My frankest advice to anyone who is still clinging on to the hope of a smooth-running Festival after Gavin Krastin’s On Seeing Red and Other Fantasties is: “Fuck everything, pack your bags, and leave.” If you are one of the unfortunate souls that reside in Grahamstown, there are plenty of dodgy hide-out spots in PE. If you’re one of those people who would rather chain themselves to a Cecil John Rhodes statue, I give you my sincerest condolences.
Krastin, together with his partners in art crime Alan Parker, Shaun Acker, and Wesley Deintje, have done the unforgivable: offending very single thing in the world including Eskom, the ANC, Grahamstown, NAF, the Kardashians, white people, black people, gays, and worst of all, Beyoncé. This could either mean that they have crowned themselves the new Illuminati (which I’d gladly rent out my soul to) or committed the ultimate act of art treason: rendering every other artist obsolete.
I have a theory that this piece of performance art was partly funded by China because when we enter the Crown Hall we are greeted by a ridiculously camp and very plastic time warp. Plastic tables are laid out across the hall reminiscent of those awful bingo halls in Las Vegas in the 1970s (or in Benoni, currently). At every corner of the room and the main stage are plastic palm trees with gold shimmery branches, crayons, tiny Chinese lanterns, plastic cups, wine on the tables, and tacky red lighting.
The audience is greeted by host Parker, donning your typical penguin wait-staff outfit and directing everyone to grab a seat anywhere in the room. “Would you like some wine? Are you sure? Perhaps a blanket?” he asks audience members, some who are already drafting their complaints to NAF in their head. Once the wine is poured, everyone notices a naked Krastin crouching at the centre of room looking pensive.
This observation is quickly broken by Parker’s very commendable hosting skills across the room asking everyone, “Are you comfortable?” There is definitely an air of unease ushered by a wobble in the soundscape, as with any of Krastin’s dystopian worlds. But this one feels a little different. It feels like if you have the right attitude, you might just have a great time, you might make it. But of course, there are plenty of middle class people in the room so the chances of that are as slim as Donald Trump’s chances of becoming the President of the United States. It’s not even 15 minutes in and one audience lady comes up to our table asking for the Robertson’s Pinotage instead of the Graca on her table, giving me intense flashbacks of Constantia restaurants in Cape Town. The (mostly) white privilege pervades the room, and there’s a certain feeling that it will soon be crushed and I, for one, will stand with the winners. Dreams of a normative theatrical experience are indeed crushed when Parker brings a cake around the room lit with one candle and places it in front of Krastin, prompting him to sit on it, candle in the bum and all. There you go, your dreams of a night of wine and bingo are gone!
Once everyone is settled in, Parker leaves his hosting duties to pursue much higher ambitions, namely cabaret singing on stage. He changes into a sparkly dress and a very cheap wig and begins singing cabaret. There’s a general feeling that something is about to go down. And it does, when the lyrics appear on the screen like a karaoke. Parker begins to walk around getting different audience members to sing along. Though reluctant, they too have to participate: this is not one of those shows where you sit passive hoping to be entertained.
Without giving much more away for audiences, the two performers then begin a synchronised performance on each stage. It’s transgressive, it’s rude and ballsy, and begins to take on the burden so many of us are afraid to take. It’s the ultimate act of sacrifice and existentialism. To even begin to describe what happens next would ruin my life, the Festival, and the experience for anyone who wants to go see it. So in the spirit of “Fuck everything, give me champagne,” I will purposefully do the same with this article; this is my article so if you want to know more you have to go see the show.
After you do so, pack your bags and leave Grahamstown, because I’m pretty sure the ANC, FBI, Beygency, Kardashians, Mandelas, and Illuminati are already flying in on helicopters from PE to make sure that this ultimate act of rebellion never happens again.
Cue guest writer