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What we’ll be watching - National Arts Festival 2008

2008-06-23 13:11
Grahamstown is overwhelming. Or it can be. I know this.

I went there alone - aged 18 - to get myself enlightened fast, and, after finding that almost every show I’d planned to see was either booked out or way beyond my budget, spent most of my time sitting in bars watching bands, trying to make one Cape Velvet Cream last all night, and wondering if it really was such a good idea to go meet that "surfer" from Stellenbosch at his tent later on.

Things have changed. So in case you’re still not sure what you’ll be checking, or in case you’re wondering whether you should still go, here’s what we’re focusing on. You’ll notice that we’ve got mostly comedy and music with just a bit of serious dance, jazz and drama thrown in to show we’re, like, deep.

We’ll be reviewing everything we watch – every day you’ll be able to check out a page of our crits and musings on what we saw the day before, plus a funky video or two. As many of these shows will tour later on, it’s not a waste of time if you’re staying home this year. And our videos should give you some idea of what you're missing. In case you're going, all the links go to the booking info on the official NAF site.

Friday 27th
We’ll start by sending one Natalie straight from the airport to see The African which sounds pretty serious. It's about a man's pain at losing his cultural identity. I'm heading to check Cokey Falkow in the Rob Van Vuuren-directed Odd One Out, which we're told is F**king funny. And may contain obscenities involving dolphins. Natalie's off to Lullaby next. Meanwhile, the rest of the team's congregating at the Old Mutual Encounters at De Taphuis for Syd Kitchen and Waddy Jones' colab, followed by Evan Dando and Ray Phiri's. This is going to be amazing. We'll be filming both, and possibly staying to dance to DJ Bob, because you always do on the first night. So look out for the reviews and the clips on our event site the next afternoon.

Saturday 28th
Pantsula in the morning with Ayashisa Amateki which sounds like it means "hot takkies", which sounds good. We're checking out Amanda Strydom at lunchtime. We're told she's singing in tongues. Bafana Republic: Extra Time has done ridiculously well at every festival it's played, so we're checking it out. Brother Number is another we have to see. We're also keeping an eye on the Darryl Roodt film mini-fest. See you there if you're also seeing Meisie. And then there's puppetry and weird stuff about a bad marriage in Pictures of you. Back to the comedy with Best of Mamba and Rob Van Vuuren is Rob Van Vuuren, starring Rob Van Vuuren of Juju Productions, formerly Twakkie who's taking 11 productions to the fest this year. Anyone who's ever done ONE knows how nuts that is. Niel will be checking out Saturday Night Funk's jazzy amazingness and the rest of us are probably slumming it at Late Night Comedy where the unstoppable Mark Sampson hosts a nightly line-up, and we're hoping to shoot some people vomiting after eating too many hotdogs while drunk and laughing.

Sunday 29th It's a Hard Life When You Have a Vagina. That's the show Megan decided to attend instead of Church. More Juju with Swazi. The Festival Big Band kicks off the night for Niel, while others go watch very sad european movies like Cold Heaven. It's only R16 to get in, so maybe you should too. Or you could buy yourself two beers… And then go check out Esjay Jones & Ntsiki Mazwai On the Encounters stage at 7pm, with more encounters and a DJ to follow.

Monday 30th
What's not to like? The day begins with a Jon Savage film co-starring slain reggae artist Lucky Dube called Voice in the Dark. We'll let you know how it is. More film with Lightning over water, a doccie about Wim Wenders. A bit of light physical relief with Bar Flies' physical theatre. What's the bet it's either bad or really, really funny? We're voting for really, really funny. I, Claudia confused us so much we decided to go see it and tell you later - it seems to star a Canadian schoolgirl puppet, or something. Gifting It is a doccie about another fest called Burning Man. Can anyone tell us how you get out of the discussion they hold afterwards, without being rude? Then there's another Rob VV thing called Fly Paper Jet - The Traveling Salesman. A musical thing starring the FPJ pop music duo. The evening will end, as usual it seems, with Old Mutual Encounters or Cuervo Music Room. We like music.

Tuesday 1st July

If we haven't died of flu yet we'll check out Dance to the Rain Queen (yes, it's dance) and a Zimbabwean music show Jula - Depth. That's it. We hope you're staying on, and if you are, don't miss Untitled. No, it's not a poem someone wrote in highschool. It's a play. But it does sound like it might be pretty depressing. However unlike adolescent poetry, not depressingly BAD.

- Jean Barker
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