It’s hours until we leave. I’m going in Big Friendly’s bakkie, with all of Songs of Hangings and Redemption stuff, some of Shez Sharon and a blackboard (in pieces) for The Dog’s Bollocks. Thank goodness TheatreSports is very portable. I’m not sure I’ll be able to blog while I’m gone, the technology might be difficult for me to manoevre. If you’re there, come see us! The Grahamstown festival has almost begun!
Month: June 2007 (Page 1 of 2)
When I heard that Taliep Petersen had been murdered I was so sad that he had died in a gang-style execution. I was up in Jozi, about to celebrate my brother’s wedding that day. And I remember thinking how Taliep had not, for all his success and fame, managed to transcend the gang mentality of a poor, disenfranchised community.
Now it seems he was murdered because of his success, and his wife stands accused. I find these stories terribly unsettling and frightening. I battle to understand how this can happen. I struggle with the ease that people are able to hire hitmen to carry out murder. I am horrified by how common it’s become as a problem solver for women. I know. I know that women and children suffer terrible abuse at the hands of men, and that is far far more common. Still. Women are not just thinking about murder, they’re hiring people to kill their spouses. Hectic.
I’ve put this under show reviews although the experience is so much more than that. Four of us went to Madame Zingara’s Spiegeltent, for Theatre of Dreams last night. And it was brilliant. There are not so many weeks left before it flies (by hot-air balloon, according to The Bizarre Times) to Jozi, and I am sure tickets are already really hard to come by, but if you can, then do.
I’d noticed the tent from the highway and from the outside it looks like…a tent! I’ve been wanting to see the show for ages because of our upcoming show, A Circus Side Show, but it took me ages to get it together.
So, last night Big Friendly and I drove into the parking lot, waved in by red liveried attendants and were welcomed at the entrance of the tent by a huge neon heart. One of my best things was the rose petals scattered at the entrance, a tell-tale signature of Richard, the brainchild and boss of the whole thing, who used to scatter petals in Long Street at my all time favourite restaurant Serendipity. After last night Richard has become my hero. Big time. He has got it on the nose.
So, we were ushered in by a motley crew of waitresses, man-on-stilts, clown, and door person and given pretty pink drinks at the door. I must admit I was overawed by the scale of it in the beginning. So many tables, so many people, so much everything. We were shown to our table, where we could sit and just look. It really is magical. The stained glass window walls, the cherub light fittings, the dome of the big top, the costumes of the waitrons, every detail has been thought out and taken care of.
How it works is, snacks are served, the show begins with a few acts, starters are served, more acts follow, mains are served and more acts follow, coffee and desert are accompanied by more acts. Awesome.
The food was good. I was amazed. It seemed an impossible task to get everyone fed. Our only bitch was that the coffee was stone cold. In fact, other than the soup, everything was not very hot. But hey. Let that be my biggest complaint.
The performances were stunning. The venue and style of the whole place suit the host Irit Noble magnificently. I have never seen her this gorgeous, full of love, and so in voice ever before. She was made for Theatre of Dreams. Three tons of fun did their marvelous motown stuff and they are diva-ine. The arial acts were breathtaking. It helps that they must be some of the sexiest people alive! They did a ring act, tandem rope act, tandem girl triangle thing and a scarf act. The music was fabulous. Even the clown and side-kick (generally not my favourite part of the circus) were great.
Madame Zingara’s Theatre of Dreams is a well-oiled Magic Machine. There is a little party shop that did a roaring trade in hats, masks, halos, wigs, horn alice bands, and those huge plastic sunnies from the seventies. It seemed the whole audience chose the time to get away from themselves. Isn’t that what theatre is all about?
What a genuis visionary, Richard. Well done. I was so impressed to see him all over the shop the whole evening and was delighted to smash into him as we were leaving. It’s a huge, huge thing he has undertaken and it is magnificent.
In a city (and country) where it’s a constant struggle to get bums on seats in a live performance, Madame Zingara has struck gold. The phoenix has risen from the ashes of the sad, sad fire that took the restaurant and magic has been born.
I’ve just come in from Let’s Get Intimate at the Intimate. The Sunday night thing? Nicole Franco performed an excerpt from Shez Sharon, her one woman show that I’m directing, that will be on at Grahamstown and then later on in the year at The Kalk Bay Theatre, which is why I was there.
Tonight’s line-up was interesting and unexpected. The piece from There Were Five in the Bed was cancelled because their bed broke. The evening got off to a late start. Pieter Dirk Uys performed Bambi before and it went on for ages. First up was an excerpt from a comedy show called Eurafrica, directed by Ilana Wetzler and performed by Lucy Heavens and Sarah Jane Scott. It looks like a hilarious script and I laughed a lot. They are also two strange and whacky performers. I’ll be interested to see if they sustain through a whole show. It’s helova challenging. I do want to see the rest. Next up was James Cairns, of Brother Number, directed by other Brother Number Rob van Vuuren, with an excerpt from Tienie Petersen and the (something very complicated that I can’t remember). There is no doubt that he is brilliant, especially at accents, and the story is even more out there than Eurafrica which is about two girls being visited by their ancestors Queen Victoria and Cecil John Rhodes in a dream and being told to start a colony on Table Mountain! James went on for a bit too long tonight and so by the time Nicole as Sharon made an appearance the audience were in weirdsville and I think Sharon’s Salon was a bit normal for everyone. It was a great first try out on an audience though and once the nerves had settled, for Nicole and ME, it relaxed and found a rythm.
That was the first half. A great opportunity for all of us to get a try out audience before Grahamstown. I left after interval. There was a cool music duo making very chilled sounds but I had ants in my pants.
Last evening one of my favourite things about living in this neighbourhood happened. I’d only experienced it once before (in December), but it being youth day yesterday, it was bound to happen again. You can hear it coming, for a while before it gets to you. It’s a local youth marching band, about fifty marching young musicians with drums, trumpets, trombones, a pair of tubas, and a few dancers in the lead, then kids with huge flags waving and finally friends and family tailing behind. Their march takes them on a zigzag through our narrow streets. Everybody comes out onto their stoeps or balconies or pavements to listen and cheer them on. It’s a huge, festive parade and it brings huge soppy wet tears to my eyes. It’s fantastic to see young people involved, proud, committed and having fun. It’s wonderful to see them supported by family, friends and the community. And most fantastic is how the true spirit of performance appears and lets loose on the street. I love it. Gally normally gets stuck in too and joins in with a howl, but last night was a little too dark and rowdy for her. Bayla (the naff) stayed inside.
It’s 03:36 AM. I am so up it’s not even funny. Just to create the picture; I’m sitting here in Big Friendly’s stripy gown and I’ve been battling with my laptop for about half an hour. The dogs are snoring on their cushions beside me. Why am I up? I don’t know. Tension? Much on my mind? I was having some pretty good ideas though as I lay in the dark trying to force sleep. I’m going to put them down here so as not to forget. Or at least to recheck and chuck out at a later stage.
My first idea has to do with A Circus Side Show, the new and brilliant show I’ve written with Graham Weir that is going to be staged at Artscape in October as part of their new writings programme. I am going to direct. Challenging, terrifying and totally exciting. So, this witching hour I’ve been thinking about smells. Circus smells. I want the audience to smell popcorn. And sawdust, and elephant dung, and candy floss, and grease paint, and cigarettes, and stale alcohol, and parafin.
My second idea is to do with Grahamstown and how to market and punt our shows. All actors are forced into ‘doing’ the booking tent on the Village Green, a daily stint in the tent convincing people tobook for your shows. It’s a scramble for attention and poster space. I have seen actors literally on their knees after getting print outs of their daily bookings. It’s not for the faint-hearted. And if you think it’s scary and painful for the performers themselves, spare a thought for the perfectly ordinary Tannie and Oom, who’ve come to the festival for a day or two, who want to plan what they see very carefully, who don’t know a Mike Van Graan from a Shirley Kirchmann and are terrified about anything ‘weird’ or ‘arty’ or ‘contraversial’ or ‘dirty’. There’s me hakking them not to miss Shez Sharon, it’s brilliant, Peter Hayes going on about an outrageous banana, Gaetan Shmidt describing The Dog’s Bollocks. Shame. I bet they decide to go craft shopping for braai gadgets in the craft tents.
So, here’s my idea. Do you think it will work? I man a small table and a couple of chairs. I have a sign that reads Totally
Unbiased booking advice. Anyone can come and sit and get a piece of my mind about what they should and shouldn’t see. It’ll be a bit like Megan’s Head only LIVE. Obviously I’ll punt my own shows. And things that I know or think are great and should not be missed. Obviously I’ll be bribable and open to selling shows I know nothing about (although I haven’t worked out what would turn me yet). I’ll be there every day for a few hours. You need to know? Get into the loop? Want to be dished the dirt? Come and get it from Megan’s Head.
Idea number two is in defiance of the high art crit. Songs of Hangings and Redemption is playing atthe festival as part of a Cape Town collective called The Cape Town Edge. Seven select shows will be playing daily at our dedicated venue The Princess Alice Hall. So, we’re going to set up a tent for our audience members to hang out and chill (I hope not actually chill!) and I was thinking about having a crit wall. Anyone can write a review or comment on any show they have seen and stick it to the tent wall. People can come and read them at any time and get an idea of what’s out there and what the ordinary people think. At the end of the festival I’ll take them down and put them together and you can see them here. Or on facebook or something. Whaddaya think hey?