Variety of shows from centre

Well-known performing arts centre, Artscape, as usual brings world-class productions to this year’s National Arts Festival.

The festival, which starts today, celebrates various facets of the arts and sees thousands from around the world gathering to perform or watch the shows.

Artscape is presenting three South African drama productions, UndoneReturn of the Ancestors and Chomi, a production from Botswana, Morwa The Rising Son, and a dance production, Unmute.

Undone, the winner of the 2014 Standard Bank Ovation Award, and the Return of the Ancestors are both returning to the festival this year.

The one-man show Undone stars Wessel Pretorius, who portrays numerous roles in this sensual and bewitching story of a boy and his dysfunctional family.

Mike van Graan’s humorous drama Return of the Ancestors sees a council of ancestors sending a two-person delegation, comprising Steve Biko and Neil Aggett, to experience the country as it is now and to report back to them. The two go on a road trip across the country and make their way to Nkandla for a major celebration.

Biko is played by Siya Sikawuti and Aggett by Mandisi Sindo. Sikawuti said he was excited the production was returning to the festival.

Sikawuti said Return of the Ancestors was a story that “reflects the country’s reality”.

“Mike chose a theatre style that is relevant to South Africa. The production tells the relevant truth about the country today. The production sees us showing newspaper headlines which are informing people what is currently happening in our country,” Sikawuti said.

He said playing the role of Biko was not an easy task.

“There isn’t much on him but the television interview he did. We find the intellectual side of him through his work but we do not know how he related practically. His portrayal is very imaginative.”

Sikawuti said the first time they brought the production to the festival they received mixed views about it.

“There were some people who were offended by it. Some even asked why would we play in a production that painted black people negatively.

“They interpreted the production as an attack on our current government but in reality it showcases everything that has been happening in these past 20 years of democracy,” he said.

The University of Cape Town graduate also features in the production Chomi, which made its debut last year at the Artscape Cape Town Spring Festival.

The play is set in Johannesburg and follows the lives of four black, openly gay twentysomething men.

“The story is much deeper than all the gay plays I’ve seen before. It looks at the serious issues they experience in their lives. When it first played in Cape Town it was well received and I think people in Grahamstown will enjoy it as much as those in Cape Town did.”

Other actors in the the show include Anele Situlweni, Robert Haxton, Yanga Mkonto, Sipho Mahlatshana and Mandisi Sindo. All Artscape productions are playing at the Gymnasium from today until July 11. —

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