In a major coup for the organisers, The Giant Match comes to the Fifa Fan Fest™ in Port Elizabeth on Friday at 2pm.
This does not refer to the much-anticipated World Cup quarterfinal between Brazil and the Netherlands, which kicks off at 4pm, but rather a performance by some four-metre high puppets.
Described as “an enthralling creative adventure made in South Africa”, this is street theatre at its best. The show arrives fresh from the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and the Knysna Oyster Festival.
The Giant Match is a sort-of South African Romeo and Juliet. It tells the story of two young lovers kept apart by a feud between their families.
But in true World Cup fashion, old scores are finally settled in an epic and comic football match, the two parties are reconciled and the couple happily wed.
“The football match is really very funny,” smiles Laurent Clavel, director of the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS), one of the project sponsors.
“Everyone plays in it, from the great-grandparents to the great-grandchildren. We want people to laugh and enjoy it. There is a lot of excitement and the puppets are quite amazing.”
The full show, of which St George’s Park will only see an extract, comprises 32 giant puppets, masks and objects.
More than 100 South African actors, dancers, musicians, puppeteers, visual artists and craftsmen working with international artists from France, Italy, Chile and Burkina Faso are responsible for this visual feast.
The puppets took their first steps at the Pale Ya Rona Carnival in Soweto on June 5 and then embarked on a countrywide tour for the duration of the World Cup.
People arriving to watch the opening match at Soccer City, Soweto, on June 11 were greeted by the giant characters.
They have been delighting locals and foreigners at Fan Fests, festivals and in townships with parades and performances and will form an important component of the closing parades for both the National Arts Festival and the final World Cup match.
“The whole tour has been a highlight,” reflects Clavel. “Everyone has been working hard and now is a chance to give back. We’re all feeling the good vibe and forgetting the difficulties we’ve been through.”
Founded on a successful creative collaboration between French company Les Grandes Personnes and the Gauteng-based collective SA GURU, the first few giant puppets have been a hit with audiences since 2008.
“When people see the puppets for the first time, you see something in their faces. Like going back to their childhood,” says Clavel. “It happens every time.”
The Giant Match was created with this year’s World Cup in mind. It aims to entertain the crowds in public spaces across the country, but also to leave a lasting legacy.
Bringing together artists from different communities and countries, the project aims to facilitate skills transfer, encourage cultural exchange and create earning opportunities for disadvantaged communities.
This larger-than-life project was initiated by IFAS, the Gauteng Provincial Government and Les Grandes Personnes, and is supported by the French Department of Foreign Affairs, the Ile-de–France Provincial Government, Culturesfrance, TV5 Monde, the Wits School of Arts and Danone.
For their premiere international performance, the puppets and their crew have been invited to perform an extract of their show in Kigali, Rwanda. This is just the first of many giant strides that may take them across the globe.
CAPTION: The amazing puppets from The Giant Match will show off their soccer skills at the Fifa Fan Fest™ in Port Elizabeth on Friday at 2pm.
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