It’s blatantly obvious that I’m not in Grahamstown this year, and I can’t say I’m too sorry. It always seemed like a bit of a stretch doing 17 days of (oh dear theatre gods please let it be) “amazing”. And from what it sounds like, opening on a Sunday is a bit like smoking in the shower; a bad idea, not worth the effort. But the one thing about those at the fest is their eternal optimism and hope that it will get better, coupled with the hit-or-miss possibility that you might have an unexplainable success on your hands! But my dear friend Simon Cooper is there, flying the flag, and he is going to be high-jacking meganshead for as long as I let him, with his thoughts and feelings about the Grahamstown fest of twentyten.

Here are his first impressions.

Thoughts of a  festino/producer :

Grahamstown 2010! The first 2 days are  done. Not a lot of people around as yet. There is a  growing view that perhaps the decision to start on a sunday was not good. But there is something of a buzz about. Hope it  grows.

My play, “London Road” [Robyn Scott and Ntombi Makhutshi –  directed by Lara Bye – Princess Alice daily at 12h00], performed at 12h00  Sunday for the first time at the fest – about 20 people but a great  reception.  Monday saw the audience treble and a winner of a review in  the cue 50 words section – “seldom is such theatrical brilliance seen on the  fringe”.   Triple yah.   Cue is playing ball so far  – yesterday they followed Robyn as she transforms from a 37 year old to a 75  year old and we hoping for a splash in cue today or  tomorrow.

Saw “Backstory” – a new piece by dancer and  physical theatre guy, Craig Norris and Barry Strydom. Not  bad but needs serious work and again raises the question of whether  performers should be allowed to bring work to the fest that is not  quite performance ready and run it in?  “Backstory” is based around  the theory of evolution and takes the from of a lecture to an erudite  academic body.   Barry Strydom, the guy who plays the prof  delivering the lecture, should be replaced – he plays as if he is a little  boy being clever – he’s trying to be the hyper-intelligent but naive  academic but no he is puerile.   He does however give Craig the  scope to play around with man’s development and learning process.

Also  saw an older piece that i had not seen before, Sharleen Surtie-Richards’  “Shirley Valentyn” – standing ovation.  I loved it but then I love that  local cape humour which is used so effectively in this translated  performance.

Woke up monday feeling tired already but a  cup of coffee later and that indomnitable festino sprit coursed thru my  veins and i am ready to face the next day of shows.   First up was  “Skrapnel” [written by Willem Anker, featuring Marcel van Heerden,  Andrew Thompson and Jenine Groenewald, directed by Jaco Bouwer].    This play got a huge write up in cue on monday but left me and I think most  of the audience wondering what it was about.   Very wordy, very  long, very boring.

Then Craig Morris again  with “Blood Orange” – physical theatre, well performed and entertaining but  it tells of a white boy growing up in pre 1994 south africa and one is left  with the feeling of “oh boy – not again”.   Greig Coetzee’s “white  men with weapons” springs to mind.   Lastly another Afrikaans  piece badly attended – this is bad : the organisers are trying hard to  attract more Afrikaans theatre to what is primarily an English language  event and people don’t go.   18 + 2 performers + 5 photographers  in a theatre holding 277.   Nee wat mense !!!   “Dinsdae  by Morrie” [Chris van Niekerk & Pedro Kruger : translated and directed  by Hennie van Greunen] is a great piece concenring the relationship between  a student and “that” teacher [prof actually] who changes your  life.   Gently humourous, attractive and quite  insightful.   Well worth seeing and I hope more people  do.

The thrid day dawns – too  much red wine last night with old friend. Koffie en courage – we  hit the well travlled road to Grahamstown.

I’m not feeling jealous yet!