Rob van Vuuren

Paying respect where it is due

2011-07-19 13:48
I know I've already done my Grahamstown article but I am still in recovery from 10 days of non-stop culture and it's difficult to get my head out of it, so bear with me. At the time of writing the previous column I hadn’t even seen any shows yet and I feel it would be amiss of me to not pay respect where it is due.
There is a sad kind of irony in my experience of the National Festival of the Arts in that I am normally so busy preforming or surviving that I don’t get an opportunity to revel in the single greatest gathering of theatre-makers on the continent.

It’s a rare opportunity to immerse oneself in a smorgasbord of inspiration from a large percentage of the countries best artistic minds. I don’t get to see much but this year I was lucky, pretty much everything I saw was awesome.  I even managed to gatecrash the almost mythical Techie Party by mistake, so all in all my last few days of the fest rocked.


On Friday afternoon I caught Gary Thomas at the Cuervo Music Room and as usual he blew me away.  Not only is he an uberdextrous wunderkind of the guitar but he is also one of those performers who are truly transported when they’re on stage. There’s this grimace he does, with eyes squeezed shut while conjuring a fret-full of magic with frantic fingers and slowly releasing an almost primal howl through clenched teeth that is a beautiful thing to behold. He is a rare breed of genius.

On Saturday I was treated to a slick and raucously funny physical theatre interpretation of Herman Charles Bosman’s stories courtesy of the Pink Couch’s Mafeking Road.  Directed by Tara Notcutt (who has got to be the most exciting young director working in the country today) and starring Mathew Lewis and Andrew Laubscher (who was particularly funny), Mafeking Road’ very deservedly walked away with a Standard Bank Silver Ovation Award.

Later that night I was entranced by the sheer genius of Gold Ovation Award winner Chris Chameleon.  He is a born showman endowed with a razor sharp mind and a vocal range that deserves to have poems written about it.


 I also snuck into Martin Evans’ Ovation Award-winning Hellpants and the FBPK.

At the best of times Martin has the disposition of a cranky 85 year old and he will bemoan his small houses and his ‘terrible shows’ at every opportunity. But take it from me, he had us rolling in the aisles and weeping with laughter. He also managed to weather a power failure while mc-ing late-night comedy by using a head torch to calm the drunken masses before bringing me onstage when the power returned. Respect.

It was after that show, when I stumbled over to the Scout Hall in search of more of those delicious little sherry bottles that were getting me through the freezing nights, that I accidently gatecrashed the Techie Party. This closing celebration bash for the unsung heroes of the fest, the technical crew, is the stuff of legend amongst mere performers who are not normally allowed access to this hallowed Bachanallian debauchery. I will tell you no more of what I experienced. It is forbidden.

On my final day (after performing at 10am for my sins) I eventually limped into my final show of the fest. Sie Weiss Alles  written by long time collaborator and trouble maker James Cairns and starring James and Tarryn Bennet. It is a beautifully performed and superbly written meditation on redemption, love and survival. Oh, and it also walked away with one of them Ovation Awards.

So that was my last couple of days in Grahamstown. Pretty cool, yes? Thanks for humoring me. I swear I wont write anything about it until next year.

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