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Festival gets under way

Christelle du Toit

    Many festival-goers and stall owners are concerned about the future of the Festival as the threat of closure still hangs over the oldest Arts Festival in the country. Standard Bank will not be acting as an umbrella sponsor from next year onwards, although they will still be involved as one of the bigger sponsors.

To go to the Grahamstown Festival is an experience in itself. Known generally as an exclusively English Festival, it surprises most Festival first-timers who encounter a huge number of performances in Afrikaans as well as in a number of African languages. This is the one Festival that could possibly provide art lovers with a diversity of performances that cater extensively for many tastes.

Whether the Festival will live up to this expectation remains to be seen, though. Excited festies have already started filtering into this paradoxical city, where the high arts encounter Eastern Cape poverty on a day to day basis. No Festival-goer is able to walk down the street without being confronted with a barrage of beggars, but this is something Grahamstonians have, unfortunately, become all too accustomed to.

People on the street this morning were still slightly ambivalent as to what this year’s numbers are going to be like, but the general opinion is that there should be a good number of people at the Festival. The Grahamstown ticket-office were saying yesterday that the pre-booked sales are looking very promising, although sales in town have been slightly slower than in previous years.

The word on the street, however, is that everyone wants to see as much as possible of the Festival offerings, which is exactly what I aim to do. I decided to start my Festival experience with something a bit less mainstream, and had a look at the National English Literary Museum of South Africa (NELM) exhibition: “Towards the truth: Douglas Livingstone, poet and scientist” on Thursday in Grahamstown. The exhibition features some of Livingstone’s work and correspondence, including extracts from his The Hi-IQ Haiku. The exhibition also features a sculpture of Livingstone sponsored by Hannah Lunie, who has already created a bust of this enigmatic man. As a literary lover I found the exhibit very interesting, and NELM’s deputy-director Jeremy Frogg’s intense enthusiasm is definitely catching. It is definitely worthwhile taking a few minutes off from a busy Festival programme to have a look at this exhibition.

On the other hand, The House Husband, featuring Aldo Brincat, was not as satisfying. The audience consisted of mostly older and middle-aged people and I got the distinct impression that you had to be married for about five years to appreciate the play more. The piece deals with issues surrounding immigration, and especially the impact it can have on a marriage. There were times when the actor’s jokes went down well with the audience, but his tendency to forget his lines took away from this. Still, if you’re interested in theatre with an “older” theme, go for it. Personally, I would rather have given it a miss.

Still, I am not discouraged and will be attending as many shows at the Festival as I possibly can and be bringing you all the news on the street.

boontoe / to the top

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