By Ruvesen Naidoo
Dog Rose; 3rd Generation Coconut; I Bleached my Punani; Passion of the Curry; Baked Shakespeare: As You Like It; Namaste Bae: Blessings and Kombucha; John the Baptist. You may have seen these show titles listed in the 2023 National Arts Festival (NAF) programme, and yes, you did read them correctly.
These examples of humorous, and at times absurd, titles can be found to have deliberate thought processes behind their names, making it an essential piece to present contexts prior to watching the show or to draw in audiences. On other occasions, their names fall flat. The title may rather serve as a suggestion that the writers of the show should have extended the title brainstorming session.
However, the programme has signalled that perhaps vague and equivocal show titles may be the best way to emphasise the subtext of performances.
Show titles seemingly elicit two responses: satisfaction or offence. Glee in the link between theme and title, or disdain for the misrepresentation of the production by its title. From personal experience at this year’s Fest, it is the luck of the draw.
From raising awareness about the Autism Spectrum Disorder, as expressed in Dog Rose, to the socio-economic themes present in I Bleached my Punani, many productions demonstrate an exploration of diverse topics in social, economic and political contexts across South African families and communities – all through a powerful, well-informed way of storytelling.
For less overbearing subtext, some old-school Shakespeare with a twist is on offer by Baked Shakespeare: As You Like It – with a hard-to-miss-twist, presented from the onset of the title. Comedian Jarryd Pillay’s Passion of the Curry first makes you chuckle upon reading, but after watching, proves to be a comedic journey of one man’s identity.
NAF’s Curated and Fringe programmes suggest that the overarching themes displayed by productions are influenced by general narratives in contemporary society and its fitful impact on livelihood.
The wide selection of shows on offer, and their many bizarre titles, demonstrate a commitment to NAF’s catchy slogan – It Will Change You.