Young Picasso

If one were to ask a non-art fundi to name five artists, Picasso (1881-1973) would probably feature on all the lists.  He is well known, as is his distinctive and legible signature.

Of course, most of us non-art fundis know more about Picasso’s later life than his early life, and Young Picasso is, as the title suggests, about Picasso’s life and work until he is about 25 years of age.

I found it fascinating to follow in Picasso’s footsteps as he makes his way from Malaga to Barcelona, Madrid and Paris, from his juvenile genius, through a scandalous personal life and his famous blue and rose periods.  South Africans who saw the Picasso exhibition at the Standard Bank Gallery will be interested to see how the movie details his African inspired works.

The start of Picasso’s famed “Blue Period” was brought on by the death of his good friend, Carlos Casagemas, who shot himself in a restaurant in Paris in 1901 after a potential love affair with one of the models he and Picasso used went sour.

One of the many “talking heads” (art fundis) for this exhibition is Olivier Picasso, the grandson of the artist, who talks about his grandfather endearingly as “Pablo”.

The movie starts with a very precocious seascape painted by Picasso, the son of an art teacher, at the age of seven and runs up until 1907 with the early cubist prototype, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon with just a hint of Guernica to whet the appetite for more.

The movie releases at Cinema Nouveau movie houses throughout South Africa on 1 June 2019.  It has a running time of 85 minutes.

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Really Feely Farm

A friend’s baby is a year old and I haven’t made an effort to get to see her in real life as opposed to Facebook where I am kept up to date on all the happenings in their lives. Ok, the public worthy happenings.

Go on, you do want to open it

I am seeing my friend and her baby tonight. I am taking a gift of the above book. It is one of those adorable books that demands that even adults touch and feel the rich textures which accompany the simple text on every page.

City children often only know farm animals through books, and in this one little ones can meet a feathery chicken and feel its bumpy skin, a woolly sheep, a bristly pig, a yellow fluffy duckling with a smooth beak, and a calf.

The book is made of board and it is really sturdy for little hands and it offers so much cuteness to touch. This apparently develops fine motor skills in little ones.

The farmyard and its creatures are one of the classic themes for young children, and this one is sure to delight my friend’s child (I will be mortified if the child takes one look at the book and refuses to read for another three years, but I know that won’t happen).

There are other books in this series if it is the hit I think it is going to be.

Really Feely Farm is published by DK books in April 2017 and is available through Penguin Random House in South Africa at approximately R130.00. The ISBN is 9780241268056.

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Albert Hammond, a lifetime of memories

Joburg audiences are going to have to schlepp to Pretoria, though

Press release below:

Singer, songwriter and record producer, Albert Hammond is a prolific music industry giant, who has written commercially successful songs for some of the biggest names in the Music Industry, including Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Glen Campbell. Julio Iglesias, to name a few.

A solo singer in his own right, Hammond will be returning to South Africa in March for five shows in four different cities.

Hammond is a regular visitor of our beautiful country, and over the last decade, has frequented different cities in South Africa to serenade audiences with classic hits like It Never Rains in Southern California, Free Electric Band, I’m a Train and Peacemaker.

This is the very reason Charl Van Heyningen Enterprises decided to bring him back: “Hammond is one of the greatest song-writers of our time. Audiences love him and it is time for Stellenbosch, Pretoria, Bloemfontein and P.E. to experience this music heavy weight”, says Producer Charl Van Heyningen.

Hammond has collaborated most notably with songwriters Mike HazlewoodJohn BettisDiane Warren as well as Holly KnightCarole Bayer Sager.

He wrote commercially successful singles for artists including Celine DionJoe DolanAretha FranklinWhitney HoustonDiana RossLeo SayerTina TurnerGlen CampbellJulio IglesiasWillie Nelson, and Bonnie Tyler, and bands Ace of BaseAir Supply,  Blue MinkChicagoHeartLiving in a BoxThe CarpentersThe HolliesThe PipkinsStarship, and Westlife. Notable songs co-written by Hammond include “Make Me an Island” and “You’re Such a Good Looking Woman” by Joe Dolan, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship, “One Moment in Time” sung by Whitney Houston, “The Air That I Breathe“, a hit for The Hollies, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” a Julio Iglesias/Willie Nelson duet, and “When I Need You” by Leo Sayer. In 2015 he received the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Song Collection.

As a solo singer, his biggest (and only Top 20) Billboard hit was “It Never Rains in Southern California“, #5 US 1972. Other songs of his include “Down by the River“, “The Free Electric Band“, “I’m a Train“, “When I’m Gone” and others. For a time he was part of the formation The Family Dogg, with whom he had the hit “A Way of Life“. He has also produced for a number of artists.

Albert Hammond will be performing on the following dates in the following cities:

3 & 4 March: Spier Amphitheatre, Stellenbosch. Shows start at 8:30pm

6 March 2019: Feather Market Hall, Port Elizabeth. Show starts at 7:30pm.

8 March 2019: Kopanong Kovsiekerk, Bloemfontein. Show starts at 7:30pm

10 March 2019: Sun Arena @ Time Square, Pretoria. Show starts at 5pm

Ticket prices vary depending on the venue and there are group booking specials.

Book your tickets via Computicket to avoid missing out:

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Mango Groove 30 years

Thirty years already! We’re all getting older.

Press release below:

Real Concerts presents The Mango Groove 30th Anniversary Concert

Mango Groove and Real Concerts are delighted to announce that Mango Groove will be performing a once-off, spectacular 30th Anniversary Concert at the Teatro Theatre at Montecasino on Friday, 8 March 2019.

In the words of Mango Groove’s lead vocalist, Claire Johnston: “2019 is a big year for us as we will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of our very first album, Mango Groove. With this in mind, it seemed right to us that we put on a high production concert that showcases the highlights, memories and moments of that album, as well as performing all the other Mango songs that people have come to know and love through years.”

The Mango Groove album, in fact, went on to become one of SA’s biggest-selling albums of all time (well over 25-times Platinum), and produced a string of hits that to this day remain part of the soundtrack of South Africa’s journey over the last three decades including ‘Special Star’, ‘Dance Some More’, ‘Hellfire’, ‘Move Up’, and many more.

That first album release created the platform for what was to become a meteoric rise to fame for Mango Groove, and it paved the way for a host of achievements that set new precedents and records that still stand today:

  • The successive releases of several more albums and hit singles, including ‘Hometalk’, ‘Moments Away’, ‘Another Country’, ‘Nice to See You’, ‘Bang the Drum’ and their latest album release ‘Faces to the Sun’;
  • Setting new live performance benchmarks for all SA artists, being the only SA group ever to sell out the Sun City Superbowl and the Standard Bank Arena six times each;
  • The band was the first to redefine live staging and production standards for SA acts; the first to command a million rand sponsorship deal, and were the first and only group to remain at the top of the SA national sales charts for over a year;
  • Internationally, Mango Groove’s unique and magical blend of South African marabi, kwela and pop influences, together with the voice and presence of Claire Johnston went on to captivate audiences around the world:
  • Highlights of their career include the direct satellite link- up to the Freddie Mercury tribute in London (to an estimated audience of a billion people); their performance in front of 200 000 people at the Paris “SOS Racism” concert; and their performance at the renowned Montreux Jazz festival where the band received 3 encores. From London to Hong Kong to
  • From Toronto to Sydney, the band has played to sell- out crowds around the world.
  • Mango Groove was given the honour of being the only South African (indeed African) act to be invited to perform at the ‘Celebrate Hong Kong ‘97’ Reunification Concert.  This historic event, part of the official celebrations commemorating the hand-over of Hong Kong to China, was televised world-wide and immortalised on a commemorative CD. It was followed up, in fact, by Mango Groove being the only SA act to perform at the globally-televised concert commemorating the handover of Macau to China.
  • Mango Groove was also especially proud to have been associated with the ABC world- wide broadcast of Nelson Mandela’s release where their music was used as the main theme. A few years later they headlined at his inauguration.
  • Mango Groove has long been aware of music’s unique power to change people’s hearts and minds, and through the years the band has raised hundreds of thousands of Rands for issues such as literacy, terminally ill children and conservation.

In founder member John Leyden’s words: “In terms of finding the ideal partner for what is truly a very special event for us, working with Real Concerts again made perfect sense…Serendipity at its best! It was this very partnership that properly launched Mango Groove on a grand scale to SA markets in 1989, and it was a partnership that then powered its way through the host of precedent-setting achievements in the years that followed.”

What can we expect from the show itself, then? “Yes, the show will be a veritable memory-fest, and it will truly be a joyful celebration of all the Mango songs we have come to love through the years: All of this backed up, of course, with the best possible live production, dancing and performance standards. As importantly, though, it will be a celebration of South African-ness in all its glorious diversity: who we were, our transition, the great ongoing South African journey, who we are today, and what is still so possible for us as a country. This show really will move you in so many different ways,” comments Roddy Quin of Real Concerts.

Mike Page, GM of Montecasino, says, “Montecasino and the Teatro are thrilled to be hosting such a momentous concert, marking Mango Groove’s 30 amazing years of enchanting South Africans and indeed the world with their very special sound. Montecasino is all about delivering memorable experiences to every visitor – and this event will fit that bill perfectly. We look forward to welcoming the band and the heart-warming and joyful celebration of one of country’s favourite sounds.”

Mango Groove’s 30th Anniversary Concert @ The Teatro, Montecasino, Fourways (Johannesburg).  Tickets from R300 now available from Computicket


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Aida Abridged

Greg Homann, (director), former Standard Bank Young Artist for Drama, has taken the famous grand opera and re-imagined it for a cast of three (two actor/singers and one pianist).  The two actor singers work hard playing all the main characters and telling out the entire tale in only 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Len-Barry Simons

It is also no longer a tragedy.  It has become a comedy. A musical comedy.

The two singer/actors are Clint Lesch and Len-Barry Simons.  The pianist is Wessel Odendaal.  The three of them make musical magic as they cavort around using visual and verbal humour to keep the audience amused throughout. Both singers are vocally secure and excellent actors.

Len-Barry Simons and Clint Lesch

I attended with both opera fundis and non-opera people in my group. It was interesting that the non-opera person caught the humour and enjoyed himself as much as the opera fundis. So no opera knowledge required, although I think knowing the original made it funnier (I might just be justifying my screeches of laughter).

Clint Lesch as Ameris, Coatstand as Aida and Len-Barry Simons as the Pharoah

Aida Abridged is exquisitely created and directed. It looks as if it has taken all the little mishaps from rehearsal and incorporated them into the work.  They are hilarious.

The scroll (part of the brilliant set) is beyond fabulous as it serves the function of both Egyptian hieroglyphs and surtitles.  The costumes pivot around hard hats embellished to represent their various characters.

I found the whole thing delightfully absurd and wonderful fun. I highly recommend it. It can be seen at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square until 1 February 2019.


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Aunty Merle, The Musical

Popular comedian, Marc Lottering’s most beloved alter ego, Aunty Merle Abrahams sashays onto the stage for the first time in Johannesburg with Aunty Merle, The Musical from 1 February until 3 March 2019 on The Mandela Stage at Joburg Theatre.

Written by comedian, Marc Lottering and directed by Lara Foot, the show has received four Fleur du Cap nominations and has already enjoyed two sell-out seasons in Cape Town to rave reviews.

a musical with an international punch, a debut production that astonishes with its assuredness.” – Karen Rutter, WeekendSpecial

“…witty one-liners that are met with sassy comebacks.” – Kirsten Delcie, Whats On In Cape Town

High drama unfolds in Belgravia Road, Athlone, as Merle’s daughter, Abigail, announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Alan.  As Merle puts it: “He’s a good looking white chap!”  But it’s never smooth-sailing in the world of musicals when Abigail’s twisted and corrupt ex, Denver Paulse – who holds a dodgy top job with the SABC – is determined to get her back – and if not, threatens to reveal a very dark secret which is bound to tear the lovers apart.

Aunty Merle, The Musical boasts a talented South African cast including Marc Lottering as Aunty Merle, Tracey-Lee Oliver as Abigail, Paul du Toit as Alan, Loukmaan Adams as Denver Paulse, with a stellar support cast including Royston Stoffels, Tankiso Mamabolo, Gina Shmukler, Adrian Galley, Carmen Maarman, Zandile Madliwa, Sizwesandile Mnisi, Anzio September, Crystal Finck and Austin Rose – accompanied by a live 8-piece band.

Twenty-two original songs, with lyrics by Marc Lottering and Tarryn Lamb; musical direction by Alistair Izobel and choreography by Grant Van Ster, have earned the cast thunderous standing ovations.

Aunty Merle – The Musical is suitable for all ages (no under 3’s).  Tickets from R145 are available through Webtickets and Pick ‘n Pay outlets.  Performances are Wednesdays to Saturdays at 8pm, with matinee shows on Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm.  Visit for more information.

Cape Town fans can also expect a triumphant return season at the Baxter Theatre from 3rd December, 2018 to 5th January, 2019.

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Family Day (26 December) Cricket at Centurion

Remember the advertisement “I don’t like cricket … I looooove it!”?  Well, I embody that advertisement.

Regular readers of my work will probably have heard this story before, but I will tell it again for those who haven’t.

I was in Standard Three (Grade Five by today’s reckoning) and we were all sent home with a form to say we had to two two summer sports, swimming being compulsory and one other.  I surveyed the list and knew already that I sucked at tennis and athletics.  I hadn’t tried cricket, so I put my name down for cricket.  My father signed the form without comment.

The next day at school my form caused consternation as I was told I can’t do cricket because I was a girl.  My father was phoned and he, women’s libber that he was, said “Cricket or nothing”.  Thus it was that I was made the cricket scorer and learned to love cricket more than a decade before watching cricket on TV made more women fans of cricket.

When I was in Port Elizabeth, the previous home of the Boxing Day test, I watched often, from the stairs above the first aid post at St George’s Park where I did lots of St John duties during my years spent in the Friendly City.

Now the Boxing Day test match has moved to Centurion, the SuperSport Park.  The reason it has moved is simply about money.  Not enough fans were attending in Port Elizabeth.  No altruism.  So here we are, trying to start a new tradition for Gauteng based cricket fans – a tradition of attending the cricket test match at SuperSport Park.

The PR boffins have dubbed it “it’s the new-est, family-est Boxing Day-est SA tradition”  and we are being invited to take our whole families (it is actually “Family Day”) out to the cricket.  

There are a lot of worse ways to spend Boxing Day than at the cricket.  Pack a picnic of all the Christmas dinner leftovers or eat the fast foods so thoughtfully provided by the hosts.  Drink their beers, cold drinks (they really are cold) and enjoy their ice creams. Support your team.  This year the Proteas are taking on Pakistan and there are lots of local Pakistani supporters in Gauteng.

We want this to become a tradition here in Gauteng, so we need to support this venture by putting our bums on the stadium seats.

Bring your South Africa flags, bring your face paints to paint the flag, bring your cameras and cricket supporters’ shirts.  Bring hats and sun protection.  Bring the kids.  Bring granny.

Proteas face paint.jpg

Yes.  Bring granny (or other mobility impaired family member or friend).  The bleachers may be out of the question, but there is always the grass (and these are the cheap “seats” if one is mobility impaired.  There is VIP parking for vehicles displaying the correct stickers for wheelchair access.  These tickets are R80 for pensioners (take your SASSA card) and for children between 7 and 17.  R120 for others.  Importantly, don’t go looking for tickets on Computicket.  They are being sold by TicketPro.


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