You could see on his face that south London comedian Steven K Amos could not quite believe how receptive his South African audience at the National Arts Festival was to his abrasive attack on sacred SA cows.
So he gave it to them.
Car guards in Grahamstown’s High Street were given the jibe: “I can drive! I can park my own f***** car!”
How could we call Grahamstown a city just because it has a cathedral, “It’s a village, man!”
And Pick n Pay was not spared: “You pick you pay, you don’t pick and run away! WTF!”
Hundreds of festinoes at the Guy Butler Theatre found they loved being looked at from the outside.
He cut into racial stereotypes, played with his thick London and Nigerian accents, and did a lot of educating about sex, being black and being gay. “The talk, did your dad give you the talk?”
His best laughs came from lampooning the British royals though, especially Prince Philip, who he said seemed to pop up everywhere, and “will just never die”, with a quip about Zuma also hanging on.
It was a long show with an interval, but the BBC star, who is on a world tour, took it to the full hour and 45 minutes before thanking his audience to a standing ovation.
lAcross the valley at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival, contemporary acoustic guitar maestro Guy Buttery delved into the world of jazz with 2014 Sama winner and bassist Shane Cooper, and sharp hipster percussionist Ronan Skillen.
My previous jazz outing the night before saw The Kiffness and Mathew Gold nail the fusion of electro-pop, trance, RnB and jazz. But Buttery’s beautiful cape, organic rhythm and pressure-point notes felt too aural and drifty to jiggle the hips and get the toes tapping. He needs to get off the chair and pop a few jazz moves all of his own. If Dan Patlansky can shift from a wooden body presence on stage to vein-popping, shirt open, face-warped, rocking banshee, maybe Buttery could bring a bit of body performance beyond flicking his admittedly gorgeous locks out the way of his magical fingers.
The audience loved the show but I don’t think Buttery has quite got it yet. Maybe if he found a few Afro-blues notes to work into his compositions we could cross over with him. Sorry maestro.
lIn a superbly researched paper, East London journalist and 2016 heart transplant beneficiary Raymond Hartle delved into the life of South Africa’s most famous surgeon, Chris Barnard, analysing his political role as a friend and ambassador of the National Party regime while also acknowledging Barnard’s pioneering activism in pushing the boundaries of medicine and care which saved Hartle’s life.
In a finely weighted presentation, Barnard was richly observed – heavily criticised but also acknowledged with some difficulty.
It is the 50th anniversary of a moment in history which rivalled that of a man walking on the moon, and Hartle’s piece – written from the grounded perspective of having a second heart beating in his chest, combined with his health journalism masters studies and a life of journalism and politics – is bound to be referenced by
national and international media and institutions in the coming months as a definitive account.
It has a thrilling description of his life-and-death moments on the surgery table, which should become an international standard for health journalists trying to pen a timeline.
lNearby, inside Fort Selwyn next to the Monument building, Knysna artist Guy Thesen has created a clean, calming space which radiates with colour from his new Bridges series of superwood hand-carved woodcuts painted over in primary colours. Thesen is exploring the vicious contemporary trap we are in and our desire to find a way over from rude physicality to a world of creative imagination, freedom, a loving self, and acceptance.
Reasonably priced great art is tough to find at the festival.
A large but engrossing charcoal depicting multiple figures of Jacob Zuma in Caesar’s toga falling down cold stairs until he is down on his hands and knees has an asking price of R40000.
Other works cost only a few hundred. — Mikel@dispatch.co.za