Unique Performances at the Voorkamerfest in Darling

The picturesque South African West Coast town of Darling, just 55 minutes north of Cape Town, is renowned for its stunning display of wild flowers, superb wine estates, a vibrant close-knit community, and as the hub of the annual Voorkamerfest (Front Room Festival). Festival fans will be heading for Darling to enjoy the 2008 Voorkamerfest, which is set to take place from 5 to 7 September 2008.

Since the festival began in 2004 it has earned the reputation, throughout South Africa and overseas, of being an innovative and entertaining cultural event. Each year the increased attendance shows that the Voorkamerfest has hit on a winning formula. Following in the pattern of an entertainment concept which originated in the Netherlands, the residents of Darling will once again open up rooms in their homes to be used as performance venues for the Voorkamerfest. Musicians, singers, actors, comedians, writers, story-tellers and dancers will perform for appreciative audiences in 18 venues throughout Darling – ranging from a small humble dwelling, right through to a Victorian-style mansion.

Each program starts at Evita se Perron at a given time. From there, audiences will be ferried by local taxis to each of the venues, where they will be entertained for about 25 minutes before moving off to the next venue. Audiences can look forward to enjoying performances from different categories – comedy, music, dance, drama and story-telling – but they won’t know where they are going or what they will be seeing until they get there. There are six different routes, each with three different shows, and visitors to the Voorkamerfest are encouraged to go on more than one of the routes in order to benefit fully from the experience.

There is most definitely no formal theatre atmosphere at the Voorkamerfest, but this does not mean that the performers are amateurs. World-class performers join in the Voorkamerfest experience, and previous attendees agree that the experience is unique. The atmosphere is social from beginning to end, with strangers becoming friends as they travel in the mini-bus taxis between venues. The small audiences lend an air of intimacy to performances, often leading to an interchange between performers and spectators, which both the audience and performers enjoy immensely. Of course, the choice of work presented is limited to what can be performed in a size-restricted make-shift theater. The lack of complicated sets, sound and special lighting encourages the artists to draw on all their skills to present a memorable performance – and they do, time and again.

An additional advantage of the Voorkamerfest to the community of Darling is that many of the artists provide workshops at the three local schools during the week preceding the festival. Children join in activities such as writing a script, filming and editing the script they have written, making instruments, dance, drama and mime. The results of the workshops are presented as a concert for the local community, including the parents of the enterprising children, the evening before the Voorkamerfest begins.

So, if you want to gain real insight into the community of a small South African town, there can be no better opportunity than the Voorkamerfest in Darling.