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Lineup for Grahamstown National Arts Festival

The 39th edition of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown will take place from 27 June to 7 July 2013 and this year offers an exploration of deepest desires and darkest fears in its theatre programme.
'Asinamali' marks the debut of the Soweto Theatre as an associate producer with the Market Theatre and the National Arts Festival on the Festival's Main stage. Originally created in March 1985, Asinamali has travelled widely internationally and is one of the most important plays from apartheid South Africa.

Written by Mbongeni Ngema, this classic South African play is a tale of five black prisoners brought together in a South African prison. It is inspired by events that surrounded the 1983 rent strike in the Lamontville township, led by the martyred activist Msizi Dube, in which the rallying cry was "Asinamali" - Zulu for "We have no money!"

The 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist, Prince Lamla, a graduate of the Market Theatre Laboratory, directs this revival of the production. It follows hot on the heels of Lamla's revival of Woza Albert, which enjoyed a six-month season at the Market Theatre and a month-long season at the 2012 Edinburg Festival.

South African premiere, international drama

Ngema also returns to the Festival's main stage this year with the South African premiere of 'The Zulu', a dramatized story about the events that led to the Anglo/Zulu War of 1879. His premiere musical will narrate the encounter of these two nations in a battle that is popularly known as the Battle of Isandlwana. This will be the first time that Ngema will return to the stage as an actor accompanied only by a guitarist. He was the Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre in 1988.

Drawing its inspiration from conflict zones, Hearts and Eyes Theatre Collective, a company that has forged its reputation with staging human stories: the real and the personal in pursuit of truth and understanding, will present 'My Name is Rachel Corrie'.

Based on Rachel Corrie's writing, directed by Jaqueline Dommisse and featuring Kate Liquorish, this one-woman play composed from Rachel's own journals, letters and emails creates a portrait of a messy, articulate, Salvador Dali-loving chain-smoker (with a passion for the music of Pat Benatar), who left her home and school in Olympia, Washington, to work as an activist in the heart of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist from Olympia, Washington, travelled to Rafah in the southern part of the Gaza Strip as part of her college assignment. On 16 March 2003, Corrie was killed by an armed bulldozer operated by a member of the Israel Defence Forces while trying to prevent the demolition of homes belonging to Palestinian people. Exact details and responsibility for her death have been in dispute since the incident occurred.

First staged at the Royal Court Theatre, the play went on to win Theatre Goers' Choice Award for Best Director, Best New Play, as well as Best Solo Performance, and Newsweek said "Here is a play where the real dialogue begins when the curtain comes down. 'My Name is Rachel Corrie' is theatre that not only stirs our hearts but sticks in our heads."

Tom Coash's play, written before 9/11, 'Cry Havoc' also draws its inspiration from conflicts in the Middle East. Cry Havoc is an unnerving East-West love story set in a small apartment in Cairo, about a naive British writer and an Egyptian university student who covertly live as lovers. Surrounded by poverty, religious fundamentalism and political repression, these educated, morally centred yet disenfranchised men pursue divergent paths toward escape and extremism. The play, featuring the award winning actors David Dennis and Brenda Radloff, challenges its audiences to consider what lengths people are prepared to go in the name of God and country; and marks the UJ Theatre's professional debut on the National Arts Festival's Main stage.

Canadian playwright Morris Panych's award-winning black comedy, 'Vigil', is a story about reality, about life, and serves as a reminder of the perils of isolation for all of us, whatever the age - "a funny play that makes you want to cry" (Legit Reviews/Off Broadway). This South African premiere of this multi-award winning play, which has been translated into 19 languages and played all over the world, features Graham Hopkins and Vanessa Cooke, directed by Christopher Weare and designed by Julia Anastasopoulos.

South African satire at its best

Starring South African theatre legend Tim Plewman (Defending the Caveman), 'The Last Moustache', is an outrageous one-man satire with a serious bite; reminding us that what we are sold as truth is often far from it.

'Adapt or Dye' was inspired by the words of President PW Botha suggesting that white South Africa must adapt or die. Pieter-Dirk Uys took the slogan, adapted it to read 'Adapt or Dye' and gave his satirical onslaught against separate development, a title out of the mouth of the leader. Recently a spokesperson of the unruly ANC Youth League, radically opposed to President Zuma and the ancient regime of the party, stated that if whites did not like a future under their radical youth leadership, they could adapt or fly. As Pieter-Dirk Uys says, "Isn't this what I brought to Grahamstown for the first time in 1982?" Maybe history does not repeat itself in South Africa. Maybe it just rhymes - from apartheid to tripartite.

Now in his late sixties, Pieter-Dirk Uys can vividly recall the recent history of South Africa with ease and is probably the most up to date person on current South African politics. He engages his audiences, speaking to the young, the expat, the gay and the gatvol. After a sell-out show in 2012, he returns to the Festival for 'An Audience with Pieter-Dirk EISH.'

The Performing Arts Centre of the Free State (PACOFS) presents 'Madonna of Excelsior' - adapted by Kobus Moolman from the novel by Zakes Mda. Set in 1971, nineteen citizens of Excelsior in South Africa's white-ruled Free State were charged with breaking apartheid's Immorality Act, which forbade sex between blacks and whites. This play focuses on the story of one such fallen Madonna, and her family, who are at the heart of the scandal. Adapted for the stage by Kobus Moolman through a commission by PACOFS, the idea for the production was incubated in the Novel-Script Project, a development workshop held for writers at the National Arts Festival in 2010. Funded by the Netherlands Embassy and coordinated by the Twist Project, the workshops brought together emerging South African writers and Dutch writers to explore the possibility of adapting Mda's novel for the stage.

A showcase of work produced under the umbrella of The Market Theatre features 'Woza Albert' (directed by Standard Bank Young Artist Prince Lamla), 'Cadre' (Omphilo Molusi), 'The Island' (directed by John Kani) and 'The Line' (directed by Gina Shmukler).

There is also a showcase of playwright Mike van Graan's work, a showcase of Eastern Cape theatre companies presented by the Port Elizabeth Opera Houses with the support of the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts & Culture Council; and work by Standard Bank Ovation Award winning companies and international companies selected by the World Fringe Alliance, which are programmed as part of the Arena.

Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Eastern Cape Government, Department of Arts and Culture, National Arts Council, City Press and M-Net sponsor the National Arts Festival.
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