COLD, cold wind - but fortunately, no rain. Well, not yet anyway. The 2012 National Arts Festival is well underway and by just judging from the pretty hectic traffic flow on the first day (always a good barometer), it looks to be a goodie for the artists who have descended on Grahamstown in their droves.
Also, no power outages yet either (hold thumbs!), so we - an almost full house at the Rhodes Theatre - actually managed to sit through and enjoy Athol Fugard's "The Blue Iris" without an unscheduled interval as happened last year with another Main programme headliner, "Abnormal Loads" which was so rudely interrupted with a bang and a blackout.
Fugard's work was a winner - haunting, gruelling and touching all at the same time - and at 80, he certainly hasn't lost his Midas touch when it comes to compelling stagecraft.
Out on the well-chilled street, it was back to being armoured with scarf and beanie and after a pop in at the Rat and Parrot - always buzzing with festino good cheer - it was time to seek out the blazing fire of the Albany Club.
No disappointment here at all. The fire was roaring with plenty of good wood still to come, and the beer and company up to par.
We spotted that great man of the stage Michael Richard also chilling out here and looking nicely relaxed even though he has two Main programme shows on this year - "Red", John Logan's hit play (he also wrote the "Gladiator" screenplay among others) - which is on at the Rhodes Box today and tomorrow, and David Mamet's "Race" which is being staged at Graeme College from Monday to Wednesday. This production also features Sello Maake Ka-Ncube and Graham Hopkins.
Earlier in the day on Thursday, it was excellent to see our very own regional talent shine in "Rhythms of the Eastern Cape", which showcased terrific indigenous music from several sub-tribes and was wall-to-wall vibrancy and colour throughout. I also caught a very thought-provoking and typically off-the-edge Andrew Buckland piece, "Mothermilk" at the St Andrew's' Centenary Hall, but you can catch that review in The Herald early next week. Odd with a nod doesn't begin to describe it.
Okay, here are just a few of the Main and Fringe highlights to catch today:
Dance: 'Giselle' with the Cape Town City Ballet (Guy Butler Theatre at 7pm)
Theatre: 'Red' - SA premiere of John Logan's Tony award-winning play (Rhodes Box Theatre at 4pm and 8pm)
Music: 'Kelebogile Boikanyo Vocal Recital' - 2012 Standard Bank Young Artist for Music (Rhodes Chapel at 3pm)
Jazz: 'Oscar Peterson Tribute' with Jack van Poll, James Scholfield and Hein van de Gyn (DSG Hall at 7.30pm)
Performance Art: 'Vortex: a Fight for Life' with Phia Menard (Thomas Pringle Hall at 9.30pm)
Theatre: 'Hope is the Saddest' - the 2012 Perth Fringe Theatre Award winner (The Hangar at 4.30pm)
Cabaret: 'Coward and Cole' (Albany Cabaret Club at 11am)
Comedy: 'Race Card' (Scout Hall at 1.30pm)
Music: 'Nibs van der Spuy and Guy Buttery' (The Lowlander at 8pm)
Drama: 'London Road' (Glennie Hall at 10pm)