THIS years’ Grahamstown National Arts Festival will boast no fewer than 42 productions from the Eastern Cape created by a talented assortment of emerging artists and seasoned professionals.
Performers from Nelson Mandela Bay, Grahamstown, Port Alfred and Paterson will be exposed to a diverse national and international audience when they showcase their productions in the fringe festival line-up.
Inundated with requests to return to the festival after a two-year absence, Bay entertainment company Centrestage will be back to thrill audiences with comedy, cabaret and big band performances.
Their host of shows include three premieres including Big Band to Hollywood – Buble takes Centrestage, Gino Fabbri and Donna Africa in ‘Funni Galore!’, and The Tina Turner Songbook.
Gino Fabbri and Donna Africa in ‘Funni Galore!’ will run as a preview at the Bay’s Old Grey Sports Club this weekend.
Centrestage managing director Gary Hemmings said he was excited to return to Grahamstown.
"It’s the camaraderie and sense of community at the festival which I love. You step into another world. There’s an element of escapism and you immerse yourself in shared delights,” he said.
Also representing the Bay is the Sunshine Coast Studio with Bridezilla!, a comedy show directed by Colin Ward, and Brendon Peel’s Beyond Belief which will take audiences "on a magic show ride with a twist”.
Grahamstown’s UBOM! Eastern Cape Drama Company have teamed up once again with theatre legend Andrew Buckland to stage three productions – Eco-Wolf and the Three Pigs, The Dogs Must Be Crazy and Through Blue – all sure to be crowd favourites.
Another predicted crowd-pleaser is Paterson duo Boet ’n Swaer with their politically incorrect comedy.
The Rhodes University drama department will present five boundary- defying productions as part of their intranceit 2012 series which will include Erasure, Hydrolunatics, Rusty Spoons Collective, Tender and The Memory of Water.
From Uitenhage, the Ikhwezi Players will perform Freedom Blues directed by Ndizi Bedesho, and the Shukume Theatre will showcase Spontaneous Reunion.
Dale McCann represents Port Alfred with The Frank Sinatra Tribute Show.
The high number of artists representing the province was to be expected, said National Arts Festival manager Kate Axe-Davies.
"For people from the area, transport costs aren’t as high, and accommodation isn’t as much of a problem as it is for people from further away,” she said. "We always receive a high number of applications, particularly from Grahamstown and those associated with the university, schools and local community groups.”
Festival-goers will certainly have their hands full whittling down a short-list of must-see shows.
"People from all over the world get to experience such fabulous theatre, art and crafts. Our smaller communities also get extensive media exposure. This is an opportunity to develop projects and evolve.”
The festival runs from June 28 to July 8. Tickets are available through Computicket and booking kits are available from selected Standard Bank and Exclusive Books branches and Computicket.