G’town set for great fest

The National Arts Festival swings into a first big weekend of action with three sold out shows for Irish international comedian Dylan Moran.

There’s also heaps of jazz featuring Stirling High-schooled star drummer Kesivan Naidoo rolling up a storm together with an international crew of Swedes and Danes.

The 60th celebration of the Rhodes-based International Library of African Music (Ilam) sees Pondo music queen, Madosini Manqina, heading up a bill of spectacular traditional musicians and dancers at the Celebrating African Music concert today.

WATER WOES: Khaya Kondile and Mandisi Heshu rehearseperform during a dress rehearsal for Rob Murray’s production ‘Waterline’, in Grahamstownon 1 July 2015, at the National Arts Festival. Murray’s new mask work takes a satirical look at Grahamstown’s water crisis  Picture:  CUEPIX
WATER WOES: Khaya Kondile and Mandisi Heshu during a dress rehearsal for Rob Murray’s production ‘Waterline’, in Grahamstownon 1 July 2015, at the National Arts Festival. Murray’s new mask work takes a satirical look at Grahamstown’s water crisis Picture: CUEPIX

Living legend, satirist Pieter Dirk-Uys today performs his world premier of African Times, which is a political family drama set in a future South Africa where the Chinese are “involved” with a Cabinet minister taking an Oriental wife.

Uys also takes a few swipes at Nkandla.

Load-shedding has been minimal with festival chief executive Tony Lankester saying the groundwork had been laid for an immediate response to any glitches.

In an exclusive interview with Saturday Dispatch, Lankester said he had tried for years to get Moran on the bill, and having the Black Books TV star’s first SA tour performance held at the festival had attracted over 1000 brand new festinos.

“His shows sold out faster than any other show since I have been at festival. We will break even but everyone who comes to see him will buy tickets to other shows; the knock-on effect for the festival will be felt,” he said.

Lankester said a group of 27 young performers “aged from seven upwards” from Lavender Hill Primary in Cape Town had been defrauded of accommodation.

“They booked through someone we do not know. Paid their R17000 and arrived to find an empty plot of grass. They spent the night at the Monument and we have found them dormitory accommodation which we will be paying for.”

Lankester said it was too early to determine the character or “mojo” of the 41st festival but everything was in place and the programme was strong.

“But it will find its groove. South Africa is in a funny place. South Africa is a bit depressed and sad and this festival is where it comes to a head. It’s where artists and audiences come to blow off a bit of steam. It is a bit of an escape valve.”

While a lot of accommodation was booked, he said there was still room “if you scratch under the surface”.

The festival covers 25 genres of art on a pre-booked Main programme and a free-for-all sink-or-swim Fringe. There are also a number of adjacent festivals on the go, Wordfest, Think!Fest and Spiritfest.

The Eastern Cape and national government have made the festival their home, with Premier Phumulo Masualle hosting a cheering opening crowd.

The provincial government, through MEC Pemmy Majodina’s sport, recreation, arts and culture department, has enabled the festival to be accessed by thousands of Eastern Cape people at the festival

The weather is set to be mild with some cloud.

Nights have been bitterly cold with mist rolling down the valley but the venues have been toasty. — mikel@dispatch.co.za

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