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Gig guide – September

Our artists need us, and, honestly, we need them more. They are capable of doing something else to survive if needs be, but we aren’t capable of distilling our society through a creative lens and communicating our shared humanity like they can. So quit fighting about bullshit, get inoculated, and go to the theatre or exhibition or music gig. Ok? Ok!
Gig guide – September
Snapped, featuring Jenny Reznek directed by Mark Fleishman, is opening at the Baxter Theatre on 16 September. Photo: Supplied

Theatre

One of our most precious gems, Jennie Reznek, has written another play, called Snapped,which is to be staged at the Baxter Theatre from 16 September to 2 October. This is wonderful news and the first chance at watching live theatre in 18 months. We’re starving here, and Reznek, directed by her brilliant husband Mark Fleishman, is about to give us a banquet. The blurb on the Baxter site is intriguing: the play involves an unknown WWII stretcher bearer from the Cape Corps stuck in a grave in Italy, and a woman stuck in grief for her father. There’s elements of Dante’s Inferno and the journey into hell as evinced by WWII, which starts to make sense in relation to it being a companion piece to Reznek’s 2015 work,I turned away and she was gone, which delved into the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades and a mother’s grief at losing her daughter. Clearly this is a layered work and it is bound to be beautiful. Tickets are R150, book through baxter.co.za.

The four winning productions from the Baxter’s Zabalaza Festival, will be showcased in the Baxter’s Golden Arrow Studio from 7 to 18 September. Watch Heads or Tail(s)?, Thank You for Your Service, Blood on the Road, or Ganga Nyoko! Inzima nyoko! Or all four of them and witness the best emerging theatre talent in our city. There are double bills for R85 and single shows for R45. Book through baxter.co.za.

The Baxter is where it’s at for live shows in deadly times (but no fear there are strict measures to ensure you stay on the live side). Ever thought about Berlin in the ‘30s? Well the best antidote is cabaret, and there are four such shows in a little cabaret season running from 22 September to 9 October, brought to us from East London after garnering awards from the National Arts Festival Fringe.

There’s Mad about the Boyswhich is much as it sounds, like Cole Porter and whatnot, in which you will see the urbane Daniel Anderson provide what the Daily Dispatch called “sheer entertainment” which “might be just what we all need right now” from 22 – 25 September, and 9 October.

Alison Hillstead, fresh from winning an ovation award at the National Arts Festival, performs as a librarian in DAMSELL IN DISTRESS, and so enters a plot to journey through the heyday shows of New York and Berlin from 24 to 29 September.

Another ovation award winner, A Star is Born gives us Kerry Hiles who has “a smile that lights up the room and a gorgeous singing voice” according to critic Keith Millar, giving us Judy Garland. Hiles may well have you in the palm of her hand from 30 September to 2 October.

Kerry also promises to hold you spellbound in The Story of Eva Cassidy who, if you are unfamiliar, died of cancer aged 33 but only became famous four years after her death when some dozy doos at the record company woke up to just how beautifully delicate her country-tinges voice was. You’ll have to wait until next month for this one, it’s on from 6 – 8 October.

All the shows are directed by Amanda Bothma, who also had a hand in writing them.

Exhibitions

Everybody knows about District Six, but the story less told is the apartheid state’s equally traumatic forced removal of coloured families from places such as Simonstown and Constantia. This is where the Constantia heritage and education project comes in. They normally host a popular annual heritage walk every year to make people aware that Constantia wasn’t always a larny enclave. The walk wasn’t possible last year due to lockdown and this year they’re hosting an exhibition, Hidden Rivers, which tells the little-known story of ‘Konstansie’. It is in collaboration with Iziko Museum, Christ Church Constantia, Centre for Curating the Archive, and photographer Kent Andreasen. It opens on 1 September for the month at Groot Constantia.

Film

You may be familiar with the phrases ‘white monopoly capital’ and ‘radical economic transformation’ which started doing the rounds amidst heated racially charged social media wars that spilled onto the streets in violent protests. This was circa 2015/16 along with #FeesMustFall and a backing track of Zuma chuckling. A lot of that, particularly the ‘white monopoly capital’ bit, was dreamt up by an amoral, if not immoral, British public relations firm called Bell Pottinger. The same public relations firm that was behind Maggie Thatcher winning three elections for the Tories in England and getting the bloody Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s chosen successor to take the reins in that country. Their real business is not public relations, its disinformation for whoever pays the bills. This disturbing manipulation and control of what are supposed to be democratic processes is exposed in the masterfully shot documentary Influence. While the film is likely to destroy any hope for humanity you may have still harboured against all odds, the good news is that we here in SA didn’t take Bell Pottinger’s shit. It was us – more specifically former DA MP Phumzile van Damme – who took them down. The doccie is free to view at www.influence.film.

When it comes to series and whatnot, we can recommend Watchmen on Showmax, a thrilling and fantastical take on the graphic novel series which uses the Tulsa massacre of 1931 to drive its terrific plot. Although made shortly before Covid, it could not be more timely. It also has a refreshingly diverse cast with sympathetic black protagonists, which are not as easy to find as you might think. One season with episodes of about an hour each, it stars Regina King and Jeremy Irons.

Although all white, The Kominsky Method on Netflix features great acting by Michael Douglas as an aging and somewhat renowned acting teacher. It is funny and endearing and surprisingly philosophical, just ignore the weird writing glitch of the first episode of the second season. Alongside Douglas is Alan Arkin and Kathleen Turner. Three seasons with episodes about 30mins long.

Literature

For an engaging and funny and insightful conversation between writers Rémy Ngamije from Windhoek and Adam Smyer from Oakland in California, go to this link or search their names along with tatteredcover, the bookshop that hosted the event. This is especially recommended if you are desperate for some intelligence in your life.