Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: April 2007 (Page 2 of 3)

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are not dead yet

On the way home from a preview performance of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead at the Little Theatre, Big Friendly said, “The thing with Gilbert and Hammerstein is that it is very confusing if you don’t know Hamlet. You don’t know WHO Gilbert and Hammerstein are!” “That’s the whole point,” I wailed. “THEY don’t even know who they are.” But he is right. A working knowledge of Hamlet really helps. I am lucky. I played Ophelia in Hamlet at the Little Theatre in 1986. So I remember the story. And Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead was a staple of English and Drama 101.

Having said all that, this production of R&GAD is very very good. It stars Alan Committie as Rozencrantz, Rob Van Vuuren (of Big Friendly’s favourite The Most Amazing Show fame) as Guildenstern, Neville Thomas as The Player and a cast of drama school students as the rest. It is directed and designed by Chris Weare and assistant directed by Michael Kirch.

The evening starts with a 12.5 minute version of Hamlet, brilliantly played out in the parking lot, by the students. They look gorgeous and are well directed in this tight little paragraph of the play. It is certainly easier to understand than the full 3 hour version.

R&GAD is a hectic play. The whole thing about it is the agony of it. That’s what absurdism is all about. But it needs to be agony broken by relief and laughter and cleverness in order for an audience to survive it. This production really succeeds. The questions are all asked, and left unanswered, and repeated, and left unanswered. Death and tragedy and theatre and audiences are examined and questioned and trampled on and hurtled towards, as inexorably as R and G must move, without possibility of deviation, towards their death.

Rob and Alan are truly outstanding. They are a responsive, character-based team that are magnetic to watch. They are superbly directed to give performances that are so complex and nuanced that my head was virtually exploding full of meaning. That is a huge feat in an absurdist play, where, because of the repetition and hopelessness, if the performances falter for a moment you are lost to boredom.

Neville Thomas is a glorious Player, full of the pompous old-style declamation and ham, with big tummy and huge face-pulling to match. He is spot on. The drama students who take on the roles of the tragedians and all the Hamlet characters are without exception excellent. They are focused and tight, working hard and doing really good stuff. I thought I had a sense of them really rising to the occasion. Worth special mention are Peggy Tunyiswa’s Ophelia (wow, you’ve come a long way), Lauren Steyn’s Gertrude and Pakamisa Zwedala’s Polonius. Oh, now I want to name them all. They really were all great.

Putting on R&GAD is a huge challenge for a director and actors. The play itself asks the question, “What do audiences want?” and I’m not sure they want a brilliantly written, mostly philosophical excercise in the human condition. So, how do you put it on and take on those challenges? Get Alan Committie and Rob Van Vuuren. Get Chris Weare to direct (and design, which was very effective). The piece is relevant, haunting, funny and painful. Just what Stoppard intended, I bet.

Really very near the end Guildenstern says, “There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no.” And it is the saddest thing.

I’ve come to the end of another rave review. I can’t believe it myself. Things are looking good for Cape Town theatre today.

R&GAD officially opens on Tuesday 24 April and runs until 5 May. To book call 0214807129.

internet is cool

I’m at the premier club lounge at debben International (courtesy of my shvester in law. It’s the only smart thing about the journey – we fly bucket seats at the crack of dawn!) We are coming home after a terrific wedding and baby shower full of love, energy and high family stuff. And here I am, blogging at a wi-fi spot! how cool is that?

properly sad

I can’t sleep. I’ve been up for 2 hours and its 03.41. Maybe it’s the wind. Maybe I’m a bit hyper after the Proteas slaughtered England last night (take THAT Kevin Pietersen). Maybe it’s because we’re travelling today and I’ve got lots on my mind.

So I’ve been checking email. I was forwarded a message from Shirley Johnson, letting us know that ailing actress Gaby Lomberg is not well and that she has recently had a stroke which has left her unable to speak or move. And I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge her and her extraordinary talent and send her love and strength on this last part of her most hectic journey. I hope this isn’t innappropriate.

sad

We had to cancel last night’s show. We didn’t have a big enough audience. It was cold and rainy; the first day of winter for real. It was a back to school night. Still, it’s always sad to cancel a show. Let’s hope we have a huge and cheering crowd tonight.

We’re off to Durban tomorrow. Big friendly’s brother is getting married to his partner of fifteen odd years. And they’re about to have a baby. So exciting! Durbs. Wedding. Baby shower. Sometimes real life is so lekker.

Earning the title

of CHOKERS! Big Friendly and I are starting to have a very hard time. We’re starting to take it personally. But honestly, yesterday was just plain old terrible. I must confess; I never really entertained the possiblity that the Poepteas could beat the black caps, but I did hope.

There they are. At sea in a lifeboat with a slow leak (wish to god they had a slow bowler). I’m past the blaming stage. I just want it to be over now.

taking theatre to the gasses

Last night I went with the 6 member cast I had directed in a piece (or rather many small pieces) of industrial theatre onto site to watch and monitor their performance. It was one of those totally surreal and extraordinary times that make me love what I do and wonder at the strangeness of it.

We left the producer’s house at six in the evening and got onto the gas refinery plant before seven. The actors have been employed to perform ‘safety moments’ for awareness and to improve morale during a very difficult and intense phase of work there. Last night they were performing to the night shift. Sound mad? You have no idea. And no idea how brilliant and effective the work is. The actors perform at meetings and gatherings, delivering their message. They are loved all over and there is such warmth and acknowledgement and thanks. Talk about a brilliant audience! The actors spend time on the plant. They are like minor celebrities. The message is delivered a hundred times over and it makes a difference.

On the way back home, with the lights of the plant shining behind us like a weird old fashioned science fiction space station I was proud of the work I had done. And delighted to be a part of it.

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