This year’s event took part on 16th & 17th May in the 1820 Settlers Monument. The VSA with sponsorship from the Schools Festival office had the privilege of taking fifteen awareNet learners from Grahamstown East (Benjamin Mahlasela Secondary School, Nathaniel Nyaluza High School, Nombulelo Secondary School & Ntsika Secondary School).
It was two cold days but you wouldn’t tell given the vibe and energy the learners had. Gumboot dance, concentration games, physical theatre and ‘the Facebook effect’ were among the workshops. I especially had the task of going up and down the stairs to see what was happening in the various workshop venues.
I remember on Tuesday morning when we had to be late because of the taxi the learners kept sending me ‘please call’ messages. So eager were they to get to the festival; and I think that eagerness resulted from their Monday experience. That took me back to the first time I attended the Schools Festival in my school days. I saw another protest theatre production called ‘Master Harold & The Boys’ and John Kani, our doyen of theatre, was one of the performers.
They mingled with learners from other parts of the province. I hope this reinforces in them how useful knowing the Internet is – you learn even more online.
The First Physical Theatre Company presented ‘On the Move’, a piece that uses physical theatre to explore the use of the word ‘falling’ (falling in line, falling in love, falling behind, falling flat, falling short, etc) in the English language. It is impressive how these dancers manage to control the way they use their bodies while throwing themselves around on stage.
Another interesting production was ‘Woza Albert’ (‘woza’ means ‘come back’ but here it means “Rise Albert”). It was written by Percy Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema and Barney Simon in 1981 and during the 1980s this production was regarded as the most successful play to come out of South Africa, winning more than 20 prestigious awards worldwide.
Two actors play dozens of parts that involve them using many skills – acting, mime, singing and dance. They also create images using a few words and actions. They play various roles common to black South Africans – a vendor, barber, servant, manual laborer, soldier – in apartheid South Africa. The news that Christ (Morena) has arrived. Christ’s arrival precipitates a crisis, and the government launches a nuclear bomb against the peacemaker. In the ruins, great South African leaders in resistance to apartheid such as Albert Luthuli (assassinated African National Congress 1960s president) are resurrected.