CHRIS THURMAN: So far, so excellent — arts festival delivers the virtual goods
From Buhle Ngaba’s beautiful ‘Swan Song’ to the audio drama ‘Nixon in Agony’, the 2020 iteration has been inspiring and intriguing
A gratifying upshot of the National Arts Festival’s shift online for 2020 is that the programme does not seek simply to replicate digitally what would be on offer if the festival were taking place in Makhanda. Rather, many of the artists involved have seen this as an opportunity to reinvigorate and indeed to reimagine their art. In some instances, this has resulted in entirely new works. Other performances that have previously had a life on stage have undergone intriguing metamorphoses in their transition to the screen.
One such work is Buhle Ngaba’s Swan Song, which I wrote about in a column this time last year as Ngaba prepared to take her solo show to the Vrystaat Kunstefees in Bloemfontein. Fast forward a few months, and Swan Song — intimate and intricately crafted, beautifully lit and designed — was perfectly placed to become a flagship as the National Arts Festival pivoted to virtual mode.