Review: Cape Town Fringe Festival 2014

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cape town fringe festivalWhat a festival. Stuffed with variety and enthusiasm, everyone from the nervous arts newbie to the jaded theatre­-goer could find something to enjoy. The inaugural Cape Town Fringe Festival ran ­ – with much fanfare from CapeTalk, Standard Bank and the City of Cape Town ­ – from 25 September to 5 October. In those 11 days, over 100 shows were performed, many of them numerous times, exploring everything from dance to drama, and from magic to music.

The heart of the action was at the Cape Town City Hall, with free parking for festival goers on the Grand Parade – a hugely helpful detail of the festival. And this was a festival remarkable for its thoughtfulness. Massive banners, a good website, an app, and a helpful Fringe team made for an enjoyable experience. Programmes were regularly reprinted to keep up with amendments. Clear maps helped the out­-of­-towners with their movements.

Another thoughtful bonus was all the special offers. There were discounts not just for group bookings but for multiple tickets in a day, for ‘whole venue’ bookings (for fundraising or party opportunities) and – my favourite – the lunchtime special at which, for R 20 extra, you had a sandwich and a drink brought to you before the show. Anyone working in the CBD and who could get an hour’s lunch break could get to a show, eat and still get back to work in time. Brilliant!

The standard ticket price was an affordable R 70 with many shows priced cheaper and discounts on offer for students, pensioners and children. And if you couldn’t make the one show, there would often be another run of the same show at a completely different time. Crazy in Love (Andrew Buckland and Liezl de Kock) had shows at 10.30am, 4.30pm, 6.30pm and 9.30pm. Perfect for those who wanted to avoid rush hour traffic.

Minor birthing hiccups included the dates chosen for the festival which clashed with two weekends of rugby, Franschhoek Uncorked, the Hout Bay Seafood Festival, Rocking the Daisies and the Jewish New Year. But the City of Cape Town was unable to offer any other dates for 2014 and hey, if there is so much going on in Cape Town that is surely a cause for celebration, isn’t it? There is an argument however for trying to push for dates that would coincide with the school holidays. As it was there were some fantastic child-friendly shows, not least from ASSITEJ, the massive international movement for children’s theatre which happens currently to be headed by South African theatre producer Yvette Hardie. ASSITEJ productions included Patchwork (dreamlike imagination for 1 to 4 year olds from Pillow Fort), Memory (African storytelling and physical theatre from Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi), Being Norm (mime from Richard Antrobus) and The Year of the Bicycle (award­-winning drama from Aphiwe Livi and Amy Wilson). It is hoped that this is a side to the festival that will grow and grow.

Richard-Antrobus-in-Being-Norm-Photo-by-Essie-Esterhuizen.-2As an added incentive for lingering at City Hall, and perfect for those who had bought tickets for two or more shows in one day, there was the Fringe Club. Here, the bar kept the drinks coming (especially during the daily happy hour), the cafe provided coffees and sweet nibbles, and burgers and pizza were also available. And there were even games on the tables and free wi­fi. All of this while some of the performing artists mingled with the crowds or gave snippets of their shows on the small platform. The perfect place to hang out, plan your day or make new friends… inevitable given the general buzz.

So what could you do if you had the day? Start off at the City Hall, catch a show, stroll from one venue to the next, see Exhibit S: Ode to Saartjie Baartman at the Dragon Room or If These Bodies Could Speak at Hiddingh Hall. After wandering the streets and tasting the vibe of Cape Town, return for happy hour and another couple of shows such as the searing Piet Se Optelgoed or a rip­roaring comedy such as Pants on Fire. For something different, have an early supper and drive to the Galloway Theatre to see The Champion or the SCrIBE Scriptwriting Competition. Just think – ­ something new for date night which is interesting and inspiring and won’t break the bank.

Many of the productions chosen had already proven their success at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown or at Fringe Festivals overseas. Others had their first run here but will no doubt be seen again. With an inaugural event so professionally handled and so unashamedly ambitious it is hard not to see the Cape Town Fringe Festival becoming a major fixture on the international Fringe scene. See you there next year.

Samantha Orange

The Cape Town Fringe Festival ran from the 25 September to the 5 October 2014 at various venues in Cape Town.

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