Illa Thompson

Column 102

January 2017 

So – it’s January. Intuitively I want to bang on about how New Years’ resolutions should include a commitment to engage with more original art this year: to catch regular theatre shows; sample some of the phenomenal live music which the region has on offer: from the sublime KZN Philharmonic and Music Revival concerts, to the myriad regular Concerts SA jazz, accoustic and crossover gigs; to explore the art galleries; read more books; take your kids to the panto; escape the heat in the delicious intelligent cool of Cinema Nouveau; support independent arts innovations like Mondays at St Clements and the projects at Alliance Francaise…..

But I won’t. Cos this goes without saying. For me this is as obvious and essential as breathing.

From the bottom of my heart I wish every reader would put aside at least one evening a week to turn off their devices, step away from the comfort of the home-entertainment cocoon and venture out to see what my colleagues and associates in the creative industries are up to. If you want some pointers – let me know and I can mail you ideas and suggestions.

I also want to step away from the sadness of starting a new year without two of our city’s formerly busiest theatres – the Catalina and the Barnyard – both of which closed down last year. Incidentally, for all of us who earn a living from live performance, the implications of these closures are enormous.

Instead I want to share a case study or two which illustrates the tenacity, creativity and Mad Hatter thinking which makes me proud to be part of the city’s arts community.

January is typically a quiet month of catch-up and recovery. So doing any major arts project in January is unusual and counter-intuitive. This year there are at least two great gigs worth catching – both courageous in their innovation.

There is a new fab festival on the city’s events calendar: the Fresha Open Air Theatre Festival which takes place for the first time on Durban’s North Beach from 20 – 22 January.

The festival kicks off with a procession and highlights package showcase on Friday from 5pm. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons there will be a busy schedule of a dozen 15 minute theatre gems to catch the attention of beach-goers and passers-by. All pieces are suited to incidental alfresco family viewing.

The performances will take place on the beach promenade: performance art, street comedy, mime, dance and physical theatre. Performers are from throughout KZN, and guest artists are travelleing from Johannesburg and the Netherlands to participate.

And there will be a bedoin tent on the North Beach lawn for the daily sundowner showcase, and if the weather becomes inclement.

It is theatre to be enjoyed with sunblock on your nose, and sand between your toes – quintessentially perfect for outdoors Durban: funky, visual, accessible, fun and with few words.

Fresha is the Musho Festival rebooted and reimagined. After 11 glorious years and with the simultaneous demise of both the Catalina Theatre and the KZN chapter of national arts body, PANSA, it was time for a re-think. Festival Director Emma Durden, and her supportive colleagues from Twist Theatre Development Projects, chose to fill the void with something very different and iconically Durban. The affirming message is: if our theatre venues close, we will still carry on with what we love. We will find another way….

Sharing this philosophy is innovative arts alchemist, David Gouldie who is hosting a  four night collaborative Murder Mystery-inspired arts event, entitled OverExposed at month-end at Rivertown. A specially-created site-specifice interative performance art experience it is billed as “Over 50 of Durban’s coolest artists come out from the dark recesses to play together in the making of madness.”

I cant wait!

This and more is why I love Durban!

Happy New Year