BY BILLY SUTER
DURBAN’S Playhouse Company presented some of the finest works of the year during its 2017 Playhouse New Stages mini-festival – and good news is that this year’s event will run in the city centre arts complex from May 16 to 27.
Among highlights will be the two-hander Whistle Stop, scheduled for the Playhouse Loft from May 24 to 27, directed by Frances Slabolepszy. It features award-winning, real-life couple Ameera Patel and Jaques de Silva, who unpack the dynamics of a single meeting between a man and a woman on a park bench.
Conceived as a tribute to the work of legendary British playwright and actor Steven Berkoff, the piece is said to sensitively and charmingly explore modern urban relationships. Through a combination of cutting, rapid-fire dialogue and intense physical embodiment, the text explodes off the stage and takes the audience on a comedic rollercoaster ride through past, present, and future possible relationship dilemmas.
Touch My Blood, a work by the Playhouse Company Actors’ Studio incubation programme, directed by Matjamela Motloung, will run in the Playhouse Grand Foyer from May 16 to 20.
The work is said to focus on a tale of a young man growing up in Hammarsdale, just outside Durban. Through him we are taken back to the 1970s – when every young man worth his salt had the Afro, the bell bottom trousers and platform shoes that went alongside a time of fear and madness, and the division (both political and radical) that shook that part of Durban.
“Touch My Blood allows you to heal; it rewinds the tape, allowing you to witness some of what happened in South Africa. You are not only left with anger, but shake your head and laugh,” says a Playhouse spokesman.
Another festival pick is Ukuzinza, a celebration of Africa that is an in-house Playhouse Company production created as part of the Playhouse Dance Residency programme. Choreographed by Mzo Gasa, the production runs in the Playhouse Drama from May 23 to 27.
The Playhouse Company’s 2018 New Stages Fringe will comprise eight community theatre productions in The Loft.
At noon on May 11 and 12, the first of four double bills features Lost Bundle and The Last Chapter. A drama performed by Intuba Arts Development group, Lost Bundle revolves around the trials of a young woman who lives with her disabled mother. iThubalabasha Theatre Company’s The Last Chapter is a coming-of-age story about an 18-year old youth facing his father’s spiritual legacy.
The second double bill, comprising shows titled My Journey and World, plays at 3pm on 11 and 12 May. Performed by the Siyathuthuka group, My Journey depicts a girl who grows up not knowing her identity but knowing her dreams. World, an Edgy Drama Mix Production, depicts challenges youth face growing up in a harsh environment.
The third double bill plays at noon on May 18 and 19. This features The Secret Box and Umsuka. The Secret Box, an Unyezi theatre project, depicts two people trapped in the walls of hope, while aiming to confess what they have done in the past. Umsuka, a Siwela Sonke dance piece told through powerful movement, music and images, tackles the issue of old family secrets when the new generation starts questioning.
The final double bill on the Fringe will be at 3pm on May 18 and 19. 1t includes Ubambo Lwami and I Married My Father. Ubambo Lwami, a Phakama Dance Theatre production, presents three characters struggling to stay open minded as they face what is foreign to them; I Married My Father, performed by Dannhauser Active Rural Women Ensemble, portrays a young woman whose chance of happiness is compromised by her mother’s involvement with a married man.
A dialogue session focusing on the theme Disrupting Patriarchy takes place in the Playhouse Drama at noon on May 25 as part of the festival.
To understand and challenge the ways in which patriarchy (male dominance) privileges males and disadvantages females, this session aims to stimulate a debate examining how men and woman in relationships and work places, as well as boys and girls in schools and higher education, engage with each other in these spaces, but are polarised in so many ways.
Chaired by UKZN Gender Education Specialist, Dr Bronwynne Anderson, the panel will include: Ubuntu Community Chest Social Worker, Ms Zama Mabaso; UKZN Masters Student, Nkonzo Mkhize, a Research Assistant at the Centre for Visual Methodologies for Social Change; Ms Wendy Augustine, a Trauma Councilor at the Victim Friendly Centre; Ms Pinkie Mtshali, Music Director at Emanuel Cathedral; and Mduduzi Majola of the South African Police Force.
The festival will also feature Africa aLive: Pop-up Fashion Installation, curated by Derrick Mhlongo. It will showcase a high-end couture extravaganza of A- list South African designers. This runs from 5pm to 5.45pm on Saturday, May 26, in the Grand Foyer.
By way of a sneak preview to the event, Pop Up stalls with Mannequins will be set up in the Main Foyer from noon on Friday, May 25.
New Stages 2018 also features a series of arts and crafts exhibitions in the Main Foyer, with openings on May 11, 12, 18, 19 , 20, 24 and 25.
Complementing the festival line-up are a Test Drive session at 10am on May 25 May, where upcoming local bands get to perform; a Sundowners concerts at 5pm on May 25 for established bands, and another Sundowner’s concert at 5pm on May 26 for established bands and poets .
“The annual New Stages festivals have long offered front-line entertainment for our various audiences, as well as provide exciting performance opportunities for the wide range of artists who get appear on our stages,” says Linda Bukhosini, the company’s chief executive and artistic director.
“In curating the festival roster each year, we are mindful of the brief we hold as an agency of the Department of Arts and Culture, to uphold our obligation with regard to contributing towards a healthy nation building ethic, and to follow principles that encourage social cohesion through the shows we present to our public.”
For further festival info booking details and performance times with regard to all New Stages shows, visit www.playhousecompany.com or call (031) 369 9540 (office hours).