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I think I’m missing something

After three nights and almost three days at the festival, the cosy crimson-lit evenings that trail into the early hours around golden goblets and feast laden tables — which I thought would be every night — are yet to happen. And it’s like they say — if it hasn’t happened by 11pm, it’s not going to happen. At present, it is the 10:45pm of my stay in Grahamstown, and the pressure is building. My friend calls it Fomo — fear of missing out. That feeling that there are loads of parties happening but you just don’t know about them. Maybe it’s that, or maybe they’re not happening.

Nightlife aside, the days have certainly been fuller. Yesterday’s first event, a talk by Alex Perry called Falling off the Edge — centring on his book of the same name — provided an insightful and fun argument to start the day. While his thoughts on globalisation being mismanaged paralleled mine. I was slightly disappointed by his safety nets, which included repeating that globalisation is not bad, it just needs what he calls “regulation” and “redistribution”. Perhaps I missed something, but I’m not sure who it is that should be in charge of this management, and my attempt at squeezing a solution out of him was pretty much shut down. I like his ideas, I even bought his book, but I need solutions or else I feel helpless and ultimately depressed. Perhaps I’m too demanding.

I was cheered up, though, by managing to find the ultimate affordable food joint — the Juice Bar, that serves mince rotis for R15 and has a lady behind the counter who told me she was watching me and I “better not bring any boys in here”. The restaurant was also the only place I saw more than five Indians in one place, Kesivan Naidoo, not included. It seems that the festival is still, while in transition, I admit, a very white affair.

Last night’s evening show was Kesivan Naidoo and the Lights — which I may have gone into with a bias — adoring the drummer to bits. The show has been receiving rave reviews since last night’s debut, and deserves them all. I am easily bored, and even more so when it’s music I don’t understand. But I stayed wide awake. Even though Naidoo sounded slightly stoned in his “messages” to the audience, some of which seemed like he may have forgotten there were people there at all, his words about love and peace, words that may invoke a wretch reaction in some, were sincere and sweet and generally well-received.

I realised after the show that the whole transport issue may be a problem. The hoppers, or shuttles, only ride till around 11pm, which is a bit of a pain when all the late evening shows end after this. I am resourceful, luckily enough, and made my way home, but I can see how this could be an inhibiting factor with the dark roads and numerous broken streetlights.

The morning started with a reluctant 8am wake to see Rumpsteak, a one-man comedy by Cape Town-based Belgian Gaёtan Schmid. Here, Schmid plays several characters in the kitchen of a French restaurant, with sound effects to create an excitable atmosphere. While it must be said that his timing is impeccable, and his facial and vocal expressions enough for some admiration, it took a while to get into, and then, being only 35 minutes long, ended as soon as I’d started feeling it. The fact that the whole play was in French could have proved a bit of a downer for the audience, had Schmid not been as charming as he is. Having some Francophone abilities, I did okay, but I pitied the chirps that fell into the black hole of accent differences, which could have put more focus on the content than the physicalities.

By luck, I happened across a friend who offered me a ticket to 13 Cents, a theatre production I had not planned on seeing. There were about ten people in the audience, in the very intimate Trinity Hall. This show, about a street kid who becomes a rent boy, broke my heart for an hour or so, and left me with a desperate need for quiet time and isolation. It was sufferingly difficult to watch, excellently acted, I cried for much of it, and wondered how I was going to deal with street kids when I stepped outside. The production features two teenage boys from Botswana, with acrobatic finesse and a sad, but convenient likeness to their characters, in racial terms, that is.

I feel theatrically full. And psyched beyond belief to see Babu explode on stage, albeit a bit worried about how I’ll get home. But it’s what happens after, that is letting me down. Are the legendary parties, just that — legendary? Or am I hanging out with the wrong crowd?