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PRESS: Suidoosterfees celebrates 21 years of entertainment

Wilmer Müller


The Suidoosterfees turns 21 in 2024. Many surprises and highlights are in store for festivalgoers at this popular Cape Town arts festival, presented from 26 April to 1 May at the Artscape Theatre Centre. Tickets are available through Webtickets from 5 February.

Jana Hattingh, festival CEO, says, “We plan to celebrate this important milestone in our history memorably. After two decades, there are many highlights we would like to toast with our festivalgoers, artists, sponsors and partners.


“Cape Town, our home throughout the festival’s history, is a destination of hope for all and, with shows of excellent quality on offer, we would like to honour our supporters’ loyal contributions over many years. Without the goodwill of businesses and institutions towards the performing arts, South African arts would have remained stuck in the Stone Age.”


NATi Theatre Festival

The NATi Theatre Festival programme is brimming with surprises. One of the plays that will debut at the festival is Onder ’n bloedrooi hemel, Nicola Hanekom’s stage adaptation of Annemarié van Niekerk’s book about love and violence in South Africa. The publication won a prestigious literary award in the Netherlands, and the Afrikaans translation, released last year, was on local best-seller lists.


Another special birthday present from the Suidoosterfees to its loyal supporters – of which details will only be announced in March – is a new stage play by Breyten Breytenbach, written especially for Antoinette Kellermann. With this play, the 84-year-old world literary icon returns to stage-writing after an absence of many years.


Sandra Prinsloo stars in Henque Heymans’ new play, Op die hoek van Styx en River is Nora per abuis met die dood oorgeslaan. This drama is the playwright’s second after his award-winning debut a few years ago, Oom Bey.


Herschelle Benjamin and Reginald Hufkie’s Op die kruin van Shôdeville, with Kevin Smith, Hufkie and Donovan Pietersen, is also on the festival stage. This drama tells the story of Marvin, a man who reached success in the entertainment industry and now returns to his hometown Schauderville, where he picks up ties with his former athletics coach.


Popular dramas that impressed audiences on the festival circuit recently, also feature on the Suidoosterfees programme: director Nico Scheepers’ brilliant Braam en die engel; Pieter Odendaal’s Droomwerk; Dana Snyman’s Reünie with Frank Opperman, and Johann Slabbert’s Routrip with Elzabé Zietsman.


Monsters, about the murder of the British toddler James Bulger in 1993, directed by Tinarie van Wyk Loots, is also on the programme.


Ken jy vir Dewie?, a drama about a school shooter, with Crystal Donna Roberts, Robert Hindley and Joshwin Dyson in the cast, will captivate festivalgoers. The versatile Lizz Meiring performs in Van die rak af, Quinton Stuurman in Gesplete tong, and Ashraf Johaardien pays farewell to the stage with his performance in Eg Kaaps: Salaam-stories.


NATi Rising Stars

Also on the NATi Theatre stage, are productions of the new NATi Rising Stars, whose plays were developed in the past year by Suidoosterfees, NATi and the Jakes Gerwel Foundation. These new voices belong to Geralt Cloete, Cara Rossouw, Mikayla Joy Brown, Miché van Wyk and Miliswa Mbandazayo.


Denise Jannah in Swart wyn

Denise Jannah, renowned worldwide as a singer and actress, will be at Suidoosterfees in the play Swart wyn, a collaboration between Suidoosterfees, Northlink College and the Dutch theatre company Aan Zee Theaterproducties.


Swart wyn tells the story of two successful South African woman winemakers from different periods: Vivian Kleynhans, owner of Seven Sisters Winery near Stellenbosch, and Zwarte Maria Evert, a woman of slave descent in 17th-century Cape of Good Hope.


International collaboration

In addition to Swart wyn starring Denise Jannah and local actors, several other productions emanating from the festival’s international collaboration will be staged. A highlight of the dance programme is Papillon, a show that vowed audiences at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This Canadian dance theatre production was created by choreographer Helen Simard and musical director Roger White and includes six cast members. Simard and White are celebrated for their ground-breaking work on the international stage.


Dutch theatremaker Minou Bosua will visit Suidoosterfees, together with students of the Koningstheateracademie. They will perform with Northlink College students in Bosua’s How to raise our parents. With this collaboration, Suidoosterfees aims to lay a strong foundation for hosting future international productions and to foster valuable cultural cross-pollination.


21 productions of 21 minutes @ R21

In celebration of Suidoosterfees’ 21st year, a series of 21 theatre productions of 21 minutes each, with ticket prices at R21, will be performed. Various genres are covered in this birthday series, from theatre, music, opera and dance to a show in sign language.


Some highlights include Amanda Strydom: Piaf with Strydom performing seven of Edith Piaf’s best-known songs; Bettie innie selle with Dean Smith as Aunty Betty who ends up in a holding cell for 21 minutes; Bon appétit! with opera star Janelle Visagie; Knyp die kous innie donker, starring the popular Carlo Daniels; and This is home, a mini jazz concert featuring Sima Mashazi and Ramon Alexander.


Dowwe Dolla’s granny, aka Margit Meyer-Rödenbeck, will make a once-off comeback to the stage in Ouma weet … And the notorious social media megastar Mavis vannie Lavis will be on stage for the very first time in Chronicles vannie Lavis. The multi-talented Veronique Jephtas will bring Mavis to life.

Music and musical theatre

As in the past 20 years, the Suidoosterfees music programme features South Africa’s biggest names.


Amongst those who will help blow out candles are Nataniël, Babalwa Mentjies, Coenie de Villiers, Early B, André Schwartz, Lynelle Kenned, Elzabé Zietsman, Corneil Müller, Frazer Barry, Selim Kagee, Sima Mashazi, Edith Plaatjies, Nic Miso, Madeegha Anderson, Jawaahier Petersen, Jonathan Rubain, Emo and Loukmaan Adams, Cape Town’s Opera Choir, the city’s Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and its symphony orchestra.


Spectacular concerts and shows in various genres are scheduled for the festival, including opera and classical music, contemporary music, gospel and cabaret. Nataniël is one of the main attractions with his colourful Ring van vuur, featuring stories, costumes, humour and a repertoire covering three decades. Coenie de Villiers and Deon Meyer are again joining forces with the musical Roem.


Concerts celebrating the festival’s birthday in the Artscape Opera House also include 21, Operagala and Suidoosterfees Boogie. Famous artists will appear together with a younger generation of music stars whose talents were refined during Suidoosterfees training and development projects presented in the past 20 years.


Emo and Loukmaan Adams are in Two of a kind, the Stellenbosch University Choir will appear at the festival for a second time, and stars of kykNET’s soapy Suidooster will showcase their musical talents in the wildly popular Suidooster Stormsterk. Burger King, who recently became involved as a valuable supporter of the festival’s development projects, will have a powerful presence with the Burger King Konsert van hoop.


Kuier en Son

Kuier magazine presents a big gospel concert and the Cape newspaper Son, also turning 21 this year, will host a series of vibrant late-night music concerts at the festival.


Two exciting debut productions are also on the programme – the weird and wonderful cabaret Karamonk with Bianca Flanders, directed by the inimitable Jemma Kahn, and the hilarious musical comedy TWAK: Van Hunks, die Duiwel en ander twak by Francois Toerien.


Jakes Gerwel discussion

The Jakes Gerwel Foundation and the ATKV will be back with a series of thought-provoking discussions, sure to elicit newspaper headlines.


Participants in this year’s Jakes Gerwel Discussion series include Caster Semenya, Arthur Goldstuck, Sandra Prinsloo, Qaanitah Hunter, Mills Soko, Roelf Meyer, Francis Petersen, Nathan Trantraal, Diana Ferrus, Salim S Abdool Karim, Angelique Coetzee, Phoebe Gerwel, Rachelle Greeff, Roy Havemann, Lyntjie Jaars, Marlene Mahokoto, Bernard Lategan, Dennis Cruywagen and Adriaan Basson.


Papillon, the festival’s world-class production from Canada, is one of the highlights of the dance programme. Celebrations around International Dance Day, coinciding with the festival, will exude extra energy this year with shows such as The Bollywood Bazaar, Set in motion and Dance synergy volume III.


Free dance lessons will be presented by professionals in various disciplines, ranging from TikTok dance to Bollywood! In the evenings the Artscape Piazza will buzz with Kuier’s vibrant dance sessions, and fabulous pop-up dance shows will surprise festivalgoers regularly.


Children and youth theatre

Learners and students from various schools and institutions will showcase their talents in the ATKV Youth Theatre programme. Winners of several amateur and school drama competitions will perform their productions to festival audiences. Students of CPUT, Northlink College and Stellenbosch University will come to find their feet on the professional stage.


Various children’s theatre productions are on the festival menu, all with an educational approach. The festival will also present a Children and Youth Festival from 22 to 25 April before the main festival. The programme for this brand-new component will be announced soon.


Little Nana, a huge, motorised puppet portraying a Zimbabwean refugee girl on a tricycle, will steal the hearts of young and old on the festival terrain with her message of tolerance towards immigrants in South Africa.


Training and workshops

The ATKV and the national broadcaster RSG will present training sessions at the festival. The ATKV will present a three-day course for stage directors. The tariff is R1 200, accommodation excluded, and includes entry to many professional festival productions.


RSG, who will broadcast Driesestig live from the festival from 29 April to 1 May, will host a workshop for prospective radio broadcasters of all ages. The session, presented by Johan Rademan and Heidi Isaacs-Muller, is free but advance booking is essential.

These are some of the highlights of Suidoosterfees 2024. The complete festival programme is available at Bookings open on 5 February 2024 through Webtickets, or at Artscape dial-a-seat: 021 421 7695.


The Suidoosterfees’ main sponsors are the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture; the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport; City of Cape Town; Netwerk24; Die Burger; NATi; kykNET; the ATKV and Artscape. The festival is also made possible by sponsorships from the National Arts Council, BASA, the Jakes Gerwel Foundation, the LW Hiemstra Trust, Het Jan Marais Nationale Fonds, the Johann Brink Trust, Garden Court Nelson Mandela Boulevard, Fitch & Leeds, Homebrew Films, Burger King, Oasis, Suidooster, RSG, Son, Kuier, VIA and Heineken.


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