‘Fringe’ is the latest buzzword at the National Arts Festival, which has returned to Grahamstown for the 35th year this year.
Ongezwa Mafunda who stars in Umzali Ngumzali, a play from Walter Sisulu University told FJP that she is interested in because it helps her scout for new talent. Her show focuses on a young who turns against her mother after she being brought up in penury.
National Arts Festival CEO Tony Lankester said the Fringe serves as an open platform and a “stepping stone” for upcoming artists. Of this year’s 600 productions, 450 are in Fringe by far the largest part of the festival. Like the Main programme, Fringe also has a sumptuous serving of physical theatre, music, theatre and drama. The fringe is also said to have been beneficial in the apartheid era, as it gave stage to protesters to express their views without too much restriction.
The showcase of well-known and aspiring performers has always been categorised into the ‘Main’, whose performers are vetted, invited and paid for by the National Arts Festival; and ‘Fringe’, which attracts those whose only link to officialdom is filling a registration form, paying a refundable registration fee, and paying a venue fee for their productions.
The main programme is attractive because mainly because performers get three-year contracts to create new works and perform them at Festival. Gamakhulu Diniso, Sepoko Summit playwright and actor said the main and the fringe act as a left and a right hand of the festival, as a whole we have the freedom to cook new things and face challenges to the extreme. He said he was happy to remain on the fringe in order to main his sense of freedom.
The fringe’s other advantage is that many of those who are involved in it are about making Grahamstown more entertaining. For years too, the fringe has provided upcoming artists with projects like Writing Beyond the Fringe where four artists write stories that are then translated into different languages. This helps give create an international platform for writers, not to mention the hard currency payments.
For 2009, four writers were asked to reflects on the theme, ‘Remapping the World’ and they will read their works several times during the festival.
“Fringe is the platform for the upcoming artists and they perform no matter how many people are in the audience because you will never know who is watching,” said retired arts journalist Adrienne Sichel.
· Reporting and writing by Lwando Helesi, Hunadi Ralebipi, Samukelisiwe Makhubo, Bongani Mthethwa.