Of course I’ve read through Simon’s day yesterday and although he is enthusiastic about 2 of the three things he saw, I am like, been there done that about all of it. From Fo to Fugard. How many times can the festival offer A Woman Alone? Every time an actress wants to do a one-woman piece without writing the thing: Bam! Out comes Fo. Eish. Same goes for Hello and Goodbye, my favourite yet over done Fugard. Yes Dorothy and Michael are brilliant; again! And just the word ‘revisit’ to describe “One Man’s Life” makes me yawn, even though I love Eric Nobbs. But hey, that’s why Simon’s there and I’m here; getting ready to go to Jozi and soccer on Friday night (omg!) and Beautiful Creatures on Saturday!

The Official word [extracts from] :  “The National Arts Festival has announced a 7% increase in ticket sales on June 28 – the halfway mark of the 15 Days of Amazing.   ……..  ticket sales for the first half of this year’s event ………. were showing a 7% growth on last year’s figures.   ……..…….. Lankester also said that a strong offering on the Fringe was shifting the focus of audience attention, with theatre and dance productions showing some growth at the expense of some of the comedy offerings. “The Fringe theatre programme this year is incredibly strong – with productions like London Road, Breed, Stilted, Decadence and Karoo Moose all finding their way into the Top 20 grossing productions so far – a list that was previously dominated by stand-up comedy acts,” he said.    On the Main programme, the Festival’s ballet and music offerings have proven to be the most popular. Other productions that have attracted strong audience and critical response include comedian Paul Zerdin, and theatre productions Man to Man, with Antoinette Kellerman, and Neil Coppen’s Tree Boy.

Right, back to the action on stage.   First was the second half of a double header performed by Nina Lucy Wylde.    I saw the first half, “THE HUMAN VOICE”,  last year.   It is an intense, evocative and emotional play about a phone call by a woman to an ex-lover – she is trying to hold it together and to convince her ex-lover that she believes that ending the relationship [by mutual consent it seemed] was the right thing to do when clearly she doesn’t really feel or believe that.  Lucy gave an enthralling performance giving full rein to the emotions of the character.    This year she has added the second half called “A WOMAN ALONE” by Dario Fo and Franca Rame, translated by Gillian Hanna and adapted by James Cairns.    This is what I saw yesterday and I was a little disappointed to be honest.   The play is about a woman trapped in a desperate marriage with an abusive husband, a serious lech for a brother in law and a whining child with a would be groper for a neighbour.   All of this combines to drive her to drastic action that is the play’s climax.   There is certainly meant to be a funny side to the thing but I missed the pent-up desperation that the woman must feel and which eventually wins out.   I don’t think that Lucy has challenged herself, or been challenged, to portray the emotions of the character.   She whizzes through the performance on the surface of the character playing it very lightly and superficially when there is so much more.  Lucy is a talented actress and she can, and should do this.  If she does, the production will grow enormously.

A return visit after a number of years to Eric Nobbs’, “ONE MAN’S LIFE”, written and directed by Deon Opperman.    Relating the story of how the character [unnamed] met and married the love of his life, the play goes off on several tangents in to other aspects of his life and boyhood/adolescence.  Humourous, poignant, gripping and well-performed, this [by now] classic was well worth another look.   The unexpected ending and the emotions that it stirs, gripped and silenced the audience yesterday.    The play underlined for me the gap that Opperman’s absence from a Festival such as Grahamstown leaves and conjured up those days when there were 3, 4 ,5 Opperman plays around.   It seems he doesn’t trust English language Festivals that much anymore – a pity.  But this one is definitely worth seeing.

Lastly 2 hours and 15 minutes [including interval] of Fugard’s “HELLO AND GOODBYE” with Dorothy Ann Gould and Michael Maxwell.    Wow and wow again.   If this production ever comes anywhere near you, go see it – don’t think about it, don’t ponder, go down to Computicket and buy a ticket or 5.   I drove home in a dwaal, blown away by a virtuoso performance.   It’s the best thing I have seen this year simply because of the class acts that are Ms Gould and Mr Maxwell and their pure brilliance on stage.

Today my family and friends are coming to “LONDON ROAD” en masse – I am nervous.   Why ?