Archive for the ‘National Arts Festival’ Category

NAF logo colour on white Perhaps you have heard by now that FTH:K won’t be at the National Arts Festival this year. If not, now you know! This was difficult decision for us to take because we haven’t missed a Festival…well…ever, but something we have learnt along the way is that sometimes “No” is the right answer. And this realisation was particularly hard to come to – after all, FTH:K’s history is peppered with enthusiastic “Yes!”’s, which we’re proud of because they have taken us to places that we would never have gone to and offered us opportunities that we would never have had otherwise. But gradually, in our annual Strategic Planning sessions, this idea of “We need to learn how to say no” raised its head. First apologetically, but over time more insistently until we knew we had to listen! We weren’t that small group anymore than could pack up the whole company in an old kit bag and head on down the road. Moreover, as the company grew, so did our outputs which meant greater demands on our resources (financial and human) and we had to accept that we needed to start choosing our engagements carefully, strategically, and with respect to the people leading, supporting, and participating in them.

It's a secret! The 2012 National Arts Festival is one such time. We recently played the Main Festival programme with Benchmarks and have a major project in the pipeline for our next NAF appearance. We just realised that forcing it to happen this year would actually be a disservice to the whole event, that it could definitely benefit from more time and planning. So as much as we will miss you, we hope you will miss us too! But we believe that this is only going to make us all happier in the long run. As for what the project is? Heh…you’ll just have to wait and see. But it’s awesome. So, keep ‘em peeled for 2013 NAF…that’s all we gonna tell you right now..

OfficeBLOCK Poster web But hang on: does this mean that we are not going to be onstage until then?? *gasp* Don’t be ridiculous! We’ve decided to team up once more with the fabulous Baxter Theatre to present our newest work OfficeBLOCK from the 10th – 21st July in the Golden Arrow Studio Theatre. The work hasn’t been seen in the Western Cape since it was reworked in 2012 for its National Tour so it’s not to be missed, okes. Mark these dates down now, but details will follow soon-soon…


by Cristina Salvoldi- Photo by Wendy Birt

Benchmarks, not only the name of our new show, but the goalposts we keep moving.

Here’s where we’ve come so far:

 “ FTH:K is an independent and vibrant theatre company that has enriched the South African theatre landscape with its original and unique approach to visual theatre. Having pioneered itself as a groundbreaking South African theatre company which casts both hearing and Deaf actors, their work challenges and enriches both the artists and the audiences through a combination of visual and performing arts forms such as puppetry, masks and live performance. As trendsetters of this genre in South Africa, it is clearly evident that the current growth in visual theatre on the festival and mainstream circuit is influenced by FTH:K’s prolific style and their ability to continually raise the bar both on excellence and innovation.”
-Ismail Mahomed, Director of the National Arts Festival

Some of you, those loyal enough to have been at our AGM will remember Ugli Bob‘s rundown of the artistic journey which explained how we got to now and for those of you who weren’t there – We’re only telling you this twice.

Phase 1:

The company has its roots in what we call our Environmental Phase. Tanya and Rob started out as dance and drama teachers at Community Arts Project (CAP) where they started the  Professional Development Programme (PDP). Under this banner they combined African storytelling with mime and created the piece Touch Wood in 2003.

Wayyyy back

Full cast of Touch Wood- Photo by Steve Kretzmann

This was created in response to fires that blazed on Table Mountain for weeks.  This was followed  by Water Pockets and very crucially, Imbew’embi: The Bad Seed, which saw the Rob collaborate for the first time with Janni Younge, for the making of shadow puppets.  Water Pockets was the first production to be housed by a major theatre, and enjoyed a run at the Artscape Arena.

In 2005,  FTH:K was officially launched and with funding from the National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), was able to employ its staff on a full-time basis. Water Pockets toured the Western Cape and a crucial stylistic benchmark happened with the creation of  Leap of Faith for the Mental Health and Disability Conference. This was the companies first integrated piece, with hearing and Deaf performers. Scripts were thrown out, and the non-verbal style that would become the companies trademark, entrenched itself.

2005 was also the the year the company won the ACT Cultural Development Award, and the Western Cape Award for Disability in the Arts. 

Phase 2

Having developed stylistically, FTH:K entered into its second phase – Integrated Theatre: where the company did away with written scripts and made their work more accessible to the Deaf and hearing. 2006 saw the beginning of the Integrated Professional Development Programme (IPDP). Liezl de Kock and Lysander Barends joined the programme and became long-standing members. Liezl is still with the company while Lysander left after five long years.

Generating new forms of income:

At the time the NLDTF funding was coming to an end and the company turned to associated producing to generate income. Here they threw themselves in the deep-end of marketing to produce shows such as the Dogs Bollocks by Gaëtan Schmid and Birds’ Eye View. The company then won the ACT Most Successful Company Award.

At the end of 2006, the company created Gumbo which was a fully integrated Deaf and hearing clowning production.

Gumbo in Argentina

Benchmark: South America

2007 was the year of Gumbo. The show toured around the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Pietermaritzburg, Polokwane, Johannesburg as well as Frieburg, Berlin, and Munich in Germany and Argentina. During this year, FTH:K’s friendship circle grew enormously and left a strong impression on two particular Wits students, Simangele and Jayne. Both ladies would later move to Cape Town and become full-time employees of the company, Simangele in 2010 as Educational Co-ordinator and Jayne as a theatre-maker, performer and designer in 2009.

By 2008, Gumbo had it’s 100th performance at the Baxter Studio and as the company grew, it became more accepted as a visual theatre company rather than a company that was Deaf specific.

The tag line, “a conspiracy of clowns” became the name of the experimental wing of the company, and premiered Pictures of You, their debut piece in 2008. Pictures of You went on to be the sleeper hit of the National Arts Festival.

Phase 3

By 2009, FTH:K entered into its 3rd and current phase – Visual Theatre. Pictures of You, by the Conspiracy of Clowns in association with FTH:K ran at the Baxter and at the National Arts Festival where it was the top selling show of the festival.

"Mama I made it!"

Stylistically the company was moving away from sign language in their shows as they had done with Gumbo, which had its 124th performance in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sign language just seemed to make hearing audiences uncomfortable and left out.

In that same year, FTH:K produced their first Deaf only piece, Ek Roep vir Jou Vanaand created by Lysander and directed by Liezl. This piece toured both Deaf and hearing schools around the Western Cape.

At the end of 2009, QUACK! was born. This dark and edgy story premiered at the Baxter and brought on new collaborators, Jayne Batzofin, who then joined the company, as well as Jori Snell.

2010 was a bumpy year as the company spent much of its time on tour. The company ran three major productions, Pictures of You, QUACK! and the newest offering Womb Tide. The Deaf trainees, Marlon, Tomri and Christo along with Simangele Mabena, the companies new education co-ordinator, did a national tour of the country with their piece, Tales from the Trash.

In September the company left to conquer Johannesburg, running a season at the Market Theatre, playing both QUACK! and Womb Tide.

- Photo by Wendy Birt

The company  also won their first Fleur Du Cap, awarded to Rob “Ugli Bob” Murray for his lighting design

For 2011, the trainee piece Shortcuts is set to tour nationally. The Conspiracy of Clowns premiers their new piece Kardiàvale in May and a “Conspiracy of Clowns in association with FTH:K” piece, debuts Benchmarks at the National Arts Festival.

Benchmarks will be on the Main Programme of the festival, just another benchmark for FTH:K.

Rob’s Conclusion:

” 6 years old and we often have to pinch ourselves at the good fortune and success we have had.  Success that is moderate according to our ambitions, but immense in terms of the groundswell and recognition we have achieved not only for Deaf education, or the integration of the Deaf and the hearing, but of massive strides we have undertaken in ushering in and being part of the Visual Theatre wave sweeping across the country, as well as backing that up by innovative business and organisational development, marketing, and publicity.

Packing the massive trailer to head off to Oudtshoorn and the KKNK recently, Tink sighed and said to me wistfully: “You remember when we used to make theatre on string and bubble-gum?”, harking back to the days where a set was a bucket, or a few umbrellas, and fitted into the boot of a car as did all the performers and tech crew, and not a trailer and mini-bus load.  It is true that our production values have increased (often to the headache of our managers and budgets), and our vocabulary has become more sophisticated, but one thing our work has always been is very rich.  Because it has been made on and by the bodies, hearts, and imaginations of a particularly awesome group of people.  Misfits, clowns, fools the lot of us.  But rich and strong and passionate.  And this will make all the difference.

Ladies and gentlemen, we may not be the biggest company in the world, or the country, and not enough people know about us yet, but the people you see before you tonight, represent perhaps one of the hardest working companies.  I salute you all, as well as our ardent supporters, and extended family, and promise the best is yet to come.”

Here at FTH:K, we have a lot of special people.  We have Board Members and funders and VIP’s and Members and friends and collaborators and audience members and and and…

We’d like to think that we reward everyone for being part of FTH:K’s journey in ways that reflect the various roles that they play. And one of the ways we thank our most loyal supporters is by giving them access to parts of FTH:K that not everyone gets to see. And we don’t mean sneak peeks of the actors changing in their dressing rooms(although…if the price is right…we are an NGO after all…), we mean sneak peeks of work before anyone else gets to see it.

So, for all our Members, Board Members, Funders and industry VIPS’s, this one’s for you! (You’ll be receiving an invitation soon because “exclusive” means “by invitation only”, right??) For those of you who are dying to join in but aren’t one of the people listed above, contact the office for your space, but remember to bring your R100 annual membership fee to the door so you can Join the Family or alas, you won’t be allowed in…

The EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW for Benchmarks will be held:

* on Friday 24th June
* at Theatre in the District
* from 6:00 pm

And if you’re there, you’ll be the first to see it before it heads out to premiere on the Main Programme of the National Arts Festival

Cool, huh??

CONTACT THE OFFICE to book your place



benchmarks2 ONCRM 200

Rehearsals have started and the countdown is on to the opening of FTH:K’s newest associative extravaganza: Benchmarks to be presented on the Main Programme at the National Arts Festival.

a conspiracy of clowns, in association with FTH:K and the National Arts Festival, will knock festino socks off with Benchmarks from 4 to 6 July at Graeme College Theatre, with its small story of great hope and rebirth.

What’s it all about??

A timid middle-aged clerk.  A reclusive widow.  A young Zimbabwean refugee.  In the Mother City, three desperate and lonely individuals get drawn into an unlikely relationship that will lead them on a journey of discovery, companionship, tragedy, and reconciliation – one that will ultimately transform their lives forever.

Set against a backdrop of the frailties and complications of human relationships; the violence and hardships of life in South Africa; and the dreams and desires for a better life; Benchmarks is a poetic celebration of the human spirit told by three performers in full character mask.

Ugli says, “Benchmarks explores the possibilities and tragedies of change – the concepts of hope, rebirth and celebration of friendship. As always, we are looking for ways to push boundaries in our story-telling and, for the first time, we are setting the work in a specific place –Cape Town. This enables us to create an exciting interaction between our striking signature visual style and the real world of here and now. Benchmarks tells human stories with themes that will resonant with a contemporary audience”.

WHEN? Monday 4 July at 16h00, Tuesday 5 July at 16h00 and 20h00 and Wednesday 6 July at 16h00 and 20h00
WHERE? Graeme College Theatre
COST? Tickets cost R48 and R32 for students


Who dunnit??

Devised by: the cast from a story by Rob Murray
Directed by: Rob Murray
Cast: Liezl de Kock, Daniel Robinson and Thumeka Mzayiya
Set and Props by: Craig Leo
Mask design and construction by: Cristina Salvoldi
Sound design by: Brydon Bolton and Jacques Toile
Costume design by: Jayne Batzofin
Lighting Design by: Rob Murray

Not going to the NAF??

Feel sad, yes, but not too sad.  Why?  Because Benchmarks will also be performed at Out the Box festival in Cape Town in September this year. If you’re elsewhere in the country, start lobbying at a theatre near you…

Can anyone say LEGACY?!  We can!

2010 Naledi Awards To be honest, our trip to Jozi for the Naledi Theatre Awards was insane.  It was as if the entire history of FTH:K has been condensed into one evening…the espresso of FTH:K elements: losses, wins, disappointments, surprises, celebrations, conversations, parties, people, troubled transport, touch-ups, and tequila!  We’re not at liberty to divulge too much on this blog – obviously – but feel free to offer to take us for drinks and we’ll tell all!!

If you have been following the lead up to the Naledi’s, you’ll know that we were up for a number of awards, 5 to be exact.  In fact, in their Press Release celebrating the nominees, the National Arts Festival noted that, “The largest bouquet of nominations has been scooped by the Cape Town-based theatre company FTH:K who have both a strong reputation and a following at the Festival. The company has been nominated for a total of 7 awards between the Fleur de Cap and the Naledi Awards.”

Yep. That’s us.  However, we didn’t scoop ANY of the 5 awards for which we were nominated at the Naledi’s.  Not one.  Which resulted in a serious depletion of the bar’s tequila and whiskey stocks.  Until, out of the blue, a new award was announced – The Herbert Dhlomo Naledi Award for Emerging Theatre Companies.  Taking the podium with Ismail Mohamed of the National Arts Festival, Dawn Lindberg said:

“This is the first year that we are introducing the Award for Best Emerging Theatre Company.  This Award was suggested by fellow Board member, Ismail Mahomed, Director of the National Arts Festival, who are generously sponsoring this Award, and named by our Chairman, Dali Tambo, after the legendary Artistic Activist and Pioneer of Black Theatre, Herbert Dhlomo.

We have decided to name the Best Emerging Theatre Company award in Dhlomo’s name and the winning company should push boundaries and take theatre into new realms of artistic expression.  For this first Dhlomo Award, we are giving the Naledi trophy and certificate as well as a cheque for R5000.

We are proud to present the first Herbert Dhlomo Naledi Award to Emerging Theatre Company, FTH:K.”

At first we were a little confused, and that wasn’t only because of the tequila. Were we still only “emerging”?? Hells bells, what does it take, then, to “emerge”?!?!  But Ismail answered this quite succinctly (as only he can) by saying on Facebook:

Best Emerging Theatre Company 2010 “In the presentation of the award the word “emerging” was not to denote newcomer on the block but it was intended to acknowledge a company whose work is giving rise to newly emerging forms of artistic expression, entrepreneurial best practices and a commitment to grow social consciousness through quality driven entertaining theatre productions. The first ever award in this category receives its own sense of value by it being given to a company that celebrates a strong track record of representing the values envisioned by this award.”

Most of this is captured in the Artslink release about our win, but what you might not have seen (unless you got our blow-by-blow account on Facebook) are the pics, including our win pics! (Thanks, Liez!) Herewith, for your entertainment – all taken on a BB of some sort so forgive the quality!

For the second time in FTH:K’s history, we are holding auditions for a super-exciting new performance to be presented on the National Arts Festival’s Main Programme in July 2011.  And this one’s for the ladies!

Check it out:

Calling all female clowns, physical performers, mask performers, and others…

Multi-award-winning visual theatre company FTH:K in association with A Conspiracy of Clowns will be auditioning for a young black female performer for the creation and touring of their new show, BENCHMARKS, to premiere on the Main Programme at this year’s National Arts Festival.

BENCHMARKS is a masked, visual, and entirely non-verbal performance.

  • Production title: BENCHMARKS
  • Production Type: Professional
  • Project length: Full-length drama (65mins)
  • Production location: Cape Town/Grahamstown
  • Production Company: A Conspiracy of Clowns in association with FTH:K
  • Company website: /
  • Director: Rob Murray
  • Producers: A Conspiracy of Clowns, FTH:K, and the National Arts Festival
  • Audition Location: Observatory Community Centre, Lower Main Road, Observatory
  • Email:


  • Audition: Thursday 27 January 09:30-14:00

(Please note: the audition will be undertaken in the form of a workshop)

  • Call Backs: week of 31 January (if necessary)
  • Rehearsals Start: 16 May 2011
  • Performance Dates: 2-6 July 2011 (Grahamstown); 11-15 July (TBC); 16-18 September (TBC); theatrical seasons and touring in 2012



In the Mother City, three desperate and lonely individuals get drawn into an unlikely relationship that will lead them on a journey of discovery, companionship, tragedy, and ultimately transform their lives forever.

This is a small story of hope and rebirth set against a bigger backdrop of the frailties and complications of human relationships, dreams, the violence and hardships of life in this country today, and the desire for a better life.

Told by three performers using beautifully realised full masks, BENCHMARKS is a poetic celebration of the human spirit.

Character BIO


A young ZIMBABWEAN REFUGEE has moved to Cape Town to find work and make a new life for herself while sending money back home.  Innocent, optimistic, and slightly naïve but filled with hope, she quickly finds out Cape Town is not the promised land she thought it would be – the locals are fairly hostile towards foreigners, and the recession is tough on everyone.

Special NOTES

As the audition is a workshop, please come dressed in comfortable working clothes. 

Registration starts at 09:30 with the workshop commencing at 10:00.

Prior experience in masked theatre is a distinct advantage, but not vital as training will be undertaken.

Please send a CV to Tanya Surtees at to book your place.

For further details, please call 021 448 2838.

“FTH:K is an independent and vibrant theatre company that has enriched the South African theatre landscape with its original and unique approach to visual theatre. Having pioneered itself as a groundbreaking South African theatre company which casts both hearing and Deaf actors, their work challenges and enriches both the artists and the audiences through a combination of visual and performing arts forms such as puppetry, masks and live performance. As trendsetters of this genre in South Africa, it is clearly evident that the current growth in visual theatre on the festival and mainstream circuit is influenced by FTH:K’s prolific style and their ability to continually raise the bar both on excellence and innovation.” – Ismail Mahomed, Director, National Arts Festival