Play by play

by Diane de Beer
Photo’s: Verskaf

It can be challenging with a programme as bountiful as the Woordfees to make a selection. What should one not miss? DIANE DE BEER selects four of the best plays which she has seen earlier this year.


If anyone was wondering about the viability of the dream project Karoo Kaarte by KKNK’s Hugo Theart and driven by artists Neil Coppen and Vaughn Sadie, they simply had to witness the leap this team made following last year’s Op Hierdie Dag, which received much praise, seven nominations and a Fiësta win for actor Marinda Ntantiso.

With the second play in as many years, Droomkraan-kronieke, they were aided by internationally renowned puppet master Craig Leo as well as actor Carlo Daniels, and the full team of Oudtshoorn actors worked much more in a cohesive unit than the previous time.

It was a fun, emotionally fulfilling and rewarding experience as these novice actors displayed their performance skills, exuberance and energy and their growth in professional approach and execution.

This is a production that will work anywhere without any explanation needed of where they come from and who they are. It simply heightens the admiration one feels for what they have achieved and the lives that are changed. Both for those performing and watching.

The project Karoo Kaarte which is the feeder for these plays, should also stand as a blueprint of how to make a festival (or any event) inclusive in an attempt to upend the status quo.

What Droomkraan-kronieke achieves more than anything is to pinpoint the potential right in front of our eyes and what happens when two activist artists (with the help of the KKNK, gracious donors and many other hands) can showcase a community that has previously been held back with few available opportunities. 

It’s simply magnificent! 

  • 7 Oct 10:30 | 8 Oct 10:00 & 13:00 | 9 Oct 10:00 Rhenish Girls’ High School

Ver Innie Wêreld Kittie
It might be an intimate setting, but it’s a huge story with heart  – and one of David Kramer’s best. I loved the intimacy of the staging with only four dazzling actors/singers (Dean Balie, Rushney Ferguson, Jenny Stead and André Terblanche) and musicians Nick Turner, Yvan Potts and Kerryn Torrance. 

In 1952 Doris Day and Frankie Lane had a hit with Sugarbush, which was apparently written by Josef Marais (the stage name of Joseph Pessach). Marais and his wife Rosa de Miranda became hugely successful in the US as a folk duo who sang Afrikaans songs translated into English by Marais.

Back home and much later, Kramer hears about Marais’s talent because these two musos both grew up in Worcester. But no one remembers Marais, except Renaye Kramer’s aunt Lily Lange who was courted in her youth by Pessach, who wasn’t considered a good enough catch by the family.

Weaving all these stories together, Kramer adds meat to the story by telling a tale of appropriation, something which has long been a problem on especially the African continent. The performers, the staging, the story, the words, used very sparsely but specifically, and the way Kramer tells the story, all contribute to a magical musical affair.

As usual, Kramer has excelled in the casting, with this quartet bursting with talent. And keeping it small and quite simply staged, it’s the story and the singers that excel. It’s a universal story told with heartiness and honesty by performers who are world class.

  • 9 Oct 10:00 | 10 Oct 19:00 | 12 Oct 20:30 | 13 Oct 17:30 Adam Small Auditorium

I lost my heart to Reza de Wet’s Mirakel directed by her close friend Marthinus Basson. This has always been a stage match made in heaven.

But I hadn’t realised that this was a play I had never seen – and what a delight, yet with a darkness captured in the script. De Wet can be quite melancholy with stories that tear you apart as she scratches around in the psyche of her people.

But here she looks at a theatrical touring group with a much more gentle eye as she captures all the stereotypes in what can be a very melodramatic world. All the world’s a stage and nowhere is this more true and deliciously visible than here.

Basson’s first masterstroke was the casting. Dawid Minnaar’s performance sets the tone and gives free rein to the rest of the cast as they all swing into over-the-top storytelling that will have you in stitches.

But what lingers is the toughness that is hidden just under the surface. It is about the struggle to practise something that brings such pleasure. How society regards and values the artists and allows them the space to breathe and to grow. All of which in the long run will bring huge rewards. 

But do we really?

If ever you want to flee the problems of the present, this is where you want to go. It’s fun, it sketches a world we are all familiar with but perhaps not often part of and it allows the actors to go at it full tilt – and no one does it quite as deliciously and with so much relish (one can almost see him smacking his lips as he enters the stage) as Minnaar.

This is one I will cherish for a long time as the depth of what Reza de Wet wanted us to contemplate, lingers.

  • 10 Oct 14:00 | 11 Oct 09:30 | 12 Oct 19:30 | 13 Oct 09:00 HMS Bloemhof Centre
Die Moeder - Emma Wiehman

With the return of live theatre following the nightmarish pandemic, there was one performance in particular that just made me senselessly happy. It was at last year’s first live return of the Woordfees. And I’m so thrilled it is back.

Die Moeder held all the potential of being something special, and what Sandra Prinsloo brought to the role was spectacular. If this is how she dances into the twilight of her career, buckle up.

Director Christiaan Olwagen had been away playing successfully in television and movies before this comeback, but it’s always on stage that he has been most impressive. It feels as if it is a medium he understands and where he feels at home resulting in a vision that translates magnificently.

With that driving her and a magnificent script, it was up to Prinsloo to plumb the depths of an ageing woman who has lost all sense of herself as the world (and her family) seems to have discarded her. Or that’s how she perceives it to be. 

Prinsloo slips under her skin and more in a performance that simply surpasses everything she has done before (and there were some great ones). But this was next level and for this gracious actor, a just reward for years and years of hard work.

We all knew she is one of the greats and then she went one better! 

We’re blessed to have her. And I haven’t yet mentioned the rest of the ensemble starting with Dawid Minnaar, Ludwig Binge and Ashley de Lange…

  • 12 Oct 15:30 | 13 Oct 14:00 | 14 Oct 20:00 | 15 Oct 13:00 and 15:30 HMS Bloemhof Centre