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National Arts Fest 08, Day Two: Saturday the 28th

2008-06-29 18:50
Amanda Strydom's Soul Songs
Too-much-whiskey songs, more like, but the Graham Hotel isn't the kind of venue where you can drink and have lunch - the cabaret tag is all about the conversational style of performance. Amanda Strydom seems to be leaning over the low-lit bar to you, where you sit alone, saying "Darling, just let it all out." She counsels her audience to keep living past the pain of lost love. She lets you embrace the resilient glowing of memories of an eerie past that stubbornly glows. Perhaps a past full of memories of days on whites-only beaches - which are still just beaches in a childhood, to you. She asks her audience how many of them are Afrikaans, and the first three rows raise their hands. She asks who's English and the last three rows raise theirs. There's no need to inquire if anyone is Xhosa. The massive farmers and their wives, filling in the middle rows, don't move, but I saw a big man wiping tears away. Whatever the language Amanda speaks, it's hard to listen to her sing and not be overcome.

Ayashisa Amatheki
Directed by William Mbambo
Brilliant dancing, lots of energy and great costumes. But this visually exciting production is badly marred by occasional attempts to force a narrative on everything. The narrative is also delivered in a mixture of different languages, making it very hard for anyone who doesn't speak them to follow the story. Just shut up and dance?
- Natalie Sineke

Pictures of You
This everyday-sad story of a the terrible things that can lie beneath the surface of a seemingly perfect marriage is explored with beautiful light and movement, figures, shadow and sound, and without words. Not great date material - unless you take a hyper-realistic, long term view of love and relationships. But really brilliant.
- Natalie Sineke

Bafana Republic - Extra Time
Directed by Mike Van Graan
If you're wondering why Bafana Republic was such a hit at the festival and around SA for so many years running, Extra Time isn't the way to find out what lay behind its popularity. Apart from a few fairly amusing patriotic scenes that sound more like recycled columns than anything else, it's really just dated witticisms and cliched comebacks that already went through the (always more cutting edge) standup comedy circuit years ago, and came out the other side. Actor Rea Rangaka is adept at changing costumes, but his character performances seemed a bit over the top, even by theatrical standards. The preachy tone of the play's serious bits might rock the kind of audiences that laugh every time an actor fakes a black accent, but it's as tired as a Kurt Cobain T-Shirt. According to hearsay the original show was better - so perhaps best to preserve your good memories. If you're looking for solid laughs in a similar vein, try Best of Mamba instead. COMEDY
Best of Mamba
John Van de Ruit and cast
Ben Voss and James Cunningham make comedy magic together, unashamedly indulging in silly puns and whipping out the occasional MOR hack rainbow nation yuk yuk for a second tour. But they get away with the cheesy moments,and the political insensitivity (equal opportunity stereotyping is still stereotyping, so don't give me that). You'll even forgive them the odd really juvenile satirical sketch, simply because they've got the timing and chemistry to pull it off. These guys know the big secret of writing and delivering a killer comedy review: they know how to build laughs on laughs until the crowd is helpless in their hands, riding their waves. The troupe of schoolboys in the front three rows were flying out of their seats at all angles, completely hysterical, within 20 minutes, and they didn't stop bouncing until the gravely comical twist in the tale – a twist that's both very brave, and refreshingly tasteless. See it - it's much funnier than De Ruit's books.

Remembering You Like Something I'd Forgotten
Louise Buchler
How do you feel about your memories? Like you, the seven characters of Remembering You Like Something I'd Forgotten each have memories they can't erase, and important details they just can't recall. With few props or effects for company, their memories are stitched together to try and make sense of it all. Remembering gets bonus points for impressive physical set-pieces and crossing languages convincingly, but a clincher ending is missing. That clumsy last step aside, this is a cute, well-constructed drama that might make you remember that 'thing', you know, that 'thing', that you'd forgotten.
– Niel Bekker

Brother Number
Rob van Vuuren & James Cairns, directed by Jaco Bouwer
Just because Rob van Vuuren's name is attached to this production, doesn't mean it's all comedy. Quite the opposite actually. Set deep down in the depths of the Home Affairs building, Brother Number follows two brothers Steve and Harvey who make ID books. One makes the numbers and the other the lines. But when an explosion rips through their sheltered lives and allows them to escape the confines of their room, the brothers need to navigate the secrets, lies and halls of Home Affairs to safely make it back to one another, and to the outside world. A bizarre, unique story, Brother Number has just enough comedic elements to prevent the audience from forgetting that it's satire. Although only two people convey a multitude of characters and you're always convinced. Rob and James are just so good at what they do you're never left wondering, "Now who is this suppose to be?" It might not be laugh-a-minute, but Brother Number is definitely on our recommended list as one of the most original South African productions out there.
- Megan Kakora

Rob Van Vuuren is Rob Van Vuuren
By Rob Van Vuuren
Paying Rob van Vuuren to talk a bunch of poo: it's not as bad as it sounds. From the man who's brought 13 shows to the festival comes this gem of a sideshow recounting The Artist Formerly Known as Twakkie's many years on the stage. Oh, and his need to squeeze one out before a show. If you don't walk out offended, make a plan to bring an oxygen tank. At times, Van Vuuren is so funny you can scarcely catch your breath. Being a career retrospective, he also manages to share some honest opinions on the power of theatre. And crapping himself. Beware his jokes, or you might too.
- Niel Bekker

Old Mutual Encounters
Syd Kitchen and Max Normal
If you didn't get to see this amazing collaboration – full of warmth, banter, and unique performances by the artists both together and separately, we're really sorry to hear that. You missed out. We'll be putting up some video of it in the next few days, though, and there's already an interview done behind the scenes at their rehearsal that you can check out on our National Arts Festival site.
- Jean Barker

And that's it folks. Except that we'll be back, with a Jazz Review, and more. IN closing, here are a few random things we heard people saying…

Overheard in Grahamstown

Overheard overheard
Guy One to Guy Two: Dude did you just hear that? She said she should have had sex with him!"

Critical opinions
Woman leaving a student production called It's a Hard Life When You Have a Vagina: "That was shockingly appalling!"

Big Apple
Filmmaker Darryl Roodt to a journalist in the media LAN: "… so Tiger Woods took a bite out of an apple and threw it away, and some guy picked it up and sold it on EBay for thousands of Dollars. Can you believe it?"

Booze makes you loser
Wasted old boozer manicured chicks in restaurant to girl with laptop: "Hey Honey, can I check my email hey?"
Laptop girl: "Did I look interested in speaking to you the first three times you asked?" publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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