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The best and the worst of the National Arts Festival (so far)

2015-07-06 15:57


With 628 shows and 2 498 performances, it’s to be expected that you’re going to experience the good and the bad at the 2015 National Arts Festival. It’s been four days, and there’s been a fair share of both. Here are some of the highs and lows:


1. Performer Sne Dladla

The Standard Bank Ovation silver award winner for 2014, Sne Dladla, is working the circuit hard this year. He stars in his own comedy show The Jokes on You amid a host of other productions. I saw Dladla at Sunday night’s comedy jam Pants on Fire and he practically stole the show as its closing act. Dladla mixes his theatrical knack for great facial expressions with a razor-sharp, observant brand of humour and, on top of it, he’s musical too. You can’t do Fest this year without seeing at least one of his performances.

» Jokes On You is at 9pm in Princess Alice Hall every night till July 11

2. Transnet Village Green Fair

The best place to hang out in between shows, or even for the whole day, is the Village Green on the Rhodes Union rugby field. Whether it be chilling in the beer garden, shopping for vintage clothing, or getting something to eat, this place has it all. I’ve been seriously impressed by the variety of stalls that sell quality wares and not the usual knickknacks and rubbish we’ve come to expect from fêtes. Definitely pop in.

» The Village Green is open every day from 9am to 5pm

3. Film Fest

If you’re a true cinephile and documentary lover like me, you might want to stick around the Olive Schreiner Hall for the rest of fest. The Film Fest programme must be lauded for being carefully curated and featuring some truly awesome views. I particularly enjoyed A Fuller Life, an intimate autobiography on film maker Samuel Fuller and I would recommend the Edward Snowden doccie Citizenfour, as well as local fracking documentary Unearthed. There’s even a 1932 German movie called Vampyr on the line-up.

Check the Film Fest programme for screenings.


1. Pieter-Dirk Uys’ African Times
It irks me to slam Uys, as I have so much respect and love for him as a writer, director and performer but his latest play, African Times, is truly terrible. The play stars a mostly black female cast, but they all talk like Uys instead of in their own unique voices. This makes for long, boring and unconvincing dialogue, and you never feel any love or connection with any of the characters. This is one production that should have stayed on the shelf.

2.The Monument Restaurant
Just because your restaurant is in a building from the 1800s, doesn’t mean your food has to taste like it came from there – kudu steak rolls that taste like depression; stone-cold, flavourless vegetable soup; and the whole place smells like a musty carpet. Come on guys. Jazz your food up a bit, or at least open a window.

3. Unnecessary, bigoted comments
You would think that in 2015 people would know better than using sexism and homophobia as a brand of humour. Sadly not. During Richard Haslop’s listening sessions I had to hear him “joking” that singer Emmylou Harris “would be God if she wasn’t a woman” after playing one of her songs. During Cape Town comic Dalin Oliver’s set during Pants on Fire I was subjected to five minutes of him haranguing one of the audience member’s for “being gay”. If you’re really good at what you do, you don’t need bigotry for cheap laughs.

For more City Press coverage of the National Arts Festival visit click here or follow Grethe Koen and Binwe Adebayo on Twitter.

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