Booking opens for Hilton Arts Fest

Alward-winning South African playwright, Mike van Graan’s play, Green Man Flashing, sees Michelle Douglas and Litha Bam (pictured) in a fast-paced political thriller written in a filmic style,


THE FULL programme has been unveiled and booking opens today for the 26th annual Hilton Arts Festival which runs from September 14 to 16 at venues throughout the grounds of picturesque Hilton College.

Were it up to me, the show one simply should not miss would be the 90-minute Die Reuk van Appels, scheduled for performances at 3pm on the Saturday and 10am on the Sunday at the college’s Memorial Hall. Tickets cost R175 each.

Following sold-out performances and a sensational national tour (including the 2017 National Arts Festival main programme and the Fugard Theatre), this award-winning production stars Gideon Lombard in the stage adaption of the acclaimed 1993 debut novel by South African author Mark Behr

The play, directed by Lara Bye, tells the coming-of-age story of Marnus Erasmus, the 11-year-old son of a South African Defence Force general. It is said to eloquently capture the Afrikaner mentality in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the brutal consequences of apartheid and militarisation of South African life.

The festival invites the most interesting offerings from the creative industries in South Africa: theatre; dance; comedy; musical theatre; family theatre; classical music; music revue; big band and contemporary music; visual art and crafts, as well as a series of ‘mindscape’ lectures, events and discussions.

This year, in honour of Nelson Mandela’s centenary commemorations, the three-day event has a strong Madiba feel – two massive outdoor exhibitions, the first being the thought-provoking THINK bench, encouraging patrons to think differently. The second will be based outside the Chapel: T.O.L.E.R.A.N.C.E is a monumental public art sculpture consisting of nine letters in bronze by international artist Guy Ferrer.

Gideon Lombard in the widely acclaimed Die Reuk Van Appels. Picture by Sanmari Marais.

Inspired by the life and character of Mandela, pianist, composer, arranger, Burton Naidoo has transcribed some of Mandela’s most iconic speeches and created a musical backdrop to them entitled Our Song. Also, a collection of John Meyer’s artworks, Mandela: A Life’s Journey, will be on display and making its second appearance at the festival is the wonderful participative initiative, 67 Blankets for Mandela.

Confirmed productions include Mike van Graan’s brilliant drama Green Man Flashing, a fast-paced political thriller written in a filmic style and featuring an all-star cast. Also a must-see is Suddenly the Storm, written by and starring Paul Slabolespszym Charmaine Weir-Smith and Renate Stuurman under the direction of Bobby Heaney, The play, seen at Durban’s Playhouse Company last year and reviewed by me under Theatre on this site, boasts a stunning Naledi Award-winning set design by Durban’s Greg King.

Another good Hilton arts Festival pick is Selwyn & Gabriel by Richard Kaplan, a play offering a magical, modern mystery about two strangers with secrets. I have also booked for Silkwormia 2018 Standard Bank Ovation Award winner that weaves a beautiful cocoon around reality. Created and directed by Jenine Collocott, the play is performed by Taryn Bennett.

Another interesting choice is Narrative Dreams, a play written by Lereko Mfono and directed by award-winning director and actor, Omphile Molusi.

Jakob focuses on an fascinating mélange of mythology, folk tale and rural narration exploring the life of an unusual little boy, based on a short story by lighting designer, Michael Taylor-Broderick. The work has been adapted for the stage by award-winning actress,Clare Mortimer. It stars Bryan Hiles and is directed by Michael Taylor-Broderick.

Taylor-Broderick has also written and conceived The King of Broken Things, a festival play about a wild and magical excursion into the rehabilitation of broken and discarded objects, hearts included.

The Ugly Noo Noo rocked the theatre world in 1988, featuring the infamous Parktown Prawn.  A new version at the festival will be performed by physical theatre actor, Mpilo ‘Straw’ Nzimande.

Also look out for You Suck and Other Inescapable Truths, an interdisciplinary play which tells the tale of the spirited misadventures of a Grade 9 Afrikaans pupil/underdog, Prettina, and her crucial survival-advice as a minority in an Anglophile high school.

For those in search of a laugh – there is an extensive comedy line up featuring the talents of John Vlismas, Rob van Vuuren Aaron McIlroy, James Cairns, Jem Atkins, and Masood Boomgaard. Also, mentalist Brendon Peel makes his first festival appearance with his show Hocus Pocus.

There is an extensive musical theatre line-up looking at the legends of Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, the Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen and Miriam Makeba; as well as concerts centred on love in its many guises and life as a performer.

An interesting piece for lovers of dance is Chiffonnade, a dance performance specifically made for toddlers and young children, created by French choreographer Michelle Dhallu of Carré Blanc Cie which has toured extensively internationally. Also Ash and Brad Searle, AKA The Big Boys, team with Vanessa Harris and friends for three different dance-themed shows.

Other musical concerts include Classic Blast presented by the KZN Youth Orchestra; The Drakensberg Boys Choir in Concert; The KZN All Stars Big Band; A gypsy journey for voice and piano; Last Night of the Hilton Proms; The Durban Symphonic Choir performing Dvorak’s Mass in D; concerts by Andrew Warburton (solo piano and with a quartet); Myfanwy Price (oboe) and Liezl-Maret Jacobs (piano); acoustic duo Digby and the Lullaby; and Guy Buttery and Kanada Narahari.

Recognising one of South Africa’s greatest landscape artists, the Hilton Arts Festival will be hosting a retrospective exhibition of the works of Errol Boyley to honour him -100 years after he was born. The exhibition travels up from the Ramsgate Art and Books Festival to the walls of the Normand Dunn Art Gallery in the main Grindrod Theatre at the festival. This historic exhibition features a large body of work of Pietermaritzburg-born Errol Boyley and is simply titled, Boyley’s World.

Comedian John Vlismas is among Hilton Arts Festival attractions this year,

There is a strong art feel this year as 100 artists’ work will be on display all around the festival grounds.

Other programme highlights include a talk by Sonja Kruse, also known as ‘The uBuntu Girl’; in conversation with playwright and actor Paul Slabolepszy; and various talks on music by Richard Haslop – who also appears in Michael Cross’s documentary, The Fun’s Not Over, about the life and music of James Phillips.

Strauss & Co will be hosting fun and informative mock auctions; there will be living art demos; and Janet Solomon’s documentary on the plight of whales, Becoming Visible, will be screened. Also on offer are a workshop presented by Assitej, facilitated by Lereko Mfono; the ever innovative TWIST Theatre’s Novel to Script project will present variations on “Hunger Eats a Man”and the annual interactive murder-mystery dinner this year is The Strange Case of the Beaujolais Venus.

There are two mini festivals embedded in the main programme: The Jongosi Festival, embedded in the main festival, takes place on Friday, September 14, and has a carefully selected, age-appropriate programme aimed at Grades 6 to10, while Assetej hosts a programme of theatre and creative projects for young audiences.

The festival would not be possible without the generous support of Hilton College, Tiso Black Star, Grindrod Bank, Black Coffee Design, DWR Distribution, Extreme Events, Bidvest Car Rental,  KZN Dept of Arts & Culture, Redlands Hotel, Assitej South Africa, Loud Crowd, Sappi,  BASA, Corona and Capital Media.

For more info visit or like the Facebook page, Hilton Arts Festival. Follow us on Twitter @HiltonFest

All enquiries on 033 383 0126 / 7 or The 26th annual Hilton Arts Festival will run from 14 to 16 September.  The full programme is on . Online bookings open today and programmes are now available from various outlets in Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

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