They are the “staatmakers” of the Fringe at the National Arts Festival – the ones audiences rely on year after year for sure-fire entertainment. This year – the 44th edition of the Festival – marks three anniversaries on the Fringe: 30 years of the Raiders series, 20 years for the creator of the Butlers comedy series, and 10 years for everyone’s favourite sleight-of-hand artist, Stuart Lightbody.
For three decades, the Raiders cast has been led by the king of comedy theatre making, Nicholas Ellenbogen. Last Raiders of the Lost Crusade is the 30th in the series that has won international awards for its inventive, participatory theatre.
Will this year be the last Raiders, with Ellenbogen in his 70th year? There are no signs of slowing down from the old master under the direction of his son Luke, carried along in this action-packed adventure by the explosive energy of Lulu Read and Tailyn Ramsamy.
It’s on from 29 June – 8 July at the Thomas Pringle Hall. As the saying goes, if you miss Raiders, you miss the Festival!
Anyone who has attended the National Arts Festival in the past decade knows the Butlers comedy series. First performed in 2008, hundreds of Grahamstown Festival-goers have enjoyed these impov murder-mystery plays where the audience helps decide what happens next. The latest instalment is Butlers and Body Bags, which sees a group of medical students decide to have a murder-mystery party at the local morgue. Little do they know what sinister happenings are about to unfold… Starring Savannah Mary Schutzler, Elizabeth van Vuuren, Ian van der Westhuizen and Jos Nel, this hair-raising play is on from 28 June to 7 July at Dick’s at the Monument.
The series was created by Justin Wilkinson, who is delighted to also be celebrating a personal Festival anniversary this year: “It’s really exciting to be attending my 20th Festival this year! The past two decades have been phenomenal and it has been such an honour to have worked with some incredibly talented performers over the years.”
Wilkinson heads up the independent Slick ‘n Sleeve Theatre Collective, which has enjoyed much success with productions that have premiered at the National Arts Festival. “It’s such a joy to entertain people and comedy is great as it allows you to make them laugh – which is really the ultimate reward for any comedy writer.”
Award-winning sleight-of-hand artist Stuart Lightbody will also be celebrating his 10th year at the Festival. In Deceptive Delights, Lightbody will share some impossible wonders from his adventures around the world. It’s a fascinating performance, directed by award-winning director, Tara Louise Notcutt.