Anxiety, fear and excitement raced through my veins when we began our first rehearsal two weeks before the opening of the show at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival 2016. Our rehearsal process made us excited to find out how people would react to the work that we had created. Long hours and late nights were very common especially because we wanted to create a great piece of theatre.
However, it turned out that we would create a weird theatrical experience that would drive our audience to not only question the events on stage but also offer a reflective experience.
As posters went up around the town and the artists from all over South Africa gathered at the Long Table we could feel that the festival had begun. However, the piece of theatre we created was still in its early stages, quite raw and slightly less crafted which was not what we hoped for. We did not let it deter us; instead, it pushed us to work harder for the big day.
The day had arrived and the cast was ready in their onesies and pyjamas, the stage was set in a kaleidoscope of colours. The audience was greeted by three passive aggressive chorus members that offered cold drinks and snacks. Then the performance begun.
As the lights went down on the stage, the audience applauded the cast for their hard work and the performance. However, as the crowd began to leave an audience member blurts, “What is this play about?”
In that moment I realized that our intentions had been achieved. ‘The Wonderful World of Fok’s Park’ was a play that looked at the confusion of growing up and the closure of trauma, subjects which are very difficult to tackle, but they are subjects that are so universal and resonate with many young audience members. Some audience members waited to speak to the cast after the show and expressed their feelings about the piece, some with suggestions and criticisms but many with positive feedback.
The cast was pleased about the feedback they received and worked hard on the next few shows that we had. They were further motivated to sharpen the show after the show’s review in the National Arts Festivals official newspaper, ‘Cue’. Anima McBrown, Cue reviewer, justifiably notes that the piece “[Was] not perfect, but it doesn’t have to be.” She also provided a statement that resonated with many audience members, “Having watched the piece, I’m more in awe of the deep introspections about everyday life (that essentially a bunch of teenagers bring to light)”.
Essentially this year’s festival has been quite a revelation for us as young theatre makers, we have learned so much in the short space of four days, our skills as artists have been improved and developed and our love for theatre has been enriched. With the skills that we have gained we plan on working harder in the years to come and there are some very exciting projects we have begun to plan. We are extremely thankful to CN&CO for being the catalyst for the development and enrichment of young theatre makers in South Africa.