tutti frutti in South Africa!

This May two of the tutti frutties, Emma and Mosa, packed their suitcases, passports and the Ugly Duckling banner and headed to the airport to fly to South Africa to attend the 19th Assitej World Congress and Festival. They are both now back in the head office (unfortunately the same can’t be said for our lovely banner which is still in Cape Town) and have agreed to share their experience of their fantastic trip.

‘Emma and I have recently returned from an incredible trip to Cape Town where we attended the ASSITEJ International Theatre Festival for Children and Young People. We saw fantastic theatre from all over the world and had a great time networking with our peers from all over. Some highlights were the German based Theaterhaus Ensemle’s Anziehsachen which was a beautiful introduction to theatre for 3-6 year olds; Australia based The Last Great Hunt’s It’s Dark Outside was an impressive piece exploring dementia; and the powerful Moi, Monsieur, Moi! performed by Patricia Gomis from Senegal was stunning. It was also an extra special trip for me as I have a huge amount of family living in South Africa, including my Dad, so I got to do a few family visits and welcome a new baby brother into the family by happy coincidence!’Mosa, administrator  

‘A trip to South Africa is a joy in itself but coupled with attendance at the 19th Assitej World Congress and Festival, makes me feel very, very lucky indeed. We had been invited to take our show Wild! to this Festival but due to funding issues we had to decline the offer, so Mosa and I headed off to take part in the Congress and Festival as delegates to see shows, join in discussions and meet people from across the world who work in the same field and love children’s theatre as much as we do.

We fell in love with: No Fun ction alL anguage a magical dance piece about words and what happens when they fail us by South African company Chaeli Campaign. Yao Yao a delightful and quirky show with inventive use of multimedia about a little girl who loves to play with her dad by Brush Theatre from South Korea. Us/Them a beautifully performed show about the school siege in Belsan in 2004 but viewed from the captive children’s point of view. Transhumance…the Sheep are in Town was quite frankly bonkers but in the quirky way that brings a smile to your face as 12 dancers, who had clearly spent hours studying the essence of what it is to be a sheep, performed a half hour piece showing a day in their life in which they eat, sleep, are milked, attacked by wolves and chew a lot of grass!

Another favourite of mine was Patrice Balbina’s Chance Encounter with the End of the World – a five country collaborative production (including Pilot Theatre from York) about forced migration. It was a simple show with five multilingual performers and very little set but perfectly formed as a lovely piece of storytelling. I really enjoyed a discussion run by Heidi Vaughan, the soon to be Artistic Producer at Travelling Light, entitled “Is it only about Disability”. Heidi’s manner was gentle, informative, open and supportive which enabled a good discussion about the breadth of inclusion.

The festival happened to coincide with Africa Day on 25th May where a programme of celebrations took place in the square in front of Artscape in the centre of Cape Town. A mixture of drumming, huge puppets of fish and giant birds filled the square as dusk fell.

I got a real sense of how incredibly important it has been to South Africa to be the hosts of this World Congress and the sheer amount of time and energy that had gone into making it happen. There was a standing ovation at the closing ceremony for Yvette Hardie, President of Assitej, unanimously voted in for a second term, as she came onto the stage. Clearly a much loved and respected figure proud to be hosting the closing ceremony in her home country, and so she should be, as we were proud and honoured to be part of it.

The World Congress in three years’ time will be in Tokyo and the artistic gathering next year in Beijing and the following year in Norway. I hope it won’t be too long till I get to go again’- Emma, General Manager

Thanks for reading!