Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: August 2011 (Page 2 of 3)

Jozi Vibes

I have been up in Jozi this week, working, and it has been exciting and fun. It helps that I have a hired car to travel the distances, since I have been staying at Boet and gorgeous sister-in-law and traveling to Pretoria every day for work. It feels like lots of the day is spent behind the wheel.

I am lucky that Boet loves Jozi the way he does. On freezing, sleety Monday night he took me to his fave spot in Fordsburg for a curry. he knows where to get the best coffee at 7am in the morning. He buys the best Napoletana sauce from an old Italian man.  Yesterday, after work we met at The Radium for a beer before I went to see Conrad Koch’s new show, My Pro Doll and Neuro Friends at Sandton’s Old Mutual Theatre on The Square. I love the Jozi he is immersed in.

My Garmap has been a life saver, even though I can’t seem to be smooth and easy with it. I battle between off and on, old directions and new, and general cellphone stupidity. I dropped the actual unit last night and I had to wait for voice directions from under the seat.

Jozi is always also a combination of work, friends and family. This is seriously intense. And tomorrow Big Friendly comes up for the weekend. Yay, a lot. I have missed him terribly.


Melina gets in on the action

Die Rebellie van Lafras Verwey

photo by Jesse Kramer

When we got home and Big Friendly walked back up the stairs last night he stated quite firmly,”Now that’s theatre. That wasn’t the usual kak we go and see.” When we got inside he was still excited and his brain was full and he couldn’t go straight to bed.

We had gone to the second opening night of The Mechanical’s offering of Die Rebellie of Lafras Verwey at The Intimate Theatre. (On Monday, at TheatreSports class I had cursed their bits of set hanging from the ceiling!) This is The Mechanicals first foray into Afrikaans and it is a total, out and out success.

I don’t know the play, written by Chris Barnard in the 1960s. I understand that it was written as a radio play.This incarnation is deftly and creatively directed by Albert Maritz. He has done an awesome and convincing job. Only afterwards, when I was talking and listening to some of the audience conversation did I realise how bold he had been in his interpretation (not having seen the play meant I didn’t know the difference).

It’s all about this mild mannered civil servant, Lafras Verwey, who has a deep, complicated, violent inner life, which plays itself out in a dangerous and tragic way when it gets confused with reality. Afrikaans Kafka! Carel Nel is Lafras Verwey and he gives the performance of a lifetime. I could not take my eyes off him for a single moment. From the very first word and movement he created a complicated, fraught, neurotic, charming and hysterical man and he did not falter in this for even an eyelash twitch.

Nandi Horak and the rest of the cast (Stian Bam, Wilhelm van der Walt, Roxanne Blaise, De Klerk Oelofse and Tinarie van Wyk Loots) offer intense and creative support for Carel through this mammoth journey. This is ensemble work at its strongest and most effective.

The set is a magical masterpiece of found stuff, creating a 1960’s Brazil (the movie) influenced soundstage, with bits of South Africa’s weird civil servant past, like those funny metal filing cabinets and a teeny typewriter and those stamps and ink pads, and fantastic bicycle junk, and sad shelves with sad home stuff. It’s a busy, complicated mix of fantasy and reality. The lighting, by Guy De Lancey, is phenomenal. Outside light shines in through the side window and door. Little lights in interesting places are eerie. Sound and light cues are timed and mixed and juxtaposed to create a weirdly unsettled feeling.

What I missed (bits and pieces and words here and there) was made up for in feeling. This is an exciting, riveting and beautiful production. Don’t be scared if your Afrikaans is not totally up to par; you will get it. And the reward of a beautifully directed, deliciously performed piece of theatre is so satisfying.


Mbali Celeste Bloom-Wrench

I think she is about to become my favourite character. Let me know what you think!

Cultural Boycott of Israel; the elephant in the room

Hiddingh Hall at UCT’s Orange Street Campus was packed to the rafters for GIPCA‘s debate; Great Texts/Big Questions – Cultural Boycotts, with a specific look at the call to boycott Israel. I panicked at the sight of many, familiar Jewish faces, thinking that things were going to get very hectic, and that I was going to get hysterical, but no; it was a polite, luke-warm affair that left me totally dissatisfied. My biggest concern is that none of the panel could stay on track. For the boycott were Zackie Achmat and UCT’s Andrew Trench, and against the boycott were Dennis Davis and William Kentridge. I am going to assume that all who read this will know who these people are. And in order for me to put my very own point across I am going to write it as an open letter to Dennis Davis, whose argument I found corrupt and disingenuous, albeit couched in his usual passionate ‘public speak’.

Dear Dennis Davis

I need to explain very clearly why your argument against a cultural boycott is flawed and nonsense. The best way I can do this is to tell you about what happened to me, here in South Africa, when I was a young person terribly opposed to the apartheid regime. I think it would be fair to say that I knew I was not alone in my condemnation of this government. There were many white people (even you) who were. But it was perfectly clear to us that a cultural, academic and sports boycott was absolutely appropriate and necessary. Until such time as these pursuits could be practiced by all South Africans and enjoyed by all South Africans, we accepted as a matter of course that we should also be deprived of those things. I certainly had no expectation that anyone outside of this country would consider me and my fellow activists and grant us special treatment. Although I had no illusions that a cultural or sports boycott could topple a government I was absolutely of the belief that it would help to. And yes, I believed that all those things I was missing, like international acts, and real Levis and proper cricket, was because of the apartheid regime. I knew what the problem was.

You spoke about the complexity of Israel and why that should make a difference. You spoke about the many Israelis who do not support occupation. It is my belief that these are the very people that would totally understand, respect and even support a call to boycott, for the reasons stated above. If they feel punished and deprived then it is because they live in a country whose elected government has created this need for this boycott. To hold the dissenters up as the reason for cultural engagement is nonsense, and it mocks their own legitimate call for a boycott. You disrespect them and their views by saying that they need our cultural engagement.

Then off you went and threw up the paranoid and hideous excuse that Israel is the only country fighting for sovereignty against threats by Iran to wipe it out. You said that this is another reason that makes Israel special. I still don’t know why you said that and what it has to do with anything, other than to throw the normal stinky red herring in the direction of the usual suspects who come up with a contrary argument. Sorry, but this one is truly offensive and meaningless.

Finally, you said something unforgivable. You said that while you are very opposed to the occupation you wanted to remind people that Israel wasn’t that bad. There were worse places, you said. We should boycott them, you said. Boycott China, and Libya, you said. I really hope that you were kidding, because if you weren’t then you stooped beyond the lowest point. I want you to know that you, Dennis Davis are not the person who can decide that Israel is not that bad. It’s not your call to make.

Finally, you think that those many, poor, complex, non government supporting Israelis need us. They need our help to work from within. Here’s what I think. That is arrogant, self-righteous and patronising.

I don’t really know what you were trying to say, or why you don’t support a boycott. Lots of huffing and puffing.

For me it’s fairly simple. The principle of the cultural boycott is to help, in even the smallest way, the toppling of the current regime. We are outside. We want to show our moral alignment. We want to send a message that we won’t engage, exchange, or co-create until people are free. Especially us South Africans, because we remember the how and why of our own boycott. There are no exceptions, excuses or justifications. You are either for the regime or against it. Let the dissident Israelis fight from within. We can take a stand right here.

Finally, I’d like to write a few words in response to William Kentridge. I found your defense of exhibiting in Israel (in retrospect) very hollow. Unless you made a huge, public noise to the contrary William, I suspect it is safe to assume that the Israeli government thought you were on their side. Did you make a huge noise?

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