Tinarie van Wyk Loots and Mbulelo Grootboom in Gif/Poison/Ityhefu. Picture: SUPPLIED
Tinarie van Wyk Loots and Mbulelo Grootboom in Gif/Poison/Ityhefu. Picture: SUPPLIED

Oudtshoorn is once again shaking its ostrich feathers as the annual host of SA’s longest-standing Afrikaans arts festival. Now in its 24th year, the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK) — particularly its theatre programme, curated by Hugo Theart — continues to expand and grow beyond the borders of language and culture.

One such production this year is Dutch playwright Lot Vekemans’ Gif/Poison/Ityhefu, which originally made its debut during last year’s Free State Arts festival. It has been translated into Afrikaans, English and isiXhosa by Willem Anker (Samsa-masjien).

Designed by Guy de Lancey, the play features Mbulelo Grootboom (who takes over from Atandwa Kani) and Tinarie van Wyk Loots. Directed by Erwin Maas, the plot chronicles the reunion of a man and woman who, many years ago, first lost their child, and then one another.

First penned in 1952 by Romanian-French author Eugène Ionesco — a pioneer of Avant-garde theatre — Die Stoele (the chairs) has been translated into Afrikaans by Fleur du Cap lifetime achievement recipient Marthinus Basson (Macbeth.Slapeloos/Melk & Vleis), who also designed and directs the piece.

The cast of this tragic farce is made up of Tobie Cronjé, Antoinette Kellermann en Sami Maseko. Featuring invisible guests, the frantic moving around of chairs and the (very possible) revelation of the meaning of life, this is high-calibre production is highly recommended viewing.

In addition to staging Die Stoele as a way to celebrate Cronjé’s body of work as performer, this veteran stage and screen figure will also be one of the recipients of this year’s Kunste Onbeperk lifetime achievement awards during the festival.

Another piece featuring a stage legend is Pieter-Dirk Uys’s new one-man production, Weifel Oor Jou Twyfel/When In Doubt Say Darling. After four decades of ruling the industry, the show sees the beloved satirist rummaging through his attic and storage cupboards.

What tumbles out of these closets include costumes, wigs and, most excitingly, a few brand new characters. Providing both commentary on the past 24 years of us being a democracy, as well as observing South Africans in all our wackiness, don’t be surprised if Uys eventually outlives us all.

One of the unexpected festival gems of 2017 was Mike & Mavis, a gentle, bilingual love story between two golden-agers that’s set against a backdrop of classic movies and long-lost secrets.

Executed with nuance under the direction of Gerrit Schoonhoven, real-life married couple Elize Cawood and Wilson Dunster vividly bring Wessel Pretorius’s script to life in a relatable, charming way. After delighting English audiences for several years now with her bubblegum-popping teenage fantasy creation Pretina de Jager, it is finally time for KKNK audiences to meet the exciting "new-wave clown", Klara van Wyk, in all her neon action glory.

Part diary confessions, part one-woman show (and now translated into Afrikaans), You Suck (And Other Inescapable Truths) covers topics such as twerking, being hot and navigating the world as a teenage girl born to always stand out.

The cast of Babbelagtig. Picture: ROBERT A HAMBLIN
The cast of Babbelagtig. Picture: ROBERT A HAMBLIN

Elsewhere, Van Wyk can also be seen in a nonverbal circus production — think Slava’s Snowshow or Cirque du Soleil — called Babbelagtig. It’s set to be one of the showstoppers at KKNK this year, and is directed by Hèlikos International School of Theatre Creation graduate Jenine Collocott.

In addition to a great cast that includes De Klerk Oelofse, Jemma Kahn, Roberto Pombo and Dean Balie, Babbelagtig also features the talents of sound designer Charl-Johan Lingenfelder, as well as visual designer Wolf Britz.

Tony award-winning playwright Christopher Durang (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) will see one of his works performed in Afrikaans this year. Die Baba Met Die Badwater is brought to life under the direction of Henry Mylne and his wacky cast made up of Lizz Meiring and Kaz McFadden.

Daniel Richards in State Fracture. Picture: SUPPLIED
Daniel Richards in State Fracture. Picture: SUPPLIED

Mike van Graan’s State Fracture walked away with an Ovation Award at 2017’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. This satirical one-hander stars hotshot young actor Daniel Mpilo Richards, is directed by Rob van Vuuren, and has been described as both hilarious and piercingly relevant.

KKNK runs from March 29 to April 4. For the full programme, or to book tickets, see www.kknk.co.za.