The National Arts Festival. Man. Even thinking about it makes me a bit leapy and excited. I love it. Always have. The raw talent. The shite. The motley crowds of arty, studenty, poncy, hippy, culturedy types. The mix of classical and contemporary. The jazz. The dance. The comedy. The drama. It’s my yearly treat to myself.
The getting here was a bit of a mission. LB outdid himself by taking me, happily, to the airport at the crack of dawn….and buying me breakfast and helping me deal with the endless fekkin’ frustration that is traveling in South Africa. One plane ride, a couple of hours to kill in the airport and a hair-raising drive to the sleepy town of Grahamstown got me from bed to there in just about 7 hours…I could have driven up in 9. Oi.
But I was delighted with the surprise news that my mate Melon, who is hosting me with her amazing furry husband and delicious 2 year old son, has booked us to see Evan Dando. Him of the Lemonheads fame. Delicious boy, crooner, rock god. Yum.
So, with that news, I was over the fekking shiteness that was getting up at 5am and then flying SAArse and enjoying a crisp, blue, gorgeous Eastern Cape day, with the prospect of a night on the town with some of my favourite people, seeing one of the seminal artists from my youff strum his stuff on the stage. Yay.
And off we went. Wrapped up in a million layers against a fah-fah-fah-ha-reeeeeezing Eastern Cape June night, we wandered down to the TapHuis, found seats and were told that there were actually 4 artists on for the night. Bonus. Syd Kitchen and Ray Phiri were on the lineup, including some outfit called Max Normal.
And Max Normal stole the show. Hilarious Afrikaans rappers, using multimedia and dressed in the oddest collection of outfits, they took the piss out of everything in their “high energy hip hop show; in die huisie, julle”, but with a subtle, clever humour. I luuuuuuurved them. Their collaboration with Sid Kitchen, at the end of their set, inspired by the soundtrack of Juno, was just beautiful. Cheeky and sweet.
“That’s why we love the Dassie” is now officially my phrase de jour.
Dando was faintly disappointing. Technically brilliant, with the soulful voice I remembered. But absolutely not interested in engaging with the audience. I could have just listened to a CD. At one point the audience was actually calling for Ray Phiri to come out. Ouch. Though, to be fair, Phiri was his usual brilliant self. We didn’t stay to the end…Dando was pissing us off…but SO much more than we’d expected and a brilliant start to my ’08 Fest.
There were hangovers.
And today, through the pain, I watched Romeo and Juliet, an interpretive dance piece by a company I saw last year interpreting Macbeth. That performance was powerful and mesmerizing. This one, even more so. I was blown away. Set almost entirely to pieces by Vivaldi and Bach, it was emotional and breathtaking. Dada Masilo, creator, lead and this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance, was in.cred.ib.le. Every movement exploded out of her lithe, supple, toned body. I was riveted. Described in the programme as “a unique fusion of ballet and cotemporary techniques”, it was half raw, kinetic dance and half the fluid grace of ballet. Gorgeous.
And now I’m sitting in the kitchen of Melon and the Furry one, eating outrageously good home made soup and deciding what to watch tomorrow. Before having a stupidly early night.