists, and uses puppetry, movement and song in vibrant and interesting ways.

‘True Confusion’ by ZeBu (Denmark), aimed at ages 8 to 13, is a physical interpretation of the situation where children find themselves paradoxically accepting their reality while bombarding it with hundreds of questions. It is playful, challenging and interactive. This dance production has toured extensively internationally and is now on South African soil for the first time.

The theme of Dance for Young Audiences is continued with an exciting local production:

‘Once upon a Fire’ by Briony Horwitz, co-directed by Nkosinathi Gaar and choreographed by David Matamela (South African “So You Think You Can Dance” Judge), is aimed at audiences aged 5 – 11. ‘Once Upon a Fire’ revives the ancient art of story-telling, celebrated in dance and punctuated by enchanting shadow puppetry. This production is the very first dance for young audiences production created under ASSITEJ South Africa mentorship, through the director’s involvement in the Inspiring a Generation programme, which gives emerging South African artists opportunities for international collaboration and exchange in order to develop their craft.

There are also a number of performances which address issues like social injustice, crimes against humanity, disability and inclusivity in exciting and challenging ways, providing the opportunity for starting conversations with young people around important issues:

‘The Orphan of Gaza’ by Eliot Moleba performed by Nidaa Hussein and Megan van Wyk, tells the story of a young girl in Gaza. After a rocket attack, she is told that her parents have gone to a better place. Armed with a makeshift aircraft, helmet, GPS and a cockpit full of courage, she and her pet, plot a journey to search for them.

‘Warrior on Wheels’ presented by the Chaeli Campaign, directed by Jayne Batzofin. The Chaeli Campaign is one of the few local Non-Profit Organisation’s which has been founded by children who are active members of the Management Committee. “Warrior on Wheels”, based on Deidre Gower’s book, aims to engage and enliven the imagination and encourage a more accepting society, especially for those with disabilities. This production was specifically created for children aged 7 – 15.

‘Mirrored Flaws’ by Thando Baliso, tells the story of three teenagers embroiled in social ills. This production aimed at teenagers is told through movement, spoken word and dance.

‘The Rise and Fall’ presented by Sisonke Art Productions, directed by Herbert Mokoena, (Winner of the 2014 SANCTA Awards, nominated for 8 SANCTA Awards) was developed through the ASSITEJ South Africa’s mentorship programme. ‘At age 13 Sarah is kidnapped by Ugandan rebels and forced to become a soldier in the Lord’s Resistance Army. Four years later, with General on the run, Sarah attempts to returning to her childhood village, nervous about the reception she will receive after her role in terrorizing her own people’.

Clowning for Young Audiences: ‘Double the Fun’ – with decades of experience, veteran Durban clown Adi Paxton returns with ‘Double The Fun’, a production made up of magic, clowning and puppetry for ages 3 and up.
Visual Theatre for Young Audiences:

‘Making Mandela’ – written by Nick Warren and Jenine Collocott, directed by Jenine Collocott “Soars with clean narrative lines, superb physical theatre, humour and pathos … it will wow not only festival goers, but the world.” – Robyn Sassen, The Arts at Large. An imaginative journey through the childhood of Nelson Mandela featuring colourful characters, vividly portrayed in beautiful masks, with physical performances supported by emotive sound design and theatrical styling. This is the story of what influenced the rural boy to become the global legend.

‘Florence and Watson’ written and directed by Rob van Vuuren and Dani Bischoff (married): Says Rob van Vuuren ‘We wanted to put together a show that our own daughter would love. So we’ve created a magical mountain full of fairies, dragons, giants and talking animals and found the best most versatile actors and musicians we could with Fleur du Cap Award Winner Dean Balie (Kat and the Kings, Blood Brothers, Orpheus in Africa) and Fleur Du Cap and Standard Bank Ovation Award Winner Sne Dladla (Fergus of Galloway, Betty and the Yeti, Orpheus in Africa) to infuse it with great comedy, awesome music and beautiful performances’.

One of Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans in 2013, Rhodes graduate Richard Antrobus of Oddbody Theatre returns to the Festival with his highly successful mime comedy solo: ‘Being Norm’ ideal for anyone 10 and over.

‘Lake’ directed by Daniel Buckland, performed by Ryan Dittman and Jaques de Silva –returning to Festival of the second time; ‘Lake’ is a delight for the whole family, and addresses issues human issues friendship and societal issues around water conservation through warm, funny physical theatre, clowning and puppetry.

‘The Incredible Journey’ directed by Tara Notcutt performed by Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, Stefan Erasmus and Luke Brown. ‘The Incredible Journey’ was invited to and premiered at the Perth International Fringe Festival in 2015. ‘Once upon a time, a boy named Tommy who lived an unadventurous life was presented by a challenge from the new kid at school – join us on an adventure of the imagination and magic: Come see Tommy’s journey to becoming a hero.’
Music for Young Audiences:

The Keiskamma Academy presents “Indalo” directed by Mojalefa Mokanya, which is performed by a 22 piece orchestra band and 10 storytellers. The story is set in the Eastern Cape unpacking the deep and magical relationship between animals and the amaXhosa, and weaves together different strands of artistic expression: music, storytelling, physical performance and visual art.
The calibre of artists showcased at the ASSITEJ Family Fare Platform demonstrate experience, artistry and seriousness in the craft of making work for young audiences. Many of them have been specially developed or mentored through ASSITEJ South Africa. Briony Horwitz, Jenine Collocott, Jayne Batzofin, Eliot Moleba and Richard Antrobus are all part of ASSITEJ SA’s Inspiring a Generation programme, which is supported by DISTELL, in partnership with Theatre Arts Admin Collective. “The Rise and Fall” by Sisonke Arts and “Mirrored Flaws” were created during 2014 and 2015, while the respective companies were under the ASSITEJ SA Theatre4Youth Mentorship programme sponsored by UNESCO’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity.

The ASSITEJ Family Fare Platform is a collection of works, which promise to be memorable family outings or exciting first exposures to theatre for young audiences.

Visit www.assitej.org.za or www.nationalartsfestival.co.za for bookings.

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