Vryfees’s Vrynge Arts and Culture:
Each year, the Free State arts scene gets hit with an week-long injection of adrenaline in the form of the Vryfees! Previously known in its long form the Vrystaat Kunstefees (Free State Arts Festival), the Vryfees has been livening up central South Africa for years and in the most recent editions, has undergone serious revamps to make it more broadly appealing and enticing…and I’ve bitten.
The greatest aspect of the festival to me is the Vrynge; a “platform for emerging artists, creative practitioners, community organisations and entrepreneurs locally, nationally and internationally”. Of course this opens the door for some pretty awful stuff but given that it’s the only such platform in the region, the vetting process combined with the vast array of choice ensures that Vrynge never disappoints…and this, its third year, seems to be just as promising.
I’m excited to see as many of the shows as possible and hope many people do too. The region is bulging with talent waiting to be unleashed and one of the few serious local outlets, this kinda 51 week bottleneck in Bloemfontein provides an amazing week of Vrynge that is as important to the community as the development of the jet engine was to the world…for the same reasons and with a metaphorically similar mechanism.
These are the 10 features, in no particular order, I’m most excited to see
1. VETKOEK STORIES
I mean, what’s better than vetkoek? A South African national treasure of a dish mixed with the story telling tradition of our nation…sounds like something I want to get on board with. Oh wait, I get to take part? Aweh! Even better!
2. SINGING ANTHEMS FOR RAIN
As a one woman piece, this performance excites me with its promise of opening up the Basotho culture to the rest of the world and showing how they deal with significant societal and natural disasters. As a culture seeking lad who’s exposure to my Basotho brethren being less than my exposure to the tooth fairy, it’s exciting to have the opportunity to rectify the gap in my upbringing through art.
Written by Ané Pretorius and inspired by Flowers for Algernon, Bliss has been on the circuit for some time now but this time around, they’ve added narration to what was previously an exclusively dance production. Playing with the rather Matrix-y question whether ignorance is bliss, it promises to build upon its previous success.
Gypsies and green bananas, I’m mostly excited about this as it explores the idea of being grossed out. In Afrikaans, the term is “gril” though there is no English equivalent. An art piece based around something that one can’t even translate promises to put one in a situation that will likely push one to explore some unexplored emotional capacity.
5. WERNER CREATES STORIESMAKERS
I recently had Werner on my radio show and the dude is pretty cool. He’s ditched a corporate world of auditing to pursue music and coming off the back of National Arts Fest, he’s got his guitar and will be teaching kids to tell stories. If I had kids, I’d send them…since I don’t, I might just come along and bring my sax. He’s also on the program for the story of Adam and If with some exceptional musos so keep an eye out for Werner FM.
This show is as mysterious as can get. The premise begins with being a lego god and ends with a question of taking one’s own life. Well, success. I’m intrigued and to be frank, if a blurb can inspire intrigue by its writing then I’m happy to risk it to watch the whole show…even if it’s just to confirm whether the show’s writing is as good as that of its blurb.
7. GESKEURDE VELLIES
“I mean, how often do you look at a man’s shoes?” ~ Mike Ross. While the name intrigued me, the subject of farm murders being retold in the same manner over and over is doing the cause an injustice in a similar way that the static narrative of HIV awareness caused a lull in the proper discussion of a rather serious social issue. I’m excited to see this piece in the hope that they can tell a story of farm murders in a more relatable way that could perhaps serve as a lesson to change the discourse in the ineffective way we’ve been dealing with this issue currently.
8. FOR COLOURED GIRLS
Yes, it is an adaptation of the 2010 film but also through the lens of the 1975 Ntokaze Shange’s play! Telling the stories of personal issues and familial conflict is an important exercise in reflection and with the promise of so much packed into a single sitting! The added exploration of African challenges with western solutions is an important concept begging to be explored so let’s see how it’s explored here!
9. ROAD TRIP
There isn’t much to the blurb of this production but there is a refreshing twist being foreshadowed. In modern day, stories told almost always have to end with a happily ever after. It’s kinda tiring because in real life, the things we set out to do to make us happy, often disappoint. When the preview ends with the words “they do not escape sadness”, it makes me want to watch, out of desperation to relate!
10. WHAT THE TUCK
Who would have thought that a drag show would be my number one priority but What the Tuck promises to be incredible from the first word. That word, of course being “Yaasss”! The rest of it is as entertaining as it is enticing! Written as a rip off of Shakespeare and directed by local star Mark Dobson, I was drawn to this show immediately. Then I had Mark on my radio show and am as keen as I am scared. Maybe I won’t sit in the front row but I’ll certainly watch it and if I were a gambling man, I may even predict that I’ll watch it twice.