Theatre and the arts are proven to expand the minds of children and have a significant impact on many teens. Through storytelling and symbols, the arts can assist children in better understanding cultural diversity, their own emotions and fears, how to deal with social situations and learn about historic events. Teens also grow empathy as actors play out numerous circumstances familiar to them. And sometimes it's all just really good fun.
The National Arts Festival, now in its 45th year, offers excellent theatre, dance, music, movement and interactive pieces for children to enjoy throughout the eleven days 27 June – 7 July. Falling in the school holidays, it's a great day trip for those nearby and can be part of a compelling Eastern Cape winter holiday for those venturing in from further away.
Amazing Shows for All Ages
South Africa's most innovative theatre-makers will present a wide offering of family-friendly shows at the 2019 Festival. Well Worn Theatre is a Johannesburg youth theatre company with a special interest in making work around climate change and environmental issues. This year they are bringing Rat Race; a pop-up storybook play for the very young about an unlikely friendship between stressed-out city rat Miles and kind, easy-going farm mouse Melissa and Galela; the thirst-quenching story of a small community deeply affected by South Africa's water issues. Well Worn Theatre will also present Plastocracy, a play that highlights the catastrophic effects of plastic waste on the Earth's ecosystems; and Burning Rebellion, an ecological protest poem about global warming, that uses elements of spoken word, movement and song to give voice to a fear of what is to come – both productions aim to inspire the future-conscious consumers our Earth so desperately needs.
Two National Arts Festival favourites The Gruffalo and Florence and Watson will be back and, in an exciting first, will both be presented in isiXhosa - iGruffalo and uFlorence noWatson kunye noMpuku yoMoba. Dani Bischoff and Rob van Vuuren's newest edition in the Florence and Watson series, The Great Pangolin Mystery will be presented in English.
From the creators of the award-winning Taking Flight comes a new adventure, Flying Solo. Little Sophia lives in South Africa. She is an avid reader and an enthusiastic explorer – and is about to board an old Tiger Moth biplane with Roald Dahl. Fly with her on this phizz-whizzing adventure as she loop-di-loops through Dahl's brain, from memory to fantasy, finding new ways to tell old stories. ZikkaZimba Productions and Hijinks Theatre have teamed up with Jade Bowers Design and Management on this production. Taking Flight received three 2018 Naledi Theatre Award nominations, scooping Jacques de Silva the Naledi for Best Performance in a Production for Young Audiences.
Award-winning New Zealand theatre company Trick of the Light presents The Bookbinder in which an old man sits down to read the tale of an erstwhile bookbinding apprentice. As he speaks, the story spills from the pages and into the bindery...From pop-up book to puppetry, story-telling to live action, The Bookbinder weaves an original dark fairy tale in the vein of Neil Gaiman. The Bookbinder won the International Excellence Award at the Sydney Fringe and BDO Children's Theatre Award at Fringe World in Perth. It has toured internationally, including to the UK and the US. 'A beautiful, articulate and engaging showthat is as engaging as it is mysterious' — alledinburghtheatre.com, Edinburgh
The Fringe family productions include Avril Cummings' Veronica's Monster, Contagious Theatre's adaptation of Alex Latimer's The Boy who Cried Ninja Ubom Drama Company's Fundisa's Fabulous Adventure and a host of other stories of surprising courage and bravery, magic, kindness, family and adventure. And don't forget Celebrity Storytime with new stories and storytellers every day.
Arts and Crafts for Children
The annual Children's Arts Festival at St Andrews is another enriching experience for children aged 4-13 years old. This fully supervised programme of arts, crafts and in-house shows runs throughout the Festival and gives parents the chance to slip away and see some shows that aren't suitable for children.
Plenty of fun and free entertainment
The annual Children's Concert is a must-see and it's absolutely free. The KwaZulu Natal Youth Orchestra conducted by Lykele Temmingh will present this year's Children's Concert, showcasing their talented young musicians from around KwaZulu Natal who will also demonstrate their different instruments in fun and interactive ways.
Older children and teens will be drawn to Creativate. This Festival within the National Arts Festival is now in its second year and looks at the fusion of the arts with technology. From virtual reality to gaming within art, lighting and visual design, mixing music, free talks and workshops this programme is a home run for many teen visitors.
There is also lots of free entertainment from international and local buskers and musicians at the Standard Bank Village Green. Young children will love the fairground rides (these do attract a ticket cost) and young and old will enjoy the Street Parade that takes place on the last weekend of the Festival (no ticket required).
Take it on the road
Extending the holiday afterwards is easy. The Eastern Cape is packed with beaches, rivers and small towns of interest as well as extensive parks and untouched nature. It is of course home to the famed Addo Elephant Park where elephants are joined by other wild animals and bird life. The same can be said for many of the private game reserves in the area.
Fly or drive and make it a road trip. There are plenty of reasons to make the National Arts Festival your next family holiday. For more details on how to plan for the visit see
The National Arts Festival is on from 27 June - 7 July 2019
ABOUT THE NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL
The National Arts Festival is an important event on the South African cultural calendar, and the biggest annual celebration of the arts on the African continent. Starting at the end of June/beginning of July, it runs for 11 days and is held in the small university city of Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown), which is situated in the Eastern Cape, 130km from Port Elizabeth. For more information, visit www.nationalartsfestival.co.za