Performances in specially devised theatre spaces in Cape Town’s iconic City Hall and in taxis on the move are among those that will help set the stage for a riveting two weeks of theatre when the inaugural Cape Town Fringe opens in September.
The Fringe is being produced by the Grahamstown National Arts Festival team, and is supported by the City of Cape Town and Standard Bank.
A total of 89 productions have been confirmed as the core of the Fringe’s programme. The selected shows represent a blend of work that is “old and new, tried, tested, opportunistic, comfortable, familiar, edgy and daring”, according to Artistic Director Ismail Mahomed.
Apart from naming the productions, organisers also announced that Standard Bank, as part of their long-term support of the arts, have agreed to a partnership that will see them sponsor the Cape Town Fringe until 2017. The bank joins the City of Cape Town as lead sponsor of the event, which has 567 Cape Talk and MNET as presenting media partners.
“Standard Bank have supported us for over three decades in Grahamstown and so getting them to back this new project was a logical next step,” National Arts Festival CEO Tony Lankester said. “We’re delighted to have them on board.”
Turning his attention to the content of the Cape Town Fringe programme, Mahomed said: “We selected a few more productions than we had initially intended, but when we looked through the proposals we liked and began mentally assigning them slots in our venues, we found innovative ways to accommodate more shows.”
Mahomed added that, “Roughly half the productions selected are theatre, while the rest are fairly evenly spread across music, physical theatre, performance art, and comedy.” From the outset organisers had been anxious to ensure that the Cape Town Fringe gets established as predominantly a Theatre Festival.
“There are several long-standing and successful single genre festivals focusing on comedy, jazz and performance art in Cape Town already – we didn’t want to try and replicate those. We wanted to focus on work that is bound together by a cheeky outlook and irreverent, but mature take on life in South Africa,” Mahomed said.
Among the productions to be staged are a number which recently drew accolades in Grahamstown and which will be presented in Cape Town for the first time, together with some brand new work which will be premiering at the new Fringe Festival.
“We wanted to devise a programme that audiences would feel comfortable with – that was peppered with some names and faces that they have come to know and associate with quality work over the years, together with some upstarts who will break the mould a bit and get tongues wagging,” Mahomed said. “But most importantly we wanted to create a cohesive programme that would capture the mood and ethos of the Fringe we’re trying to create.”
Foremost among those expected to raise some eyebrows is rising star Gavin Krastin, whose ground-breaking piece ‘#omnomnom’ defies categorisation and takes audiences to new levels of discomfort. There will also be a number of productions – such as Ameera Patel’s award-winning ‘Whistle Stop’, Rob Murray’s ‘Crazy in Love’ and Jemma Kahn in ‘Amateur Hour!’ – which have blown audiences away at other festivals and form part of the Cape Town line up.
The Cape Town Fringe will also be staging work from directors Marthinus Basson, who will be staging Heiner Muller’s ‘Quartet’, and Daniel Buckland (‘Lake’), as well as Natalia de Rocha’s ‘Homebru’, Tebogo Munyai’s ‘Doors of Gold’ and Jade Bowers’ ‘What the Water gave me’. Kimberley-based Galeshewe Theatre Organisation, hot on the heels of their Encore! Award at the National Arts Festival in July, will be presenting ‘Emsini’.
“We are pleased to be presenting about 18 premieres – including brand new work from Tara Notcutt (‘Four Young Whites and a Dirty Old Bastard’) and Sara Matchett, who will be directing the Mothertongue Project in a series of performed installations utilising live performers, sound recordings and video projections entitled Walk: South Africa,” Mahomed continued.
“We have a number of magicians (Marcel Oudejaans, Brendan Peel and Stuart Lightbody), stand-up comedy from the iconic Corne and Twakkie and others, and a special treat for jazz lovers – the launch of Marcus Wyatt’s newest album – to add to the mix and ensure that the Fringe is an eclectic, exciting platform for lovers of all forms of performing arts,” Mahomed said
The Cape Town Fringe is also providing a platform to various Cape Town institutions to showcase their work – the SCrIBE Scriptwriting competition; ASSITEJ SA, which will deliver a programme of Family Theatre; PANSA who will be presenting performances from inside a taxi, and UNIMA SA, founders of the largest puppetry and visual performance festival in Africa, Out The Box Festival, who will use the Fringe to promote their unique style of theatre-making and storytelling. It will also act as a showcase for some work emanating from the Baxter’s Zabalaza Theatre Festival.
“These partnerships are important to us – not only do they enhance and enrich the programme we are able to present, but they allow this new Fringe platform to work for existing institutions and working artists who are constantly looking for new ways of getting their work recognised and seen,” Festival CEO Tony Lankester added.
The National Arts Festival’s relationship with international events will pay dividends for Cape Town Fringe audiences, as productions from the Amsterdam Fringe (‘Mick Jagger is my Nightmare’) and Prague Fringe (comedian Marcel Lucont) rub shoulders with local talent. The Fringe has also signed up British “Victorian Magician” duo Morgan and West, who will be bringing their unique and quirky performance to Cape Town direct from an extended run at the iconic Edinburgh Fringe.
The closing weekend of the Fringe will feature some big music shows in the City Hall, the details of which will be announced before booking opens at the end of August.
“Between the partnerships we have in place and the great line up of productions, we’re confident that the new Fringe will be well received by Capetonians and tourists alike. It’s going to be unlike any arts festival staged in the City in recent years,” Lankester continued.
Fringe Festivals the world over pride themselves in reaching younger audiences than those who traditionally frequent theatres, and the Cape Town Fringe is making a concerted effort to draw youth into the theatre with a carefully designed day programme for schools. “We’re saying to Cape Town schools, give us your learners for a couple of hours and we’ll expose them to a world they otherwise could only have dreamed of – a completely immersive experience that will include quality theatre, graffiti art workshops, puppetry and magic,” Lankester concluded.
Details of the school programme and the full schedule for the Fringe will be available over the next couple of weeks, with booking due to open at the end of August.
* The inaugural Cape Town Fringe will run from September 25 until October 5. For more information, visit www.capetownfringe.co.za.