Scene It: 2015 Cape Town Fringe Overview

Cape Town Fringe had the theatre-loving Mother City buzzing for two weeks, from 24 September to 4 October, 2015 with an incredible mix of magic, music, comedy and theatre and if you’re anything like us, it may feel like it went by in a flash!


We tried to fit in as many shows in between our day jobs and other responsibilities, but still felt like we were missing out on some amazing things. Here are some of our Fringe thoughts ...


Faz’s experience:

Hi, I’m Fazielah and I am a magic addict... which I guess you lot already knew, but all the same it had to be said. Considering that this year’s Fringe programme was filled to the brim with illusionists, you can’t blame a girl for falling off the magic wagon.


I saw three of the charming artists on offer and the sheer passion and acts of wonder Stuart Lightbody (Sleepless Dreams), Mawonga Gayiya (Astonish) and Marcel Oudejans (Sleight of Mouth 2) conjured was enough to warm my Houdini-adoring heart. Yes, being called upon as an audience volunteer in both Stuart and Marcel’s shows had me blushing for days and wishing that the ground would swallow me whole (can you tell that I have severe stage fright?!) but their fresh and amazing effects made my jaw drop on more than one occasion. 



Stuart, in particular, is a master at making the impossible possible while watching Mawonga, whom I have seen perform from his early days as a College of Magic student and I am now delighting in his professional shows , charm his audience effortlessly  was a rare and fantastic privilege. My only gripe was that I wished the magic shows were longer.


My mom always told me a balanced theatre diet is important so just to add some variety, I popped off to see Follow Spot Productions Big Girls for a second time. I loved this show the first time round at Kalk Bay Theatre and must admit I missed the intimacy of that venue in comparison to the Fugard Studio. All the same, Vanessa Harris and Lucy Tops, joined by Genna Galloway in this run, were a fine, fabulous treat with their sexy costumes, stunning voices and great comedic timing.


My surprising hate-to-love show this year was Porno 88. Initially reluctant to see another Louis Viljoen brainchild after the twisted psycho warp that was The Pervert Laura, I found the script reading, featuring the sultry voiced Nicholas Spagnoletti, Greg Karvellas and others to be quite, uh, pleasurable.


Still, starring Jannes Erasmus and Blyde Smit, ended my Fringe experience on a bitter sweet note. Capturing those rare moments of life between photographs, this moving show explored and exposed humanity’s tendency to revere the beautiful and bury the ugly. I’d love to see a sequel to this show, if only to discover what happens to conflicted character Emma and her lost brother.


If I had to sum up my Fringe experience in three key points, it would be this:


1) The Fringe Club is ridiculously awesome: no, seriously, if I didn’t have to trek back to the mountain for my day job every day, you would find me permanently attached to one of the cool chairs in this venue, listening to the rocking beats by the resident DJ and feasting on the SGT Pepper burgers and cocktails. Best place to run into the actors and just soak up the vibe!


2) Don’t judge a show by its poster: Like I said Porno 88 was quite the scintillating surprise and Still, which I saw after a long work week, figuring it was going to be slow play was anything but. If the title sets your theatre Spidey senses tingling, book tickets for it!


3) I should have taken leave: When you’re in Grahamstown, you are on holiday so you have the stamina to party like a theatre rock star until the wee hours of the morning. In Cape Town, you have to adult (work, life, work) so the same festival carnie vibe just isn’t the same. Which reminds me, I need to put in my leave forms for next year …



Barbs’ experience:

By now it is no secret that I am the off-beat one who lets her inner child run (or rather dance) around more often than not, so having Fringe on my doorstep for two weeks was the ultimate escapism delight. Who needs Narnia when you can pop from one make-believe world to another with just a venue change!?


Although I tried to see as many productions as possible, I still couldn’t get to all the shows that I eyed with delight in the very cool Fringe programme. I am however glad that I got to see two brilliant magic shows, Stuart Lightbody’s Sleepless Dreams and Marcel Oudejan’s Sleight of Mouth 2. The latter I was a bit sceptical about, because well a sequel, but never pre-judge a magician. Marcel surprised, with me liking Sleight of Mouth 2 more than last year’s nr 1. However, my inner child did a proper jig of joy, soaking up every ounce of magic and mystery that filled the venue during Sleepless Dreams. It is now official, the magical combo of Stuart as performer and Tara Notcutt as director have raised the bar off my magical expectations… so magic men, there is a new standard in town, take note ;)


With my inner child overflowing with happiness I went to go see Tara’s other show, The Incredible Journey too, and found myself being absolutely mesmerised by this Neverending Story type journey. With no props or sound aids apart from themselves and their voices, Stef Erasmus, Callum Tilbury and Emma Kotzé, nevertheless sketched the most vivid images. They truly taught you to see everything in techni-colour if you opened your heart.


I must admit that I did indulge in my naughtier more adult side too, and one late night declared “I am off to see Porno” … well Porno 88 at least. Never sure whether I am to be left impressed or absolutely terrified by the images conjured up by a Louis Viljoen text, this one definitely left me giggling with delight at the wit it revealed. Though I do have questions as to research… but I won’t pry. The Porno 88 reading done by Nicholas Spagnoletti, Greg Karvellas, Emily Child and a whole troup of talented actors was most certainly a highlight.


From there I headed off to feed the more contemplative (even abstract) parts of my soul and stopped off first to see the brilliant creation of Wessel Pretorius, Al Julle Volke. Every time I see one of Wessel’s text come to life on stage, my jaw drops. This time sharing the stage with the equally talented Ludwig Binge and Greta Pietersen, under the direction of both Wessel and Nico Scheepers, I was again reminded of the beauty and power of well-crafted words and Afrikaans theatre.


Supplement that with the imagination and depth of the productions Smaarties and Still (both the creative vision of Jannes Erasmus, with Smaarties being directed by Quintin Wils), which were practically sold out every night, and you can be sure that theatre is alive and well; great story telling is what gives it life. End all that creativity of with the abstract physical theatre masterpiece that is Trophy by Gavin Krastin and Barbs is a very very happy theatre addict indeed.



So my Fringe journey can be summarised in the following three points:


1) You are never too old for a show: Even if a show is promoted as a children’s theatre piece, go and indulge in the fantasy and adventure. of it all It will be like a holiday for your soul. From magic to mystery, you are allowed to sometimes escape reality without judgment when you Fringe it out, so just give in already.


2) Fringe it out to the max but keep your fellow festival friends in mind too: I absolutely adore the festival vibe and seeing people let go of the everyday problems; just indulging in good food, theatre and awesome cocktails (I personally loved the Fringe Club’s tequila sunrise). There are limits though. I don’t think venues should allow patrons to walk in with bottles of wine… drinks at festivals yes, liquid picnics no. The most intense moments in the beautiful Smaarties were somewhat spoiled for me, because after 4 glasses of wine each in under an hour the festival goers sitting behind and next to me found everything (and I mean everything) about this deeply meaningful piece utterly hilarious. Yikes for too much fun!


3) Make a staycation of it: Take a work break and soak up the #lovecapetown creativity. I took a Friday off to just enjoy the festival fun and theatre goodness and I am so glad I did. It was a delight Ubering from one venue to the next... grabbing lunch and a show at the Jubilee Hall at the Waterfront, then meeting theatre friends for some entertainment at the Fugard and another bite, before heading off to City Hall HQ to see the creativity in HD as artists met and shared experiences at the Fringe Club before seeing a last late night 9pm show.


After all the Fringing we may be slightly exhausted, but we crashed on our couches with happy smiles and singing hearts yesterday. This is a marathon that we will eagerly run again and again. Thank you to all who worked so hard behind the scenes to make this a wonder experience. We simply can’t wait for next year’s festival!


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