Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: January 2011 (Page 1 of 4)

Romping Taming of The Shrew

Last night was my annual trip to the suburban bush, for Shakespeare among the trees. Maynardville is a treasured institution of Cape Town, and, for some, I imagine it’s their only theatrical trip of the year. That’s why it’s important for me that the experience is a good one. It’s Shakespeare, and a bad production can put someone off for good.

I met friends before the show and we picnicked on the lawn. I made sushi and picnic salad pockets (but that’s a discussion for another blog) and we listened to the actors warming up, and then we all filed in to take our seats under the stars. For the last almost ten years I have managed to make sure I was invited to opening night of the yearly Maynardville, but this year there was a double glitch so last night I sat down with Cape Town’s general public. It was a treat. (One of the things I have been really good about is not reading what anyone else thought about the production so I could have a very open mind.) Before the lights went down a young woman behind me told the Wikipedia summary of the story to her quite inebriated and very jolly boyfriend. It was a wonderful summary, for in case the story was difficult to follow, but she had nothing to worry about.

Now, I need to say a few things about the actual play. I can totally take or leave the Taming of the Shrew. No, actually, I would rather just leave it. It is not my favourite Shakespeare play. I have never before seen a successful production of it (I remember a particularly laborious one at Artscape many, many years ago). I think it’s because often the production gets seriously bogged down with the terrible responsibility of trying to manage the sexism and misogyny inherent in the story. Well, the huge success of this production is that it doesn’t take this on! There is a “who cares?” attitude about it that allows it to be silly, comedic and clever without a smidgeon of high horse or excuses. What follows is a story that is clear if not ridiculous, performances that are delicious if not serious, and spectacle that can be enjoyed without any analysis.

Director Roy Sargeant has done a really good job, particularly in these areas: He has cut the script brilliantly. The story skips along and makes total sense, and he has managed to keep all the important bits in. He has taken a concept and style and setting that works really well with the text and has run with it. This makes the production brave and cheeky (although the Seffefrican beginning and end is unnecessary and a bit clumsy) and, from an audience point of view, delightful and accessible. He has not for one moment been bogged down with the issues of the story. It is as if he had a ‘whatever’ attitude. And it works.

The other thing that Roy did brilliantly is the casting. This is a delicious cast. Anthea Thompson and Grant Swanby, the leads, are fabulous. Anthea is brilliant, with her ability to send up, be ironic, really speak the language and give it shtick. She was my nine year old friend’s favourite. And what a relief to see a more mature Kate, giving the story more credbility. Grant is delicious, relaxed, flowing and gorgeous to watch and listen to. Then there is the next tier of characters and actors. I am going to list my favourites, Mark Hoeben is brilliant. Brilliant. I loved every moment of him on stage. Francis Chouler is really, really good. He totally got the character right from the start. Darron Araujo is amazing. He is hilarious and delightful. Adrian Galley is wonderful; easy, warm, funny and great. Nobody was bad. And John Caviggia as the widow was hilarious and mad. Even the teeny, non-speaking parts were well performed, and special mention must be made of the lion puppeteers who were outstanding.

The great thing of having a small(ish) cast is that the production didn’t suffer from the big parts being played by actors who are good at Shakespeare and the smaller ones not managing. With this cast I heard and understood every single word. I can’t tell you how important this is for me.

Dicky Longhurst’s designs are delicious. The Italian circus styling, retro combined with modern cheeky Rome, is sumptuous and gorgeous, and fun to look at. That lion puppet was magnificent. (My only quibble was Richard Lothian’s blue one piece which was his costume from A Circus Side Show. At least make one change to it. It’s mine!). Faheem Bardien’s lighting is awesome. His tent of fairy lights is especially delightful and magical. And the shlocky Italian retro pop pre-show and interval music is my best!

This production offers a non-snobby, totally accessible, fun, beautiful to look at, exciting Shakespeare. If Shakespeare makes you nervous, this is the one to see.

Beautiful Brutal Fruit

Who gave Brutal Fruit and all those highly flavoured alcohol drinks a bad name? They suffer the terrible reputation of being the downfall of many a teenage girl and are completely scorned by ‘proper’ drinkers. They sit in the clumsy gap between evil alcohol for children and play play alcohol for grown-ups.

Well, in my forties I am now becoming a fruit alcohol drinker. I am proudly announcing my preference here. Last night Big Friendly and I went to the cutie 2020 domestic game at Newlands (which was such fun btw) and I was delighted to drink down two delicious strawberry flavoured Brutal Fruits. Firstly, you can’t actually taste the alcohol (except for maybe at the end). Then, when compared to your only other option at the cricket, draught beer, which tastes properly horrible, it seems better. And it looks very pretty in those plastic cups with tons of ice. Delicious I tell ya!

I haven’t checked out the calories yet (I imagine with something that sweet there must be gallons of sugar in there) but it can’t be worse than beer or wine. Surely?

I have to share what just happened. I wanted to link to Brutal Fruit’s website and I obviously pressed the wrong button and so now I can’t access it until I am 18 or older! Love it! SAB being responsible for me! I don’t know how to fix it, but it is quite funny. But the facebook page tells me I like Sultry Strawberry. Does anyone remember that cute ad campaign with the naughty strawberry and the bad mango?

Open letter to a drug addict

Yes you. Please, take this personally. I am writing this here because everything I could tell you you won’t hear. Everything anyone says won’t help. All advice, admonishment, promises and pleas will fall on your deaf ears, and frankly, you don’t deserve the energy that all of that would take.

I want you to know that I will only call you drug addict. I will not use your name because you have relinquished it. Your name belongs to the person you no longer are. You are now just drug addict. You have surrendered your human identity. You have lost all personality, individuality, integrity. You have lost all the things that made you a special human being and you have gained the notoriety of generalisation. You are nothing more than drug addict; one of millions who are all the same. All the lies are the same. All the false promises are the same. All the paths lead to the same hell.

I need you to know that you no longer hold the power of influence over those you love because you have no power over yourself. I need you to realise that your self hatred and destruction will not be bought into by anyone. I need you to acknowledge that the drugs and your need for them have replaced all love, truth, respect, loyalty and, most importantly, all hope. The drugs are your obsession, your mistress, your preoccupation, your reason for living. There is no space for anyone else.

I am tired of watching you hurt those closest to you. I am sick of witnessing you manipulate them. I am repulsed by your broken promises, your lies, your lack of accountability, your placing the blame everywhere but with yourself. I am tired of waiting for you to fail, relapse, go back on your word, disappear, steal. I am horrified by how stupid you think we all are and how you have no respect; for yourself or those who still care about you.

You are so close now to reaching the end of the line. You might come out of it alive and clean. That is my wish but I acknowledge how unlikely it is. Your track record is not good. I know that it is possible you will die, or end up in jail. Honestly, you are on your own now; and it is only you who can make those choices. We can’t watch. We need to walk away. None of it is up to us.

Maybe, if you survive, you will see the pain you have caused to those who loved the you with a name. Maybe, if you survive, you will ask them for forgiveness for the abuse, lies and sordid situations you put them into. Maybe, if you survive, you will have this conversation with me, to earn your name once more.

Brand new Magnet’s Die Vreemdeling

Last night’s was a double opening; a new theatre and a new play (for Cape Town). That’s quite an undertaking. And it was great. Bravo Magnet Theatre (Mark Fleishman and Jennie Reznek) and everyone else involved in both the theatre and the play. My hugest hope is that people from all over Cape Town will come and see work in this space.

Die Vreemdeling was a great choice to initiate the space. The simple story is about what happens when a stranger is let into a paranoid and defensive small town by a young girl. She opens her gate and her heart and that’s where the ‘strond’ begins. The simple set spread out over the big floor space and was even dwarfed by the high, high ceilings.

The style of Die Vreemdeling is physical theatre; a story told by actors who play lots of characters (and things) and switch from song narration to scene, from actor character to story character and even switch which actor plays which character. It is also created quite specifically from and for a particular West Coast coloured audience (there are obvious bits of Joe Barber and that Jan Spies style of Wes Kus character and humour).

It was especially exciting last night when the play started and the audience sat back to watch. The three man cast; Ephraim Gordon, Rudi Malcolm and Dann-Jaques Mouton are the the most charming performers who connect with the audience from the first moment. Ephraim Gordon switches from a shaky old guy, Lippe, to a young girl just like that. I adored his character Ella. I think he was my favourite. Dann-Jaques Mouton is amazing. He is so tall and skinny and he looks like a palm tree with his dreads; yet he is unbelievably versatile as a physical performer. His windpomp and chicken were an absolute highlight. I think he was my favourite. And Rudi Malcolm, the guy with the guitar; the vreemdeling, and the policeman! He played the baddie and the goodie! He was my favourite.

I really, really enjoyed this play. Accessible, moving, delicious Afrikaans, great performances, touching story, lovely set and lighting. But here are my two tiny niggles. Frances Marek, the talented and gorgeous, is credited as assistant director, and she was on stage moving furniture. I don’t know why, but this upset me. And the other thing is less of a niggle and more of a ‘big sigh’ moment. From the beginning of the play I felt like I was watching a different version of my own The Tent; what happens when a stranger comes to town. I know all of our stories are part of a collective consciousness but I often have the feeling that some theatre makers need to make a bigger effort to see each others’ work.

Onward, forward, upward. The snacks after the show looked delicious. But I’m on a bit of a regime (I’ll write about it closer to the time). Let’s get the word out there. A new show in a new space is hard to publicise. I must just say that it is so easy to find The Magnet Theatre. Drive down Lower Main Road, Obz, from Station Road, say, towards town. See the sign on the right hand side, go park and you are there. Get there early for proper safe and totally controlled off street parking!

Voice Class

I have just come back from The Baxter completely excited and invigorated. I went to my first voice class for professional actors more or less since I left drama school 27 years ago! The amazing thing is that it was with my drama school voice teacher, the amazing Liz Mills. What a privilege; spending the hour working with Liz in a gentle, thorough and expert way, getting in touch with my performing voice. I am beyond excited to get back to this kind of work, and am so looking forward to the next session next week. In the meantime I will be thinking about how Liz gently jogged my memory and led me to my shoulder blades (dripping like oil is a phrase I remember from the deep past) and my pelvic floor, and even my tummy which has tripled in size since the last time it was in a class like that.

I cannot imagine how there isn’t a waiting list with the names of every actor in Cape Town fighting to be there. But we know Cape Town; a bit slow on the uptake. Here are the details. Every Tuesday from 1pm to 2pm at The Baxter. Liz will be working in month blocks, and that’s how you pay. Ridiculously cheap for master classes. Message me if you want to contact her.

I am off to breathe. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Lazer

Today it is exactly 8 years since my father Lazer Choritz died. This is a post to honour his memory, and his legacy. I am privileged to still have with me the invaluable lessons he taught; heart lessons mainly. Lazer, I miss you, lank.

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