Theatre is alive and well at Aardklop Arts Festival

Bloed en Bodem at the Aardklop National Arts Festival. Picture: Supplied

Bloed en Bodem at the Aardklop National Arts Festival. Picture: Supplied

Of the debut shows, many will tour, or even return to the annual arts festival next year.

It was just a little before noon and I was already hankering for a glass of wine – the cheap kind that you can lace with ice.

I wanted to get tipsy to get me through two things: a lot of Afrikaans and to cool down.

After a hot morning in Potchefstroom covering Aardklop, wine seems like the only thing to take the edge off. But going into the festival grounds to sit in the wine garden meant I would need a rosary as I pray for the lost souls buying Live Laugh Hope signs and mosaic crosses from the stalls while listening to a cover artist singing Lance James.

It’s a manifestation of poor taste I’m not prepared to deal with just yet, and I’m not sure if I can handle another person calling me oom. It’s a sobering moment.

Earlier, I was walking through the Sanlam Auditorium on the NWU-Potchefstroom Campus to look at Diane Victor’s fascinating Shadows and Light exhibition.

Using perspex, she created portraits that are lit from the back and then eerily displayed on the brutalist walls of the apartheid-era building.

The gallery is empty except for two women taking their pick of Jodi Beiber handouts from her exhibition #I. On this side of Aardklop, there’s nobody calling me oom.

Heading to the festival ground, the other side of Aardklop is in full display. Here the eerie images are more people that really haven’t taken the opportunity to look at a free exhibition, discussions with authors writing about politics or some of the great talks presented daily at Aardklop. The audience is different.

But head to one of the venues used for theatre productions and there seems to be a balance.

I watched a debut show called Lykskou. It’s a farcical, dark comedy that is a masterful display of how little you need to entertain.

Props are just a bed, a table and a bookshelf where the two actors – Je-Ani Swiegelaar and Bouwer Bosch – spend a charming 65 minutes telling the story about a brother and sister duo that turn into con make-up artists for the dead.

When an entire cricket team is killed in a bus accident in the Free State, the two decide to embark on their final con. It’s the hilarious script that pulls you in – and the rousing applause at the end says a lot. People love theatre.

The credit goes to the writer Wessel Pretorius, a name you see a lot if you’re jumping from show to show. He’s also the man behind Fotostaatmasjien – a show that puts you in the mind of an Afrikaans millennial. It’s funny, satirical and mixes pop and poetry, cabaret and heartfelt laughter.

Even more dramatic shows, the theatres are relatively full.

Swerfgoed, which stars Anna-Mart van der Merwe, who also has a role in Fotostaatmasjien, provides a dark dystopian tragi-comedy that throws heavy punches at the audience.

Of the debut shows, many will tour, or even return to Aardklop next year.

It’s then when you realise it’s okay to go to the wine garden and listen to Neil Diamond covers. Chances are you’ll return next year so you might as well enjoy the festival in its entirety.

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