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Stereotypes exist in every culture so let’s just get over them and enjoy the rollercoaster of jollies. As it happens though, Rings of Fire has more to offer and if you know your general knowledge, music and politics then be prepared to laugh non-stop.

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For a minute I thought I was hallucinating. But then I saw it again – a vast purple octopus floating in the heavens. It lured me closer and drew my attention to its companions, a colossal frog, a lumbering caterpillar and, as you would expect, a gigantic penguin.

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With each work the audience’s clapping and bravi grew louder and by the end of the first half of the programme the cheering reflected the boisterous Italian spirit of the evening; it sounded more like the excited cheers of a stadium at an AC Milan game than the acclamation usually heard at an opera house.

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With so many impressions to digest, it is hard to pick out highlights, but standing out not just for its size, but also for its scintillating colour pallette is El Marinero, a mixed media painting on canvas by Christiaan Conradie. It shows an elderly man with distinct features and big, masculine hands. The face and the hands are separated by what seems like scribble or doodling until closer examination reveals fascinating detail.

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Away with dreary winter! Hooray for the advent of spring and its dynamic of rejuvenation and relaxation – perfectly encapsulated by the annual Franschhoek Uncorked wine festival. Thanks to some superb planning by the festival organisers, all of the participating wine farms were indicated with bright red signs, with Noble Hill Wine Estate as #1 and Boekenhoutskloof as #19. Any planning by visitors is of course subject to spontaneity, as it is all too easy in any individual vineyard to bump into friends, or to get distracted by a particularly appealing wine, or simply to get caught up with the atmosphere and lose track of time. We did what we could of course, but there was no way we were going to manage all 19 farms!

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On the plate it looks like seared beef fillet sliced carpaccio style, topped with a heavily sesame-oil-infused concoction of soy sauce, fresh ginger, black and white sesame seeds, and green onion. In the mouth it is an unparalleled party of flavours: an explosion of umami, tender in texture and tangy in taste.

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It is the intimate and joyful portraits of families capturing tender and spontaneous moments that show us as we truly are. Unadorned and unaware, Pinto’s subjects reflect the honest and warm way in which she sees the world.

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With the trees as a stage backdrop and the stars adding a twinkle that stage lights could never muster, a production of Les Sylphides could not ask for a better stagehand than Mother Nature. This non-narrative piece sees the beautiful, mythical Sylphes (spirits of the air) dancing to works by Chopin, enhancing the already esoteric air of the works themselves. With no storyline to follow, the audience merely has to sit back and enjoy the beautiful music and the equally beautiful dancers.

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The dancers’ movements do not complement the dramatic sounds of Verdi’s original opera in a traditional way. Un-stretched feet, frenzied arm swings, high-energy jumps and moments of stillness and torment punctuate the already emotion-filled soundtrack. The chorus of empty black souls stand by, as Violetta’s almost nude body disfigures and writhes about in a contorted manner.

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If you like your comedy dry, witty, sarcastic and a little bit dark, then I urge you to check out Marcel Lucont. No review can capture the essence of his razor sharp wordplay in the poems that he recites – melting together prosaic concepts around unlikely topics such as erectile dysfunction or the joys of not shaving. That his material is intelligent and well thought-out is indisputable. That it ranks with the best in world became evident when he brought home the gong for Best Comedy Show at the World Fringe Fest 2014.

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But even more than all this, what set Artmode apart from other events and exhibitions in Cape Town’s creative frenzy was its aim not just to make the art accessible but to make the artists themselves accessible. The general perception of artists is that they hide away in a tiny studio, keeping to the company of clay and canvases and classical music. Artmode set out to bring this wonderful group of magic makers into the public space.

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A magical and fun production, perfect for the festive season. Veronica Paeper’s choreography picks up on the nuances of Prokofiev’s famous score, retelling the iconic story with clarity, beauty and humour.

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The energy of his songs and his banter was palpable, and his comforting voice rolled from one song to the next, ranging from gentle vibrato to raw and bold quavers. He can even parody an operatic soprano, spotlessly at that. He made the songs we all know a whole new experience by playing around with the lyrics and the sound to suit the context. His mistakes melted in and became humorous elements to the conversation of the show.

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In the role of Noach, Lee-Ann van Rooi’s bellowing voice never fails to captivate the audience, its sturdiness resonating with her character’s refusal to give up hope and her will to remain sane and structured. Dannelene is a strong character that is only strengthened by van Rooi’s powerful stage presence. Her failure to falter, her insistence to retain and repeat her memories, and her undying Christian faith all come together as the guiding force that kept her afloat in times of engulfing trauma.

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The audience is treated to Contemporary, Ballet, Flamenco and African Dance pieces, all of which showcase the impressive versatility of the dancers as well as giving credit to the training of the teachers and choreographers at DFA.

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In between the well-loved songs, thigh-slapping laughter and sneaky stabs at Cape Town culture, there are sombre reflections on the things that make us human. The Cat’s Meouw raises the issue of the pointlessness of expectations – especially those of parents who dominate their children’s psyches (even from across the ocean).

Don’t miss this one – you’ll leave entertained and uplifted, and perhaps go to bed knowing that, once we let go of our expectations, happiness can be found in the smallest things.

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Bursting with energy, Bobbert and McIlroy never lose their vigour as they perform upbeat physical comedy and continually surprise with off-the-wall characters and costumes as well as synchronised choreography rich in 90s clichés.

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Spending an entire evening listening to a wind band might not seem as attractive as hearing a full orchestra in concert. To some, it might even seem painfully exhausting. One might think the complementary, soothing sound of strings would be missed. When the WindWorx ensemble announced their tenth anniversary concert, however, with guest appearances by the Cape Town Philharmonic Youth Wind Ensemble and Stadskoor Tygerberg, one look at the varied programme, featuring pieces ranging from Handel’s “Halleujah” chorus to the Star Wars theme “Duel of the Fates”, suggested that this would be a performance well worth attending. We were not to be disappointed.

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The theme of female sexuality in Salome makes for a fascinating debate in itself and it’s worth going to the opera for that alone. It’s also brilliantly performed.

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“Bouwer is well known for his stark and shocking stage designs and Marat/Sade lives up to this, providing a visual spectacle that echoes in the memory long after the curtain drops.”

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The violin pyrotechnics that Boriso-Glebsky summoned from his instrument had the audience bursting into well deserved applause. But this was not the end, and both soloist and conductor pleaded embarrassingly for silence, as if to say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet”.

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“Way ahead of her time, our female protagonist is feisty, funny and eternally optimistic, a great role model for girls everywhere. The cast, crew and entire team present a delightful, colourful and upbeat spectacle.”

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“It is most definitely a show you can bring the whole family to – your kids will love the horsies and the yee-haws, your friends and partners will love the sexy below-the-belt punchlines, and grandma will love the classic songs from Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Crosby, Stills & Nash and other country classics.”

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30 May 2012

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the Moody Blues. What a milestone. “When we started out my hair was brown, my teeth were white and this meant peace,” said Graeme Edge holding his fingers in the iconic ‘V’. “Now… my hair is white, my teeth are brown and this ‘V’ means Viagra!” Cue mad hippy-loving laughter echoing through the arena. “But it’s all still rock ‘n’ roll baby!”

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