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Legit ‘Beloved Country’ to bow at S. Africa fest

Event director lauds quality of new indigenous plays

JOHANNESBURG — A crop of new plays from some of South Africa’s leading playwrights is set to premier at the 2003 National Festival of the Arts. The major arts event in the country is held annually in the university town of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape.

The 29th edition of the festival, to be held June 27-July 5, will showcase five new works by South African playwrights, including the first stage adaptation of Alan Paton’s novel “Cry, the Beloved Country,” by Roy Sargeant. Also skedded are “Auditioning Angels” by Pieter-Dirk Uys, “Molora” by Yael Farber, “Madiba Magic” by Janice Honeyman and “Tailormade” by Mothobi Mutloatsi.

Festival director Lynette Marais says the number of new works shows South Africa is achieving cultural maturity and its writers are producing quality new indigenous plays.

“We did not deliberately look for African works, but it is significant that our search for relevant, challenging and important productions for the festival delivered indigenous work.”

She adds that the shift of most theaters in South Africa from production houses to receiving houses also means there are fewer opportunities for directors to present new work to the public, making the festival an important venue for new productions.

The future of the festival, which features all branches of the arts including dance, drama, film and art, was in jeopardy last year after it lost its major sponsor, but government stepped into the breach to make sure the event went ahead with the help of smaller sponsors. This year the festival is financially supported by the Eastern Cape provincial government, the National Arts Council, national lottery funds, Standard Bank and the South African Broadcasting Corp.