Cracking start to Arts Festival

The National Arts Festival is in full swing in Grahamstown and the first day (2 July) set the tone for what I hope will be an incredible week of the arts.

First up for me was Nat Caf improv comedy troupe and our opening show at St Andrew’s Studio 1 was a strong start. The pre-performance nerves were bubbling, but the group settled quickly and fed off the packed audience as we weaved through an hour-long set of comedy games.

Brad Lang and Tyson play an improvised rollercoaster scene at St Andrew’s Studio 1. Pic: Gabriella Bellairs-Lombard.

From on-the-spot storytelling to switching characters mid-scene, it was a quirky presentation of short-form improv that we want to make sure will catch on quickly as the days progress.

Doug Smith – now in his third year in the group – did well as MC and his game selection ensured variety, interesting combinations and a solid opening night. Quite a few people were seeing the show for the first time and some of their responses were both encouraging and interesting.

I’ve said it before but SA hasn’t even begun to feel the potential for improv comedy and I’m excited to keep pushing boundaries with this form.

When we wrapped up at about 19:00, it was an immediate dash to the 1820 Settlers’ Monument for Void – the Rhodes Drama student piece.

Another full house; another decent run. The student festival usually includes feedback from panelists including local industry veterans and artists whose work I have admired for a while. Soweto Theatre artistic director Warona Seane is one such artist and had valuable insight to share after the performance.

Void integrates puppetry work and playing a manipulator has undoubtedly been one of the greatest challenges. Bringing the character to life, speaking for him as well as maintaining the integrity of his movement are massive asks in their own right. Doing all of that at the same time is a different beast.

Nat Caf is back again this afternoon and then it’s a first showing at Princess Alice Hall to open Sne Dladla’s show.

Stay tuned…

– Tyson

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