Grahamstown plays host to the National Arts Festival for ten days in the winter school holidays each year. 969 kilometres away from the NAF Wits Theatre at the Wits University gives some of these plays “legs”, allowing them a Johannesburg run, and allowing Johannesburg based audiences an opportunity to see some of the works that were at the National Arts Festival.
Gita Pather, Director of Wits Theatre, has curated a programme of 16 productions which deal with themes of sex, suffering, death, anti-Semitism, poverty, despair, society and history. Wits Theatre bar will be open and meals will be available.
The 969 Festival kicks off on Wednesday 15 July 2015 with Singarevva and the Palace by well-know Indian theatre artist, Laxmi Chandrasheka. It is a solo adaptation of a novel by Dr C Kambara, and it looks at the suffering of women in feudal India. This is at the Downstairs Theatre at 19:00. This is followed at 20:15 by Baterimba with Columbian drummer, Carlos Balanta, in the Main Theatre.
On Friday 17 July 2015 at 17:00 (yes, Braamfontein traffic is always crazy in peak time and worse on Fridays) I will be attending a poetry performance in the main theatre foyer. We have been promised that this will not be shouted at us so fast that we won’t be able to take it in. Then at 19:00 I will be going to the site specific Alexa, a mobile play with an audience of three.
On Saturday 18 July 2015 I will be starting early, seeing Boegoespruit Ext 25, a student play set in a mythical township, at noon in the Nunnery. At 14:00 I will be seing Hirsh and then at 16:00 I will be seeing Jemma Kahn’s We didn’t come to Hell for the Croissants: 7 deadly new stories for adults. At 17:15 I may see Cenotaph of Dan wa Moriri if I am not brain dead by then. I have already seen this work (at last year’s So Solo Festival) and can recommend it.
On Sunday 19 July 2015 I will be seeing Smaarties at 16:00 and Father, Father, Father with Toni Morkel directing Roberto Pombo, Joni Barnard and Rachael Neary at 18:00.
Kafka and Son is Downstars at 13:15 on Tuesday 21 July 2015, and parking permitting, I will see this then.
On Wednesday 22 July 2015 I will be at the poetry performance (providing it is different to the one above) at 17:00 and then at 18:15 I will be at Simply Sapiens. The international Ndebele Funeral follows at 19:30.
On Saturday 25 July 2015 Crossing at 14:00 will find me in the audience.
The last day of the 969 is Sunday 26 July 2015 and I will be seeing Dead Yellow Sands directed by Bo Petersen in Graham Weir’s own stories at 14:00 and a poetry performance in the foyer at 15:15 with Kafka’s Ape at 16:45 and Actress and Girl at 18:00.