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Having fun, writing about the stuff I like

Must attend: Voorkamerfest

Oscar Foulkes September 10, 2013 Festivals No comments
Admissions, especially shameful ones, are best got out of the way quickly. Here’s mine: I failed to attend the Voorkamerfest for all the years I worked in Darling (admittedly while not living there). Probably more shameful than my delayed attendance, though, is my response when Wim Visser (one of the event’s founders) approached me for support during my time at Cloof. I recall agreeing to some kind of support, but I am quite sure that I should have been much more generous (my sole defence is that I was being cautious with my Cloof marketing budget).

Applying the principle of better late than never, I attended the 10th Voorkamerfest over the weekend, and was totally blown away.

How it works is that performances (music, theatre, magic, poetry and more) are staged in Darling residents’ front rooms (‘voorkamers’), representing a complete cross-section from the grandest old houses to the smallest township dwellings. There are seven routes, with three stops on each. Attendees buy their tickets and are assigned to a route without having any knowledge of what performances they’ll see.

There are generally about 20 to 25 people watching each performance, which in some houses is a very tight squash indeed. The performances last about 20 to 25 minutes.

One of the principles of art (using the word in a very general sense) is that we get tricked into seeing things from a new angle. Voorkamerfest is built on the premise that we hand over control of two hours of our lives, which makes it much easier for us to occupy new perceptual space. The underlying element of surprise does the rest of the work.

Most importantly, I think, is that this shift does not require that attendees are regular theatregoers.

I’m undecided whether it’s necessary to go into detail about each of the performances we saw. Possibly the most moving, in a troubled sort of way, was Nathan Trantraal’s recital of poetry in a tiny township house. He writes about growing up in his alcoholic grandfather’s Bishop Lavis house with an assortment of aunts, cousins and siblings. It was rough, tough and raw, recited in Cape Flats Afrikaans. He spoke quietly, barely looking up. Ironically, a wine estate sponsored the performance and the audience was given wine to drink.

Other performances covered the entire gamut from illuminating to insightful to uplifting to just plain fun.

When the dates for the 2014 Darling Voorkamerfest are announced, block your diary. Buy as many tickets as you can afford. Take everyone who means anything to you.

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