By Ruvesen Naidoo
In the world of live performance, there are times when fate gleefully plays tricks on even the most prepared reviewers. Little did I know that the frustration that I experienced at a cancellation on Monday was merely the curtain-raiser for a series of comically unfortunate events, as three more shows followed suit throughout the week. Just to be clear – I am not romanticising the cancellation of shows, just unveiling the truth behind the enigma of cancelled shows, particularly when deadlines loom and the duty of a reviewer beckons.
With an air of excitement, I ventured towards the illustrious Great Hall to watch Ubukho. I braved the biting cold that seemed to stretch time itself, adding a layer of annoyance to my anticipation. The absence of a crowd should have served as an ominous clue, but I persisted, clinging to hope as I waited. Finally, the venue manager, in their moment of truth, revealed to the tiny gathering of three souls that the show had been unceremoniously cancelled. In hindsight, perhaps it was a stroke of luck. For in a venue populated by a mere trio, the show’s cancellation spared us from a performance that might have felt akin to an unintentionally intimate affair.
The cold weather brought on a sense of deja vu. As I made my way to St. Andrews Hall, yet again, brimming with anticipation for the captivating performance of John the Baptist. To my dismay, the venue stood eerily vacant, devoid of any signs of life. It appeared as though my prediction of being the sole occupant of the audience was about to come true, leaving me to face the daunting task of crafting a review from a lonely perspective. As expected, the manager approached me with a familiar apologetic tone, revealing that the show had fallen victim to transport mishaps faced by the cast. At this point, the disappointment washed over me with an unsurprising familiarity, echoing the tune of Monday’s letdown.
Fortunately, I was spared the trek to the venue to discover the news that Rendzo the Journey had been cancelled. By now, my colleagues had grown accustomed to my recurring tale of cancelled shows when they inquired about my reviews from the previous day, turning it into a running joke.
I approached the entrance of St. Andrew’s yesterday, playfully entertaining the thought of yet another show cancellation. To my surprise, the venue gates stood firmly closed, seemingly confirming my lighthearted prediction. Today’s plan was to enjoy the humour of 3rd Generation Coconut, a comedy show that promised abundant laughter. Little did I anticipate that this one too would fall victim to the fickle hands of fate, resulting in yet another cancellation or, rather – as was later discovered – a sudden venue change that didn’t appear on the programme.
On my way out, I crossed paths with two fellow Festival-goers who, like myself, had anticipated a delightful viewing experience. They turned to me for suggestions on alternative shows to salvage their day. Recognising this as an opportune moment to promote Cue, I eagerly directed them to read the insightful reviews of shows still running. Amidst the chain of cancellations, I found solace in transforming this day into a valuable marketing opportunity for our publication.
In the realm of reviewing, amidst the vanishing acts and disappearing spectacles, I managed to catch a glimpse of some actual performances, and against all odds, had an absolute blast at this year’s National Arts Festival.