Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Advertising makes me cringe

Is it just me? I can’t watch, or listen to adverts without cringing. Because BigFriendly and I cancelled DSTV and we don’t have an aerial so we can’t see anything by SCAB or Etv, I mainly hear ads on the radio, or on the odd occasion that I watch live sport.

I cringe at the copy of ads. Who writes this utter garbage? Especially the below the line budget ones. Especially the ones ‘spoken’ by the company owner *coughHirschesappliances. There are the completely unbelievable scenarios of weird people demanding product to save the day *coughMantellisgoddamnedbiscuits and the equally hideous shlockfest of mum/dad and kid all innocent and then the car accident done in sound! for a funeral policy or some other insurance thing.

Then there are the fake French/American/kugel/coloured/Afrikaans accents that make me want to die, and characters that often have nothing to do with the product at all, like that weird Afrikaans intellectually challenged man who doesn’t know what a Vape is ffs.

But by far my worst ads are the ones that assume they understand the market, and sell ‘affordable’ retirement homes, in estates that can only be afforded by the top 0.02% of South Africans, and whose tone implies that this is everyone, and all people should be making sure they can do this. They make me so embarrassed. As do ‘affordable’ car ads for R700 000, or those overseas holidays we all deserve. And this on Cape Talk Radio or 702.

There are the black Africa voices that sell wild, untamed nature to rich white people, the camp Netlorist guy who embarrasses me every single time he promises that flowers or chocolates are stylish, and fashion forward and can fix anything. There are the celebrity ad voices, like Nik Rabinowitz selling insurance and making us all paranoid about our future, and there are those ‘half ads’ read by the talk show hosts than aren’t even complete sentences, written for reading. And you can hear John Maytham tearing his hair out every time he has to read about tiles, or affordable Jaguar cars, or sales at a hardware store.

I have lost my thick skin for ads. Lies. Sies.

 

Bianca does Lola

I don’t think I have ever written about a show twice before. Since starting to write for Weekend Special I have let my review style pieces live there officially and I have used meganshead to mouth off on other things. But, last night I went to see An Evening with Lola, a cabaret created and performed by my NBF, ninja and heroine, Bianca Flanders, and I felt inspired to write about it twice.

This isn’t going to be a ‘review’, but it is going to be an indulgence in the talents of my friend. And it is going to be an encouragement for Capetonians who read my blog to get their shit together to book and go this week, because that’s all there is (this time around). It’s at my favourite, The Alexander.

So Bianca and her director Iman Isaacs birthed the show because of their situation at the time – two talented but out of work actresses waiting for their next gig. To be fair, I think that neither of them had any idea how busy they would end up being. They have both squeezed this run between all their other amazing projects.

This show is such a delight because Bianca is absolutely everything a cabaret performer needs to be. She is a bombshell in her red catsuit and big hair (think Donna Summer), she is a true comic with exceptional timing, her voice is utterly amazing from kick ass belting it out, to sultry crooning, and she has the most delicious and intimate rapport with her audience, including the sap she warned she would pick on for the rest of the night. She reminded me of a young Eartha Kitt, and this made me very, very happy. I love Eartha Kitt.

But there is a subtle thing going on here with Lola, that had me thinking again this morning, and it is a real achievement. Bianca and Iman have been able to be subtly, slitheringly political, in a ‘it creeps up on you’ kind of way. It is the best kind of political. No slap in the face, no toy-toy’ing and flames. But a gentle, consistent reminder that certain things are certain ways and that it isn’t altogether kosher.

There are tons of in-house actor jokes, but the audience of non actors were collapsed in their seats from laughing, so I don’t think the jokes are exclusive. And Bianca’s throw-away lines get some of the biggest laughs.

Go and see the range of what this young dynamo is capable of.

 

A last word on the ‘comments’

One of the niggling things that has been bouncing around in my mind is a picture of  the kind of white South African who has tons of opinion about the how and why of protest.

In the comments there is the voice of outrage about how these people burn stuff, and destroy stuff, as if they should somehow know better. In the comments, people judge from a position of superiority, as if the commentator is somehow above this savagery. Their tone is, if only these people were more civilised in their protest we would have more sympathy for them, but, how can they expect our sympathy if they burn/stone/destroy what little they have?

If I were to visualise this person I would see this man that I once saw at the Gardens Centre. He was shouting at the man who was putting change into the parking ticket machine. This first man was in his late forties, and he was fat, with his boep hanging over his belt. He had food stains on his shirt, and crumbs on the wiggling hairs of his moustache. His voice was whiny and breathy. His car keys jostled in his hand and his overflowing bags of Woolies groceries lay at his feet. He was terribly inconvenienced, this man, who wasn’t able to use this particular machine at this particular time to pay for his parking. And he was bullying a man who would never, in all his whole life own a car, let alone park one, or drive one. This man, who was shouting felt entirely superior and worth more.

As I turned away in disgust I thought about how deeply unjust this country was, that allowed this man, in all his mediocre failing, to be more than, worth more than anyone of colour. All he was was born into it. He hadn’t earned a single fragment of the privilege he tossed about. He hadn’t even made good on his huge and outrageous starting advantage. He was a giant blob who in any other circumstance would have swept the car park, or moved the trolleys. And yet here he was, and he was an alarm bell, a flashing neon light, an advert for how even the most miserable and mediocre among us are better off than the black majority who won’t be let out of the starting blocks.

So when that ‘civilised’ voice makes its ugly appearance in the comments section, I see that man. And I imagine the protesters seeing that man drive past them, or watch from his balcony. And, to be honest, it makes even me want to go and burn shit.

 

A reply to the ‘comments’

These are people you are talking about.

These are not dogs you keep out of the lounge for shitting on your carpet.

These are human beings,

Forced to live on a sports field, in the middle of winter.

These people, who must follow the rules and not light fires for fuck sake

because they are a safety risk, are living on a sports field in the middle of winter.

These people, who work amongst you, go home to a sports field in the middle of winter.

A sports field is their temporary home for an undetermined time.

From their sports field where they live worse than the dogs that snuggle at your fires, your heaters, your stoves, your electric blankets, your carpets, your underfloor heating, and bark at your curtains made from imported fabric and sewn to fit just right in your double glazed windows,

They see the gentle smoke from your double chimney.

They see your electric gates open and close to swallow and then regurgitate your 4x4s.

They see you fall out of your cars and slam, slam dash indoors.

They see you with armloads of shopping, dressed in bundles of clothing.

These people who live on a sports field in the middle of winter.

And you want to know why they are angry, desperate and uncontained?

You can’t believe how they could burn what they have?

You don’t understand why they aren’t lying down quietly under that second hand blanket you gave them for charity when the fires happened in March?

Maybe its because they are living on a sports field in the middle of winter.

The tightrope, the time bomb, the end of the line

On Saturday morning I almost lost my voice as I screamed back to the ward councillor (DA Roberto Quintas, I think) for Hout Bay being interviewed by Africa Melane on Cape Talk. My screaming was a bad idea because I was on my way to the recording studio to do voice overs.

He was talking about the protest by the residents of Imizamo Yethu, living on a sports field while waiting for the blocking system of their informal settlement to be completed. They are living on a field with no electricity, in the middle of winter, way after the due date of their moving back to a place where they are going to have to erect their own shacks with ‘shack kits’ provided by local government. They are not allowed to light fires to keep warm or make food. They have no idea how much longer they are going to have to stay there.

And this ward councillor was using words like ‘mitigate’ and ‘implement’ and ‘overcoming the obstacles of delivery backlog’ while human beings are living on a SPORTS FIELD, without ELECTRICITY in the middle of WINTER. I could hear the frustration in Africa’s voice, as he tried in vain to point out that these were desperate people in absolutely untenable circumstances, and I was thinking about the people of Knysna who were offered free Spur food and even free hotel shelter when their houses burned down. I was thinking about them, and how they were promised money by ABSA, and the absolute difference. The hideous difference.

Imizamo Yethu was literally a squatter camp, set up in the bushes of the mountain, for black workers to sleep in because transport to their work in the white suburb of Hout Bay was so lacking. That is how it started. So, residents of Hout Bay. Is it not time for you to start taking responsibility for Imizamo Yethu? Is it not almost too late, while you drive past this sports field, to your electric fence surrounded home that is cleaned by one, or two, of the residents of this township that BURNED DOWN?

Please, councillor, take responsibility, make a commitment, and work for all the people in your ward, not only those who are inconvenienced by the road blockade, and who can’t drive the most direct route to their homes, and light fires in their fireplaces as the soup bubbles on their stoves.

NT Live, and theatrical thoughts

I hope you have noticed that I have been writing reviews for Weekend Special, Cape Town’s newest and most comprehensive online arts and lifestyle magazine, started and curated by Karen Rutter and Jane Mayne, two vital and veteran arts journos, contributors, editors and theatre and music lovers. It has been an honour writing for the website that has made an enormous impression on the arts in Cape Town since it started up in December.

I have written about plays, movies, series and even a restaurant, and it has been such fun. One of the best parts has been that I have gone to preview screenings of the NT Live productions. I was absolutely transformed by St Joan, and Hedda Gabler, was awe struck by Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, and have a few on my list that I am so excited about (tomorrow I will see Emelda Staunton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?).

What has been such an eye opener has been that even the famous, experienced and visionary theatre makers in the UK don’t always get it right. Last week I saw Obsession, directed by the amazing Ivo van Hove, with Jude Law, and it was truly horrible. It was agonisingly horrible. And without sounding like I am gloating, there is something so comforting in knowing that even the masters get it wrong.

Of course, the lesson is that we can all fail when trying to make theatre (or any art actually), but it is the trying that is so important. Here, at home the rules of engagement are so different, and so much of the theatre (and film) we make is terribly, boringly safe. Safety can be in what is expected of us, or it can be in having a proper, paying job, or it can be doing the same thing over and over again. Safety is low risk, low challenge, low stakes theatre, to get by. Low risk theatre is easy to make, needs short rehearsal times, and short cuts on everything including the massive commitment needed to make a show. And then, add meek critics to this; those that would rather not say if something is bad because they don’t want what tiny audience there is to stay away, and theatre is dead in the water. Nobody wants to see stuff that hardly blows air up your skirt.

Now, before everyone gets hysterical, I am totally generalising, because it is a miracle that so much great theatre IS made here, in spite of how ball achingly hard it is, and how we have none of the support, money, sponsorship, subsidy, history and culture of theatre attendance and theatre vocabulary that the UK has. I know. But there is something so extraordinary about a spectacular failure, as opposed to a whimper. And I just don’t see that here.

 

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