The Cape Town Fringe takes centre stage

Based on much the same idea as the Edinburgh Festival, the Cape Town Fringe Festival runs over 11 days and nights in a variety of venues around the city, centring on the city hall, and with one event in Langa.

Run by the same team that puts the Grahamstown National Arts Festival together, it does not duplicate that festival nor supplant it and the fare on offer includes family and children’s shows, puppetry, drama, jazz and performance art.

There’s also something a little different from the Pansa Taxi Theatre Project. This offers theatregoers an easy way to get around as well as experience a little guerrilla theatre on the ride. It operates daily at 10am and 12 noon and its route covers a City Bowl circle formed by city hall, District Six, Oranjezicht and Bokaap, with a pick-up and drop-off point at the Parade opposite the city hall.

Here’s a brief description of some of the shows, starting with this year’s winners of Silver Ovation awards at the Grahamstown Festival. (See the full programme at

Grahamstown Silver Ovation awards

#Omnomnom (performance art): Gavin Krastin’s near-naked body becomes a living buffet table, laid out on a gurney, at which the audience is invited to dine. It’s discomfiting, of course, as it’s meant to be.

Guy Buttery (music): Buttery won this award for an act along with Gareth Gale. Here, however, he appears solo. If you don’t know him, check out his YouTube videos to get an idea of just how singular his guitar work is, coaxing the sounds of harps, koras and even suggestions of string orchestral washes at times. He really is extraordinary.

Piet se Optelgoed (physical theatre): Liezl de Kock wrote, directs and acts in this piece in which she is a grubby waste-picker in a plastic and cardboard landscape. Described as “clowning of the darkest type” but “shot through with exquisite rays of humour” by the Daily Dispatch, it has been picked up by the Amsterdam Fringe for 2015.

Whistle Stop (physical theatre): Two people meet on a park bench and stumble through conversation that hides and reveals their deepest fears, desires and fragilities. It’s presented by the Dark Laugh Theatre Company, directed by Frances Slabolepszy, and features Jaques de Silva and Ameera Patel, who also wrote the play.

What the Water Gave Me (drama): An exploration of the deep connections between Indonesian and Cape Malay culture told through the stories of three characters – a hip-hop head, a taxi driver and a child victim of paedophilia. Performed by Cherae Halley, written by Rehane Abrahams and directed by Jade Bowers.

Looking good

A Day, Across (drama): Presented by CityVarsity, this play tells of a young woman’s search for the story of her great-grandfather, who fought in the South African Native Labour Corps in World War I.

Big Boys Don’t Dance (comedy): An unrivalled feel-good production in which two big boys (Ash and Brad Searle) dance a great deal, talk about how very naff some other boys think that is and all the while demonstrate just how athletic it actually is. A witty script holds it together. Vanessa Harris directs.

The Brothers Streep (comedy): Music and humour combine in this sell-out show from Grahamstown. Look them up on YouTube to see the fun they had with Idols.

The Champion (drama): This one-man show by Khayalethu Anthony depicts a young man grappling with an absent father and a problematic mother. Presented by Mbawula Theatre Company with the Baxter, it won best production at their Zabalaza Theatre Festival.

Crazy in Love (physical/visual theatre): Anything with Andrew Buckland in it is usually worth it, so this one gets a vote. It’s described as a “tragicomic” story of a search for lost love. Liezl de Kock co-stars and the reviewers have been lavish in their praise.

Emsini (drama): A young girl is kidnapped in a Kimberley township. She escapes and finds refuge in a recluse’s shack, opening a floodgate of secrets. Presented by Galeshewe Theatre, it won a Grahamstown Special Merit Ovation Award this year.

Fergus of Galloway (musical): Theatre stalwart Nicholas Ellenbogen reworks an epic medieval poem, bringing it crashing into the 21st century, with blues, reggae and folk-rock. Daniel Richards, Sne Dladla and Jessica Munna feature.

The Frontiersmen (drama): Written by Louis Viljoen and directed by Greg Karvellas, the play looks at greed, land and crime. Two businessmen have to dig themselves out of a deep hole and, as paranoia sets in, blood lust takes over. Viljoen won a Fleur du Cap award for his previous script, Champ.

In Performance (dance theatre): Staged in a new but unfinished theatre building next to the colourful Guga S’Thebe Arts and Cultural Centre in Langa, the building becomes the theatre and the dance ends as the audience is led through the space. Langa residents will not be charged. Staged by the Happy Feet Youth project.

Memory (physical theatre): A reworked Nicholas Ellenbogen piece about humanity’s relationship with elephants, featuring Theatre for Africa veteran Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, Samantha Davies and Luke Brown.

Pants on Fire (comedy/music): Featuring comedians Rob van Vuuren and Martin Evans, this won an Ovation award in 2012, when Van Vuuren described it as “Parkinson meets Graham Norton meets Noeleen”. But it’s more fun. A line-up of “stellar guests” is promised.

Family shows

Boekele and the Sun: A puppet show about a wicked magician who steals the sun. The puppets are made from mealie cobs, bits of plastic, metal, and old chairs, and the children are invited to examine them after the show.

Get Kraken: An underwater caper, in which Jay and Oupa join a robot to search for the kraken. It won an Ovation award in 2013.

Jabulani and the Book: A greedy lion, a very sad donkey, a springy springbok and a trickster combine to ignite the imagination. The show uses “beautifully crafted animal masks and Muppet-style puppets”.

Lake: Two actors clown their way through a show that features two squabbling brothers, a lake that’s drying up fast and a mission to save it. It brings in papier-mâché masks for the villains, shadow projection and a wicked water-guzzling queen. Written by Daniel Buckland.

Patchwork: For really small ones, aged one to four, it features musician Pedro Espi-Sanchez. The play unfolds around a bed, where sheets become oceans and pillows become creatures.

Qhawe: This family theatre piece performed by the Masiphumelele Community Theatre Group uses puppets produced by the Handspring Trust to tell the tale of the lost son of a chief struggling to find his way home.

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