Spier Performance Art Festival

Posted: February 3, 2009 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews

©Astrid Stark

Published:  The Event. South Africa’s leading business tourism industry newspaper. 2008


It’s an ordinary Wednesday in the Cape Town city centre when tribal drumming suddenly erupts in the vicinity of the Adderley Fountains.  Within seconds the fountain  is teeming with dancers moving gracefully against the backdrop of high-rise buildings and Table Mountain. Traffic stops. Urbanites gape at the impromptu theatrical performance. 

From 26 February to 2 March, public spaces became a playground for the Spier Performance Arts Festival.  Curators Jay Pather and Brett Bailey, together with award winning directors and choreographers, put together a range of performances to make art accessible to a wider audience. 

The talented dance company Jazzart together with the commanding voice of Melanie Scholtz wowed commuters at the Cape Town station with I am Cinnamon.  Onlookers stared as the supple dancers flick- flacked in choreographed unison.  Most of these commuters have never witnessed a professional show before.  Soon they whistled and clapped appreciatively.

The internationally acclaimed, Transports Exceptionnels, brought to life a moving performance between a male dancer and excavator at the Grand Parade.  It is an emotive piece that provokes debate about the nature of the relationship between man and machine, and the laws of attraction and compassion. 

Cape Town High School hosted three performances of the dramatic production, Not with my gun, staring acclaimed actors Meshack Mavuso and Anthony Coleman.

Paid for events included the production of Dreamtime held in the haunting whale room at the National Gallery.  This 100 minute show produced some evocative moments but a number of the acts lacked substance and a sense of continuity which failed to impress.

At the Centre of the Book participants had the rare experience of a one-on-one chat with some of South Africa’s leaders on the Future. Talking Heads is a touch of genius and included guest speakers such as Zachie Achmat, Rod Suskin, Ruth Hall and others.

It is reassuring to witness South African art reclaiming the inner city by replacing fear and suspicion with hope and debate. This festival is one in a series of Spier Arts Festivals produced by the Africa Centre.  The other two festivals include the Poetry Exchange and African Music Festivals.

In 2009, infecting the City will run from 21-27 February.


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