THE line-up for the 2007 Witness Hilton Arts Festival has been finalised and even if festival organiser Sue Clarence has sprouted a whole crop of grey hairs in putting the programme together, the result is an interesting and high-quality collection of shows, concerts, comedy and talks.
But getting the 15th festival to this stage has not been easy. Earlier this year, the National Lotteries Board announced an injection of R3 million into the event, to allow Clarence to put into place a major
project to upgrade theatre, music and technical skills as well to bring an international performer or production to the festival. It was all very exciting.
Cause for grey hairs
However, causing the grey hairs, up to now no money has been forthcoming. This is nothing to do with the well-publicised problems of appointing a lottery operator – the money promised to the festival is there and a contract has been signed. But the chairman of the arts allocations committee has been suspended due to a fraud investigation and there is apparently no one else at the Lotteries Board who can authorise payment. So Clarence has had to put all the grand plans on hold until next year and to cancel the arrangement to bring the Australian production, The Stones, to Hilton – for now, at least.
But despite a difficult few months, Clarence has come up with a mouth-watering selection of shows, headed by The Witness flagship production, The Travellers. “I’ve been trying to get this one for Hilton for several years but it has always been overseas at festivals,” says Clarence. The action takes place in a gypsy caravan and gives the audience a glimpse into the life of the “formidable Frosts”, a very unusual family and their illusions and delusions.
Other shows on the main that look set to pull the crowds include Bafana Republic, a sketch-comedy collaboration between playwright Mike van Graan and cartoonist Zapiro; Janice Honeyman directing Ben Voss in Beauty and the BEE; the Artscape production of Beethoven, in Raptus starring Graham Weir as Beethoven; Rob van Vuuren and James Cairns in Brother Number, set in the Department of Home Affairs; Doctor Collinger’s Funeral Service, directed by Janet Buckland and starring Daniel Buckland and Taryn Bennett; Gumbo, presented by a mixed company of deaf and hearing theatre makers and picking up plaudits wherever it is performed; Jutro, hailed as “the must-see fringe show” at Grahamstown; Mamba – Director’s Cut with Ben Voss and James Cunningham; Mouche, which stars Tim Redpath from last year’s sell-out,
Prodigal; a new KickstArt production of The Mystery of Irma Vep starring Steven Stead and Michael Gritten and You Raise Me Up – A Tribute to Josh Groban performed by Rory McLaren.
Music Revival’s Christopher Duigan has put together 12 concerts for Music on the Main – so look out for the Kerimov Trio, guitarist James Grace, a jazz night with Mageshen Naidoo and friends, award-winning Ukranian pianist Tanya Ursova and many more.
On the fringe, Clarence is particularly pleased to be able to host three shows from the Savannah Theatre Project from the United States. The company, headed by Thom Pasculli, is made up of 13 performers from all over the world and Pasculli contacted Clarence to say he would be in South Africa in September and asked if he could come to the festival and bring three of his shows. One, Contes Fantastiques et Agités (Fantastic and Agitated Stories), features a renowned French storyteller with a collection of tales from Brittany and Northern Europe, while the others are Freedom! And the Sticky End of Make-Believe, a satire on coming of age in an American neighbourhood, and Hungry Tigers with a Danish and English acting duo being both humans and cats – and hungry.
Another piece to look forward to is Mike van Graan’s Mirror, Mirror, directed by Geoffrey Hyland. The play is set in a medieval castle complete with beautiful princess, nobleman and serfs but it is in reality a satire on contemporary South Africa. Other well-known faces on the fringe will include Michael de Pinna (Yebo Gogo); Anthony Stonier; Ma’s Boys and Paul Spence and Annie Robinson whose Strange Case of Hester Cilliers sold out at last
year’s festival. This time they have a new dinner thriller – The Strange Case of the Midlands Heiress. One show Clarence is particularly pleased to have is Chronicles of a Car Guard, Lisa Bobbert’s new one-woman comedy, written and directed by Susan Monteregge and which combines humour and pathos.
And if you are looking for something different, Thinkfest will once again present creative workshops, talks and films, ranging from a talk on KwaZulu-Natal trading shops to a film on Shostakovich, an exploration of bread making and a performance lecture of erotic Greek and Latin Poetry.
The full booking kit will be published in The Witness on August 17, and from the next day, will be available at www.artslink.co.za/hilton and at selected Spar shops and Midlands Meander outlets.
The festival will run from September 14 to 16.