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Feeste | Festivals > Artikels | Features

Smaller motifs from the National Arts Festival 2011


Anton Krueger - 2011-07-14

Untitled Document

On July 9th I wrote a slightly ponderous article for Cue on the historical themes present in many of the shows at the Grahamstown festival this year, and then another, even more ponderous item on the 10th about authenticity and indigenous dance; but there were also a number of smaller motifs which seemed to recur in the shows I saw.

For example, there was also a motif I spotted of guys taking their shirts off – from Jamie Bartlett in Death of aforementioned Colonialist, to Gideon Lombaard in Tara Notcutt’s moving two-hander Miskien, and the boys in Josh Martin’s Bru (Mikey von Bardeleben and Sandi Dlangalala). In almost all the cases, as soon as the guys went topless the sucked-in belly was much in evidence, particularly if you happened to notice their tight little pot-bellies below before the shirts came off. On the last night of the festival, instead of going to the ‘shrooms and gypsies party at the tunnels, we preferred to stay in with the new Sophia Coppola film, Somewhere, and I must say I really appreciated Stephen Dorff’s unashamedly pouting belly in his shirtless scene. He made no attempt at all to suck that guy in. I must say that back at the festival, in Andrew Buckland’s full nudity in Wreckage, as well as in his shower scene in Athina Vahla’s Topos series at the Arts Lounge, I witnessed the most natural onstage belly ever, with nary a sign of a stiffly inhaled diaphragm apparent.

And then the theme of “the lecture” also appeared in a number of plays I saw, from Gaeten Schmid’s Body Language to the school history lesson in Death of the aforementioned Colonialist and (best of all) William Kentridge and François Sarhanat’s Telegrams from the Nose & Lectures by Professor Glaçon, a marvellously irreverent experiment in music and animation – Terry Gilliam meets Wittgenstein. There were also other lectures, like the musical oddities I went to at the music conference that was on at the same time, and I heard enthusiastic reports from the Fanon lecture series. So that was nice – I like a good lecture.

What also felt like a small theme to me was the small show, the limited audience. Some of the best shows I got to had very few people allowed in. For instance, Athina Vahla’s daily series at the Arts Lounge allowed only a very limited audience in. She used established artists, like Gerald Machona and Buckland, as well as locals – from the university and the streets of Grahamstown – to show a really beautiful series of small contemporary performance vignettes from 14h00 to 14h15 every day for those fortunate enough to have stumbled across them. Other small shows include the three inTRANCEient shows (anti.gone; dis.clos.ure and -sub),as well as the finest and loveliest thing seen at the whole of the fest: Iris Brunette.

My favourite show that I didn’t actually see was the slide show Daddy Day, which had an audience of 15 and was held inside Nigel Mullins’s lounge. Just hearing about the show from the people raving about it, seeing its reflection in the consciousness of other people left me with a real regret at missing it, but also a pleasurable kind of mysterious longing that probably couldn’t have been fulfilled by watching it.

So there you go. Maybe this is an indication of the synchronicity of the shows clustered around my viewing of them, which might say more about my own projections than the festival; but if history was the big theme, then these were some of the smaller motifs – lectures, small shows and bare chests.