HIFA Day 1

8 05 2008

We start off with a packed press briefing as we will every day. This one is different; it is the first and there is an air of expectation and excitement. It has not been an easy year. Artistes have pulled out at the last minute and been replaced with others but the biggest hurdle has been getting finance out of local companies who are as beleaguered as the rest of us by the appalling financial environment as the rest of us. Opening addresses are given by the various officials, sponsors are praised and finally some of the artistes for the day are introduced and get to say a few words. Then we are let loose.

Gods, Fate and a Librarian is a witty comedy written and performed by Erica Glyn-Jones and Haidee Crowe. They take the roles of the Fates, out to manipulate the human race and have a bit of fun while they are about it. Of course it all goes wrong and the humans being the recalcitrant lot that they are have other plans. There is an underlying serious message about African dictators and they poke fun at religion and even give birth (literally) to a new one. Audience participation is mandatory; God  (the new one) is declared a woman and a hapless male member of the audience is dragged off for fake (presumably) sex in the theatre toilets. Props are simple; just a couple of step ladders and a feather duster or two and an apparently poisoned banana. I don’t notice that there is a Fate missing (they are apparently not immune to human disorders) and enjoy the play for what it is – light hearted humour!

I bump into Haidee Crowe later and ask her if they slanted the dictator aspect for the Zimbabwe performance (this is the play’s premiere) but she says no. I hear comments much later that some people thought the acting a bit amateurish but what would I know, and anyway, I am not a critic.

The second performance I need to cover is quite different; it includes a lute player, a soprano and a poet, all Dutch. I do enjoy classical music and I am intrigued by the lute but I am way out of my depth …

“Having only ever seen a lute on reruns of the Blackadder series set in Tudor England I was fascinated to see and hear the real thing. Fortunately the playing of Willem Mook could not have been further from my images of Rowan Atkinson chasing down the cavorting jester in the TV series!”

They play the music and poetry of Constantine Huygens (father of the scientist). It’s easy listening and I don’t have to sound like I know what I’m talking about. I simply tell the truth. “Accompanied by the delightfully smooth soprano of Paulien van der Werff and the rich readings of Peter Adema in both English and the rhyming Dutch, Willem Mook’s superbly talented lute was the perfect introduction to the early baroque era of music that is rarely heard in Zimbabwe. Hopefully this talented trio will be back!” I bump into Willem later and he is ecstatic about my review. I don’t have the heart to tell him that I’m a rank amateur!

The last performance I attend is a replacement for someone who pulled out and it’s titled Blood Orange. Based on a book of the same name it’s a simple story of a boy growing up in the 60’s and 70’s South Africa. It takes a few minutes for me to realize what is going on and the actor, in his 30’s plays all the characters. It’s a phenomenal piece of acting by … and he is soaked in sweat at the end of it all. He is amazingly dynamic. Oh and the tyre in the photo? Four of them are his sole props. They are the cane he gets beaten with at school, his backpack, the toilet his pet mouse gets flushed down by the teacher and the rocks in Copenhagen habour where the statue of the little mermaid sits. It’s clever, witty stuff and I connect with an era which is of my childhood. The crowd is small but appreciative and I’m pleased to find out that his last show sold out.

I help with putting together the newssheet for the next day the HIFA-Lutin (get it?) and it’s fun to see it all come together under the skilful hands of the typesetter Tracy who’s a professional. We use the photos of the professional photographers who’ve been contracted to photo all the performers but it’s a cheap and cheerful publication and a lot of the quality is lost.

I get home late and Jenni is ecstatic in that special way that dogs are when you are late.

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