Figments from the Arts Festival

Standing at the entrance to The Village Green, staring at a million posters and thinking: “Which bank am I going to rob?”

That, dear reader, is a feeling you’ll surely know if you pop into Grahamstown for the National Arts Festival.

The Village Green is on Rhodes University‘s Great Field and that’s where the stalls, beer tent and general atmosphere is. Countless posters adorn the surrounding area. So much to see, never enough cash.

The main reason I’m here is for the Rhodes student production Tender, directed by Madele Vermaak. As I write this, we’re in day 7 of this year’s Festival and we’ve had 3 shows so far – the next coming up this evening.

Fezi Mthonti, Danielle Bowler and Michele Ellis in a scene from Tender
Pic: Amite Lee/Cue Pix

The response to our show has been pretty decent so far.

Being at the Arts Festival also means bumping into famous faces and acting like I’m not fazed – because I don’t want to make them feel more famous than they already are.

The cast of Tender engage the audience during rehearsal
Pic: Amitie Lee/Cue Pix

I see a TV actor, I get pretty amped inside. On the surface, though, no difference whatsoever.

This is only the second time I’m at the Festival, but it’s still striking to see the way this tiny town transforms. Throngs of people, local kids putting on small mime acts in the streets and even regular police presence.

Though I have to say the Grahamstown donkeys are going to waste. Why are the police on horseback?

Other highlights so far include seeing some of the work put on by other universities. I managed to catch The University of Cape Town‘s The Homeless Orchestra, which had pretty impressive ensemble work by their phenomenal cast. Their piece had plenty of energy driving it forward.

I also heard incredibly positive stuff about Mob Feelthe production put forward by the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal‘s drama department. I was unfortunate not to be able to see the show and was justifiably bummed, considering the way people responded to it. Physical prowess, power and commanding presence was the order of the day.

Mob Feel poster
Pic: Kline Smith/

The University of Stellenbosch brought Animals to the Student Festival and, apart from getting to know their cast, was struck by their evocative set design and stylistic choice. Three of their characters, who sat throughout the entire piece in grotesque costumes, reminded me of the witches from Macbeth. Their vocal work was particularly gripping.

And then, of course, there’s Tender. We’ve been working on the piece since first term and to finally see it come together is definitely a proud moment.

Elements of masked work can be seen in Tender
Pic: Amitie Lee/Cue Pix

Check out this insert we got (video courtesy of Cue Online):


Plenty more to look forward to.

Stay tuned…



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s