Interview: Brett Bailey/Third World Bunfight, igniting creativity around the fireside, Into The Woods, at Constellations, Spier, 2021

Brett Bailey- South African theatre maker of Third World Bunfight 

Latest project: Constellations – Into the Woods – on the farmlands at Spier Wine Estate, Stellenbosch – November 25 to December 18, 2021 -7.30pm Age advisory: No under 13s

Booking link 
Time: Starts at 8pm. Arrival– 7.30pm Picnics: Served from 6pm for mini picnics and 6.30pm for sunset picnics 
Sleepover at Spier Hotel: 30% accommodation discount at the Spier Hotel – available to Constellations ticket holders. Redeem offer- book online with code: CONSTELLATIONS 
Info: and


Brett Bailey/Third World Bunfight: @brett.bailey.twb  Spier: @spierwinefarm Spier Trust: @spierartstrust  

#constellations #Constellationsatspier #Chooselive #Firesideencounters

South African theatre maker, Brett Bailey’s company, Third World Bunfight (TWB), recently returned from touring Europe [July 2021], with its theatre show, Samson, which received rave reviews in France at the Festival d’Avignon and in Barcelona at Festival Grec. Back home, in Cape Town, Bailey, in association with Spier and under the auspices of TWB, is producing Constellations on the farmlands at Spier Wine Estate. Constellations is not a theatre show. Bailey is igniting, rather than directing Constellations, which is a space for gatherings around campfires. The audience will commune with 27 Guardians – artists (theatre makers, musicians, poets etc). There will be no technology or tech intervention. Each route is a surprise so one does not know what one will encounter on an evening, around fires, at each Constellations site. Brett Bailey provides insights into Constellations 2021:

Fires under the stars – people engaging with each other – sans technology

During the pandemic, most of us have been glued to our electronic devices, waiting for the next ping from our screens. Constellations has been stripped of technology. It is about communing together, under the stars. Brett Bailey: “What we have done with Constellations is to create a space for 27 Guardians – artists and musicians, performance artist, poets, storytellers etc- to try something new and to work in this extraordinary venue. There is no technology at all. You just have a fire. As a creative, your audience changes all the time. You don’t know who they are. It is an intimate audience. Each group has its own personality. You don’t know what each group has come from before – which Guardians they have visited. There is something shifting all the time. There is no stability or certainty. There are three routes. People will go on one route. On each route there are three different Guardians. It is completely scrambled. As a performer you have to deal with the situation and hold the audience. They go off into the night,-after thirty minutes -and the next group is suddenly upon you. I have asked the performers to really push themselves, to stretch themselves, to try something new, to speak with a different voice, to respond to the situation and environment- not to feel constrained by commercial imperatives.”

Mystery journeys 

“I have always liked mystery journeys, where you don’t know what you will encounter. At Constellations, one doesn’t know who or what one will encounter. We have nine musicians and they are key to curating each route.  I make sure that there is a musician on each of the routes, every night. But you could be seeing a performance artist or a poet or a mystic. I think that that is part of the magic. Some people came four times last year [2020] and every time, they saw different people.” [The first edition of Constellations was presented at Spier in 2020].”

Constellations – to “satisfy, enrich and nourish people in these times…”

No curatorial prompts were issued by Bailey, when bringing the creatives on board for Constellations: “Each of the 27 performers are making something. I am a sounding board for them. I can say –‘oh, have you thought about this or that’ – but I am not ‘directing’ anything. It is really a platform for artists – to explore. There is a scarcity of this kind of platform in the country right now. The other amazing thing about Constellations is working on the land- for the audience and the Guardians. You are out in a beautiful place- in nature- at night- where you can focus on the smells, sounds; being with a group of people that you don’t know. You are sharing something and then driving back home, haunted by something. It is incredibly hard to work in the cultural sector right now, not only in SA- but all over the world. As artists- with the rug being pulled with so many festivals and platform- we have to rise to the challenge respond to that – and make work which will satisfy, enrich and nourish people in these times.”

The genesis of Constellations as a platform at Spier 

Bailey and Third World Bunfight have a long association with Spier –leading audiences on immersive encounters through vast expanses on the farm.  “The roots of Constellations, I would say are two productions that we did at Spier – medEia in 2005 and Orfeus in 2006. The audience walked out into the country side [on the vast Speier farmlands] and then gathered on the side of a dam and followed a guide into the ‘Underworld’ which was replicated in another dry dam; past a series of installation, representing the lost souls that Orpheus encountered in the Underworld. Other roots of Constellations go back to a piece that I did for National Arts Festival in what was then Grahamstown [now Makhanda], called Terminal. It was a series of installations that the audience walked past- unpacking the fraught history of the Eastern Cape. There is also Exhibit B and Sanctuary- about the refugee crisis and the isolation and limbo, in which refugees find themselves in Europe. It also undertook the form of journeys that the audience took to visit installations – one artist – at a time.” 

 Underworld works- not worrying about commercial imperatives

“In a sense, the works that shaped Constellations are all ‘underworld’ works. I am fascinated by the concept of the underworld – what we hide; what we don’t like to confront; what we sweep away, under the rug, so to speak, what we keep in the shadows. The theme for this year’s Constellations [2021] is: Into the Woods– the mysteries – the things that we maybe don’t allow into the polite world of the suburbs. I have encouraged the artists to work out of their comfort zones; to present something experimental; to not worry about commercial imperatives in the work that they choose to present but rather to delve into themselves; to present something unusual.” 

Spier’s patronage for the arts in South Africa

Spier has been wonderful in its support and patronage for the arts and Constellations is a vital platform – particularly during Covid.  “We all know that funding in SA, is utterly dire. There is generally, a very limited amount of money to make something really worthwhile- and pay people properly. Spier makes this possible – to pay people.  After Macbeth in 2007, the Spier Summer Arts Season came to an end and then I became the curator of Infecting the City. We transformed the Spier Summer Arts Season into a public artsy festival – Infecting the City – in Cape Town. So, since 2007, there haven’t been any productions by us, at Spier – and then we had Constellations last year [2020] and now again in 2021.”

Fireside encounters: Brett Bailey, igniting live performance at Constellations 2021 on the farmlands at Speir Wine Estate, Stellenbosch. Pic: Nicky Newman. Supplied.

✳This interview has been marginally edited for length and clarity. Images supplied. Featured image of Brett Bailey, sitting around a fire at Constellations 2020, on the farm at Spier Wine Estate, watching a performance with Dizu Plaatjies. Related coverage on TheCapeRobyn: