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The Seventh annual Sex Actually festival produced by Drama for Life (DFL) is here, with the theme “Love, Intimacy and Human Connection”.
A plethora of theatre performances, workshops, sex talk series and community dialogues are taking place at the Wits Theatre. The festival started this week and runs till the end of the month.
It will offer a platform for audiences to critique social change interventions in sex-related issues such as HIV/AIDS, sexual violence and abuse.
In the opening address for the festival, DFL director Warren Nebe, said the festival was launched as an initiative to raise awareness about the HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa.
He said the aim of the festival is to explore human connections in all its shapes and forms. DFL wanted to create a festival thats transcends race, class, gender and sexualities.
Tarryn Lee, Sex Actually festival director, said this year the festival is a public intervention looking to use exciting mediums to talk about sex, relationships and HIV/AIDS since it is often viewed as a heavy subject. They use dialogue to break the silence around the stigmas attached to taboo issues.
“In South Africa specifically, sex is often a very heavy subject in our society … It’s not always a celebrated subject and is also filled with many myths and taboos,” she said.
Lee said the myths and taboos around sex need to be de-mystified and brought to light so that sex-related issues “are challenged in our community, our families and work space”.
South African National AIDS Council (SANCA) Deputy Chairperson, Mmapaseka Steve Letsike, appeared at the official opening of the Sex Actually festival. Her opening address started by praising women for their fight for human rights.
“By talking we facilitate dialogue and conversation about the certain taboos that encircle our society,” Letsike said.
Although she highlighted the triumphs of women who fought political struggles she said the current fight over HIV/AIDS is prevalent in young women aged 15-24. According to the Mail & Guardian, the rate of HIV amongst females is four times higher than that of males in the same age group.
“We have committed to really focus on young women,” said Letsike, adding that SANCA had also launched the Zazi campaign, which is about knowing yourself, embracing yourself and knowing your status, ” Letsike said.
Zazi is a Zulu word meaning “know yourself”. It reminds women to know their inner strength, value and what it means to be themselves so they can overcome adversity. The programme was launched at the University of Johannesburg on Soweto campus in partnership with the Department of Social Development.
In the meanwhile, Wits students at DFL take pride in this year’s festival performances because it raises awareness on issues which continually face youth. Damilola Apotieri, Masters student at DFL, thinks the festival is a good opportunity for students to lend themselves to different conversations around sex and relationships in hopes to generate more knowledge on these issues.
“Personally, I will recommend that all Wits students attend as there can never be any better platform to engage with such issues,” Apotieri said.
STUDENT Mark Tatham started his varsity career doing a BCom in Business Management. A year later, he fell in love with dance and is now completing a degree in physical theatre at the Wits School of Arts. He recently performed in the physical theatre production In The Company of Wolves which was on show during o-week.
This sports crazy student is always busy doing something whether it’s scrambling over buildings doing parkour, playing hockey or working as a DJ.
What inspired you to change to a degree in the arts?
When I was at school I was interested in performing, but when I came to university I thought I should do a BCom first and then complete a BA in Drama. After a year of studying I just couldn’t handle it and so I dropped out and started a BA in 2011.
Why become a dancer?
I always saw myself as an actor. But one day I joined the parkour club for fun, in my first year as a drama student, and I fell in love with movement. Shortly after we were allowed to take physical theatre as a course and it allowed me to do what I loved.
When did you know you wanted to perform physical theatre?
I was chosen for the lead role in the play Carrying The Fire, directed by Bailey Snyman, which was on show last year. It was my experience under his direction that really cemented my love of performance.
How do you prepare mentally for a performance?
I have found the best way for me to focus is to clear my head. I walk around in circles and try not to think of my lines or what I am supposed to do next. When I am performing I do everything on instinct.
What do you love about performance?
I love the adrenaline rush of having to give the audience a show. It’s the same reason why I play sport.
Have you had to overcome any difficulties since doing your performances?
Injuries are always a problem. I have sprained my wrist, torn ligaments in my ankle and last year I broke my thumb.
How often do you practice for a performance?
Usually a production takes one to three months of work. We will practice five times a week for about three to five hours at a time. By the time you are on stage you know all your movements backwards and don’t even think about what happens next. It just happens.
One usually associates a fairy tale, like Red Riding Hood, with a small unassuming girl who gently ambles her way through the woods on the way to grandma’s house. Unknown to the red-caped girl, she is followed by a fierce wolf who among other things intends to make a lunch for two, a dinner for one. If the wolf had to see the Wits’ theatre production In The Company of Wolves, HE would have been on the menu.
In this production, the meek girl is transformed. She is manifested though the bold manoeuvres of a set of dancers that challenge the misconceptions of feminine vulnerability.
To watch the cast effortlessly weave among each other was simply sublime. Equally sublime was the musical score which paired perfectly with the dancing style. A rhythmic ebb and flow was beautifully built up to a crescendo at the end of the 25 minute production.
From walls to backstage the cast makes use good use of the Wits Nunnery, which seems very cramped when six dancers try to perform on it.
In a weirdly uncomfortable way, the cramped feeling adds toward the play’s success. You cannot distance yourself from the action.
It’s in your face and you become more involved as a result. You are also forced to respect the level of planning and curatorship involved in manoeuvring in such a small space.
Cast member Mark Tathum said that the crew was hoping the production would be in contention for the Grahamstown Arts Festival later this year.
At a cost of R10 a ticket the show is well worth making the long walk down to the South side of East Campus. It will be on till the end of the week (8 Feb) and is only showing at 13h00.
Directed by Jason Solomon and Chanelle Sardinha In The Company of Wolves delightfully overturns an out of date nursery tale and is a must see. Book it now.
In the Company of Wolves
Venue: The Wits Nunnery, close to the Wits Theatre, East Campus
Dates: O Week, 4 – 8 February 2013
Length: 25 Minutes
Cost: R10 per person