Free theatre on Durban beach

A scene from the 2018 Fresha Festival offering free entertainment at Durban’s North Beach. This year’s festival runs from January 18 to 20.


DURBAN’S third annual Fresha Festival of theatre, scheduled to be held on North Beach from January 18 to 20, will feature works that are non-verbal and run for 15 to 20 minutes.

The Fresha team has selected a programme of vibrant, engaging works to be staged during the day in the open-air. They will be free to all.

The format for the Saturday and Sunday entertainment is similar, featuring shows that are accessible to people of all ages and are family-friendly.

“What could be more quintessentially Durban than a summer festival of free family theatre?,” says festival director Emma Durden, who points out that the event will launch at 5pm on Friday, January 18, with an opening procession along the beachfront promenade and a performance showcase on the Bay of Plenty lawns.

This performance will be a trailer package from all festival participants, to give audiences a taste of what is in store during the festival, adds Durden.

The fun programme starts at 7am on Saturday, January 19, with a free, open yoga class, followed by a free, open dance class led by last year’s Standard Bank for Dance Award winner, Musa Hlatswayo, and his group of dancers. Saturday’s dance will be DanceXercise class, while Sunday will offer a Zumba class.

At 9am on the Saturday, a selection of public participative workshops will be offered, covering street theatre and recycled art.

Join the Mzansi Arts Development Ensemble for a workshop on creating art out of waste on the Saturday, and join acclaimed Dutch performer Gerard Olthaar for a masterclass in street performance for an hour on the Sunday.

“All day every day, add your wisest bit of advice from your favourite song in our open art exhibition: Advice from Songs. Inspired by Swiss srtist Marcus Kraft and his work,  PopMusicWisdom.”

The first show of the festival starts at 1pm on the Saturday with a dramatic one-hander performance by Durban-based conceptual artist Doung Jahangeer. His challenging work has opened both previous Fresha festivals.

Charming, innovative and funny, Netherlands comedy street performer Gerard Olthaar – also a Fresha regular – will amuse audiences with his antics, before a contemporary dance piece at 2pm: Tran(ce)itions by Sizwe Hlope.  Street theatre continues with two pieces by Township Arts Academic and 034 Drama group.

At 3pm will be a performance with puppets, entitled The Thing About Wolves, created and performed by the Mahlekahlathini Mask & Puppet Players from the KZN Midlands in collaboration with puppeteers from the acclaimed Handspring Puppet company.

Zamokhukhanye Productions follow with a street theatre piece. Deaf performer Sibo Masondo charms the audience with some innovative original mime.

At 4pm, Jarryd Watson’s tenacious group of dancers from Wentworth Arts and Culture will perform a street-dance piece, full of tricks.

The final two performances of the day  will celebrate physicality – with Unyezi Productions doing a physical theatre piece and InnoV8 Gym / Bluefire Productions wrapping up the theatre programme for the day with an aerial act.

On both Saturday and Sunday, the days will end with sundowner music concerts on the lawn. On Saturday it will b the turn of The South Jersey Pom-poms and Sunday will see  an unusual combination of Afro-blues and opera featuring Zulu Blue and La Canta Rosa.

During the day there will be all-day art and interactions to enjoy, including  the I Speak for the Trees exhibition of recycled art. This is a project of Mzansi Arts Development Ensemble, featuring life-size trees made of rubbish found along the Durban beachfront by young artists in a mentorship programme led by Christine Adams.

Between acts, visitors will be invited to make a hand-written poster inspired by Advice from Songs – a participative project by Swiss artist Marcus Kraft.

The Fresha Festival is directed by Emma Durden, supported by Roel Twijnstra and is presented by Twist Theatre Development Projects which focuses on the development of community theatre groups in KwaZulu-Natal, and on creating sustainable relationships and networks for theatre development, both locally and abroad.

Twist is funded by The National Lotteries Commission and the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. Additional funding forFresha has also been graciously provided by eThekwini Municipality the Department of Arts and Culture, KZN and the KZN Performing Arts Trust.

All festival events are at the Bay of Plenty lawns, North Beach, and are free of charge. There is a tent for rainy days, so visit whatever the weather!

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