Rob van Vuuren

Gtown is hell - but I like it

2011-07-11 13:15
I have been to this God-damned festival every year since 1991. That makes this year my 20th braving the cold at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and surviving the double threat of Mathew Ribnik and Seth the Hilarious Hypnotist brandishing flyers in tandem at the Village Green.

I've been performing here since 1995, so I have also seen my fair share of vampire donkeys on Bathurst Street and fought for my little piece of poster space beneath the behemoth banners of David Newton’s abs. I don’t know how those guys find the stamina to do their shows as well as the energy to market them with such fervor.

Performing on the fringe in at least one show a day for the full 10 days is a kind of endurance theatre fueled by late boozy nights at the Long Table and a desperate desire to make enough money to afford to leave this town at the end of all this torture.


If you arrive too late you’ll always be playing a game of catch up in the poster-putting-up department. There are guys who get here a few days before the event and plaster this town with a terrifying kind of military precision that would keep a small African country ungovernable for at least a year.

I got here the day before the fest started and I immediately just felt like I couldn’t be arsed. Seriously, do I really need to be running around this freezing hamlet getting Prestik blisters and paper cuts for a few extra bums on seats?

Maybe it's just me, maybe I'm just getting old. I remember a time when I was just as motivated as the rest of these crazies to get out there and sell relentlessly to the hapless and unsuspecting festival goer.

Look,  don’t get me wrong, I have handed out a few flyers this year but the wind was well and truly sucked from my sails when, waiting to get into my venue, I handed out a few to the audience coming out of a performance of the multi-award winning London  Road.


This beautifully acted play was one of the few shows I managed to see last year and once again it fed my nagging suspicion that the immensely talented Robyn Scott gives the performance of a lifetime every time she steps on stage.

It's not exactly light entertainment, so perhaps my exuberance was misplaced when I bounded up to the weepy British woman, flyer in hand, firing off witty one liners about how her life would forever be shit if she didn’t come and see my show.  She turned on me like a rabid dog and snarled and barked something to the effect of "don’t ruin my perfect theatre moment you heathen comedy peasant". I skulked off - defeated - and haven’t handed out a flyer since.

So why do I keep coming back to it after all these years? Is it habit or sado-masochism or just plain stupidity? The truth is much more frightening. I come back because I love it.

I love the fact that audiences keep coming back year after year to suffer the cold and our offensive marketing techniques all for the love of art and performance. Hell if they’re prepared to do it over and over again why shouldn’t I be? Besides, as a performer, you’ve got to love it precisely because it's so difficult. Once you’ve completed a run of your show on the Fringe in Gtown you join an elite group of theatre nutcases that it is truly an honour to be a part of.

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