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The ‘Sitting Man’ does a whole lot more…

Fiona Gordon: Eight characters tell this story, of a package which must travel from Johannesburg to Cape Town…

…although the story speaks more of the characters whose hands/cars/houses it passes through, than about the package itself.

And James Cairns is the one (sometimes sitting) man on stage that does it all! With shaved head, in black pants and long-sleeved top, his neutral appearance and single, simple wooden-chair-prop allows for a blank slate on which his colourful characters and their contexts can be drawn, on this journey through the stereotypes and just-the-right-side-of-caricature characters that make up the diverse landscape of people in our country.

Across race, social strata, geography and levels of inebriation, he elicits laughs through portrayal of characters so genuine that it is almost impossible to imagine he could be anyone else – until he is… but the transitions between scenes are so distinct, and well managed, it’s easy to follow him from one to the next.

Cairns has a way of creating an expectation, and then serving something else instead – his ‘hangover communicating with him’, as he ‘sokkies his way across the Platteland’. Teasing the imagination into creating worlds around his wooden chair, I get so caught up in the drama of the scenes he creates with his words, I sometimes lose track a little of the detail of how they link together, and when the journey ends and reality descends, I’m left a little perturbed trying to make sense of it all. But the images are so real, I suspect they will leave their marks on my imagination long after this run is through.

The Sitting Man is written, directed and acted by the remarkably talented James Cairns, and plays at The Kalk Bay Theatre nightly until 21 August 2010.

James Cairns also features in ‘Dirt’ which runs 25 Aug to 11 Sep, also at the Kalk Bay Theatre. Book for the final week of Sitting Man and book for Dirt at the same time, and get both shows for R185 instead of R200. Further details at www.kbt.co.za

Fiona Gordon
fiona@artslink.co.za


Laugh along at the Funny Festival

Fiona Gordon: The Vodacom Funny Festival, now in its sixth year, brings out the best of local and international humour.

Master of Ceremonies Alan Committie brings his own humour to the party and does a great job of shushing the audience when necessary, and easing the transitions between five other fabulous acts. Al Prodgers from Joburg is first up, and much of what is has to say and how he says it, is really funny – and they get keep getting better from there!

Riaad Moosa is always a favourite, with his intelligent and insightful takes on inter-cultural interactions. Ventriloquist Paul Zerdin, and Sam, are a marvellous pair – followed (after interval) by The Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue – an extremely clever musical clowning act that has feet tapping and the audience clapping with appreciation at the wit! Ndumiso Lindi, who hails originally from eQonce in the Eastern Cape, made those of us who share his roots proud, with his rendition of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, in the middle of an otherwise equally excellent act.

Overall, a real sense of positivity pervades – whether that’s directed at Cape Town, or South Africa, or just in general – somehow the tone of the whole evening is uplifting. Which, in my opinion, is exactly right!

The Vodacom Funny Festival runs at the Baxter Theatre Concert Hall nightly at 8pm, with a 5pm Saturday matinee, until 11 July, and some of the acts change during the run. Tickets are R130 throughout and can be booked through Computicket.

Fiona Gordon
fiona@artslink.co.za


Romeo’s Kiss at the Baxter

Fiona Gordon: Bovim Ballet presents a brand new ballet, Romeo’s Kiss, for their latest season.

In a departure from the choreographer’s recent explorations of musical genre, he makes a return to the narrative. Using as the basis, the age-old story of Romeo and Juliet, the ballet explores unmentionable subtexts, within the traditional roles featured in the story, in a way that resonates as real. Kirsten Isenberg’s sweet Juliet embodies the playful innocence of youth, to Casey Swales’ lithe Romeo – their lines complementing one another as if they were made to dance together. Their successful characterisation is further echoed in the intensity with which the sharp and dramatic role of the lascivious Lady C (Tanya Futter) and the emotion of Devon Marshbank’s Mercutio, are portrayed.

Sean Bovim’s signature style takes classical ballet technique, and combines it with modern music and movement influences to produce works which are accessible to an arts-educated audience, but have popular appeal. Amongst some ‘old favourite’ moves his following may recognise, there are some heart-wrenching solos and breathtaking partnerwork, but it is the thought and multi-layered consideration of the theatrical experience that gives this production its edge. He retains his strong musical base of influence, with use of the music of The Beatles, incorporating some of the Prokofiev score – an interesting choice, which works better than expected, except for the long pauses between numbers which interrupt the flow of the production. The team of Craig Porter, and KLûK & CGDT lend their creativity to costume the ballet. While many of the clothes are beautiful – aesthetically appropriate with attention paid to detail, it seemed like more than one of the boys was restricted in his movement by the tightness of his pants.

A highlight of the first act was the ballroom scene, which certainly had sparkle, if not quite the sense of spectacle it might have done with multiples of the number of dancers on stage. The same applies to the debaucherous hen- and stag- ight scenes, which end in a successfully spine-chilling bar brawl. Time will allow characters to develop further, and dancers to become more familiar with the movement, and the resultant depth and polish will take this rigorous yet poignant telling of this tale of love and loss, to another level.

Romeo’s Kiss runs at The Baxter Theatre in Cape Town from 25 – 27 June 2010. Tickets are from R120 and can be booked through Computicket, with performance times of Romeo’s Kiss adjusted to accommodate 2010 FIFA World Cup Fixtures taking place in Cape Town.

Fiona Gordon
fiona@artslink.co.za


Looking Forward to the NAF

Fiona Gordon: After extended weeks of date-debate, my flights are finally booked, my schedule is starting to take some sort of shape, and slowly, slowly, I am allowing myself to get excited…

It’s a big deal for me – the National Arts Festival. 10-ish days every year or two, where I get to immerse myself in the stuff that feeds my soul. There’s very little that thrills me like packing my schedule full of arts and engagement – five shows a day, some boho shopping, and a late night/early morning beer (or something) at ‘The Rat’ with some conversational philosophy before I force myself to sleep.

With the ‘long holiday’ this year, ‘they’ decided to make it a longer festival – 15 days instead of the 10 of the last few, which certainly makes for interesting planning. Another new addition this year, is the ‘Arena’ – a platform between the Main Programme, and the Fringe – for more established artists to showcase their talents, with some support from the NAF. In fact, the shows I am most excited about seeing, come mostly from this section of the programme, and much of their appeal is that they should be alternative enough to be interesting and challenging, but a sure enough bet to know that your money and your minutes won’t be wasted. Look – I think most art at the festival deserves support just by virtue of it being there!, but there are certainly some things I would be more inclined to spend my resources on, than others…

One thing is obvious – as Capetonians we are thoroughly spoilt! A quick look through the booking kit yields a list of more than ten productions that are playing, that I have seen already, and a couple more (Lara Foot’s multiple-Fleur du Cap-winning ‘Karoo Moose’, for one) that I could’ve/should’ve seen, but missed, and am ever so grateful to have another opportunity to attend!

Shannon Hope

I, Claudia

London Road

Decadence

Dekaf

Sentimientos

Mark Sampson Feels Funny

Rob van Vuuren is Rob van Vuuren

Rumpsteak

Pictures of You

Quack

I love you, you’re perfect, now change…

From a dance perspective – having seen a large percentage of the main programme’s offerings, presented in Cape Town, and missing some of the rest because of scheduling issues – I look forward to what the rest of the country, and particularly the Joburg contingent, has to offer, with Vincent Mantsoe’s ‘San’ topping my list, which also contains works by choreographers Athena Mazarakis, Nicola Haskins and 2008 Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year for Dance, Dada Masilo.

Multiple-award-winning Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre for 2010, and Janni Younge’s ‘Ouroborous’ is probably my ‘if you see one thing…’ suggestion. With sound design by Neo Muyanga, and Janice Honeyman and Ilka Louw as mentors, it’s hard to imagine that this would be anything less than superb. What a pity it only shows five times, over the last three days…

With some of the most established names in the industry aptly taking home the most coveted trophies at the most recent Fleur du Cap Awards, it is lovely to see further evidence that the ‘old guard’ is still at it, keeping the bar high, and providing inspiration for the younger generations. With this is mind, I am particularly excited about a collaboration between Marthinus Basson and Antoinette Kellerman, ‘Man to Man’, which features music by the increasingly prolific Braam du Toit.

On music – it will be lovely, as usual, to have some of our national treasures gracing the Grahamstown stages. 2010 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz, Melanie Scholtz, promises to make headlines alongside the cream of South Africa’s musical crop – including the likes of Richard Cock, Judith Sephuma, Vusi Mahlasela, Sibongile Khumalo, Karen Zoid and Steve Newman – the list is extensive! Personally, I look forward to seeing what 2007 Young Artist, Saxophonist Shannon Mowday, has to offer after some time honing her craft abroad.

And of course, let’s not forget the ‘Art’ at the Arts Festival, of which there is bound to be plenty worth seeing… As always, the place to see and be seen is bound to be the Village Green, although that too has had a bit of a rethink since I was there last, and now activity seems to be focussed around different patch of green. Nevertheless – I’m stocking up on socks, gloves and beanies, and prepping for exciting times, hanging out with some awesome peeps – from the Eastern Cape and otherwise… See you there?!

The National Arts Festival takes over the city of Grahamstown annually, and in 2010 runs from 20 June to 4 July. More details from www.nationalartsfestival.co.za

fiona@artslink.co.za


Siv Ngesi is Dekaf(firnated)…

Fiona Gordon: Sivuyile Ngesi – meaning ‘We are happy, to be English’ – explores life as a ‘coconut’ in his comedy show ‘Dekaf’.

There is general discussion, around names and accents; black people and their love for chicken, and fear of dogs, and of course, Julius Malema… He delves into a portrayal of different races at the beach – their behaviour, and most significantly, their swimming attire. And the different rules of engagement which apply when different races play the same sport, apply Zambuck, and approach cellphone usage. And popular opinion when people of different races lose weight.

He also tells of his own life – of matriculating at Pinelands High, being a black lifeguard, and his opinions of Affirmative Action policies – specifically when it comes to the new generation of ‘waitresses in the sky’.

Siv manages to engage the audience for the duration of the hour-long show, and does so in a way that people of all races can relate to (it seems) and find entertaining. Making use of his ability to generate his own sound effects, he appears extremely comfortable on the stage – most of the time; and although he presents very few new ideas, and attention could be paid to smoother transitions between them, he makes some poignant comments on societal issues… and he gets the laughs.

Dekaf is directed by David Newton, and plays at On Broadway, Shortmarket Street, Cape Town every Sunday and Monday evening for the month of May. Tickets are R65 and the show starts at 8.30pm. Dinner is served from 6.30pm. Book on 021 424 1194.

Fiona Gordon
fiona@artslink.co.za


Great Moscow Circus

Fiona Gordon: The Great Moscow Circus had audiences breathless at Cape Town’s Grand Arena.

Gone are the old days of sawdust and strange smells – a trip to the circus nowadays seems rather to feature people in crazy balancing acts, and flying, (or making things fly) through the air. And with the strong performance traditions that emanate from the Russian Federation, it is no surprise that the series of acts featured is of the highest calibre.

There are various forms of throwing and juggling – from buckets to hats to maces, and even people – with other people’s feet, off the back of moving motorbikes… A man uses a narrow bar as a trampoline with choreographed sidekicks in support; and repeated appearances by a bevy of Russian beauties in long boots and shorts short enough to make anyone uncomfortable.

The traditional ring remains, but the indoor arena accommodates a complicated set of rigging, which allows for some fantastic aerial displays. The expression “look ma – no hands!” takes on a new perspective when one is balancing upside down on one’s head on a flying trapeze bar, but these gymnasts make it look like child’s play.

Of course, no circus would be complete without the clowns, who go fishing in the crowd with bobbing balloons creating circular Mexican waves, and put together a wonderfully funny little skit using obliging members of the audience.

My favourite acts include a beautifully musical ‘love’ duet, featuring a juggling couple, who do so on and off a single bicycle wheel; and five male gymnasts in a precisely-choreographed sequence using the horizontal bars and a trampoline.

Highlights include the contortionist who manoeuvres her body into all sorts of fantastically impossible positions, a daring multiple trapeze act, and a series of phenomenal feats completed by a troupe of springboard acrobats, which culminates in a man wearing a single stilt doing a triple somersault, from the ground, onto a chair 15 m above the ground – supported by two levels of balancing men.

With many award-winning acts as part of the programme, every effort has been made to ensure that members of the audience are kept on the edge of their seats, A couple of wobbles and drops were well handled by the performers, and although I found the musical direction a little frustrating, for the most part the performance lived up to the hype.

The Great Moscow Circus was brought to South Africa by Sun International, and had performances at Carnival City and the Grand West Arena in April 2010.

Fiona Gordon
fiona@artslink.co.za


Friends become family in London Road

Robyn Scott, London Road

Fiona Gordon: She is the original doddery old lady, ‘ya know…?’ With her granny support-shoes, slow drawl, and wide-poppy-out-eyes, ‘ya know…?’

We all know her, or some version of her – sticking her nose into everyone’s business, because old people have licence to do that somehow… And because we know her, the pain of her loneliness feels that much more real.

It’s an unlikely friendship – that between Stella, who pays five thousand rand a month in rent for the converted storeroom, and the Jewish granny Rosa who lives on the fifth floor, of a block of flats in Sea Point’s London Road. But they become functionally more ‘family’ to each other than their blood or legal relatives. Without any expectation of return.

The set is simple – a table and two chairs, which easily become whatever and wherever they need to be, from Rosa’s lounge, to a bench on the Sea Point Promenade. And every other prop or aide comes from the Mary Poppins drawers of that central desk. From Family photo albums, and tablecloths and ‘ready-made’ cups of tea and a plate of ‘biccies’, to alcoholic tonics; the visual prompts are so effective one hardly needs imagination.

It takes Stella (Ntombi Makhutshi) a little while to settle into her accent. Or perhaps me to settle into placing it and following with ease. But perhaps also it is evidence of the disparity of character she must feel – an emigrant in this hostile place she must call home.

Robyn Scott is phenomenal as Rosa Kaplowitz. In her cardigan and pearls, I am truly convinced she is in her eighties. All right – perhaps in her sixties, playing someone in her eighties. But old.

But the woman that emerges from the stage door after the show is a 36 year old blonde bombshell. It makes the touching performance all the more (in)credible.

Perhaps it is the intimacy of the Kalk Bay Theatre that helps too. I feel somewhat embarrassed to realise I am tearing up, and hope nobody sees me wiping my eyes. Until I notice that even she – Rosa – has real tears running down her made-up face.

I never cease to be amazed by how perfectly Braam du Toit’s original compositions fit the feel of the stage action, and combined with Faheem Bardien’s finely-tuned lighting, and real attention to detail from director Lara Bye, this emotive story is told with such sincerity and sensitivity.

Granted, I am Capetonian. I did not grow up here, but after nearly a decade I certainly feel I can call it home. Someone who doesn’t might find that they miss out on significant detail – so much is portrayed through nuance and intimation. The connotations, sometimes, of a single word uttered must provide so much context. But that is also part of what makes it beautiful. And perhaps that is okay. With any theatre, one comes to, and leaves with, your own ‘stuff’… The emotion of ‘London Road’ really resonated with mine.

London Road is presented by KBT Productions at the Kalk Bay Theatre, from Wednesday – Saturday at 20h30 until 10 April 2010. Theatre-goers can enjoy a light meal before the show. Doors open at 18h00. Ticket prices for the performance only are R100.

To book contact 073 220 5430 or visit www.kbt.co.za.

Also visit www.londonroad.co.za or join London Road on Facebook “London Road”

London Road will be presented at the 2010 National Arts Festival as part of Cape Town Edge, a collective of independent theatre makers working together to promote ground-breaking theatre from Cape Town. Performances will take place at 12h00 daily at the Princess Alice Hall from June 20 to June 27 and from June 29 to 4 July.

Fiona Gordon
fiona@artslink.co.za



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