Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: October 2011 (Page 2 of 2)


I wrote a review of Shirley Kirchmann’s Catch when I saw it in Grahamstown. It was the superhero performance in the hell hole venue during a blackout where Shirley sang her own sound, performed her own voice overs and even spoke her lighting cues. And I loved it. This chick was hard core theatre through and through.

Last night it opened at The Kalk Bay Theatre so I took Big Friendly along. Unless it is my own work I hardly ever see a show twice. It’s not my thing. So, I confess, I did have mixed feelings about seeing it again, but I shouldn’t have. I was caught.

Catch is a one woman stand up/sketch show all about being single, and the trials, nightmares and agonies of breakups, dating and having to put yourself out there. And Shirley is totally on top of her game. I know she is not going to be everybody’s cup of tea, and those that are offended by filthy mouthed, aggressive women who talk a lot about sex; maybe think twice. For me though, that’s Shirley’s success; talking through all the chick stuff in a brilliantly observed way (my friend Candice was cackling in the row behind me as she identified), but with the style and charge of any testosterone filled stand up. There is something rop and hectic and totally hilarious about her.

With the bells and whistles of sound and light and voice overs, the show was slick and fast. I personally find the character stuff of the matchmaker a bit long and repetitive, but the rest flashes by at the speed of an oncoming orgasm. Shirley is a power performer with great comic timing and she killed it.

South Africa: a driver’s POV

I have been a jumpy driver (and passenger) lately; more than usual. Big Friendly fetched me from the airport yesterday and even though we were going home against the traffic people’s lunatic behaviour in their cars had my nerves shot by the time we got home. On the one hand there are the drivers who take absolutely idiotic chances assuming you will back down, slow down and give way. Then there are the drivers who stay so close to your bum they could smell it, and flash you when you don’t move over fast enough for them. There are the red robot jumpers and the red robot shooters who assume you will just give way. There are the cellphone users and smsers. Then there are those that just completely lose their temper with you; swearing, signing, going red in the face and sometimes trying to cut you off and force you off the road. People hoot and charge instead of give way. A four way stop near my house is never a polite negotiation, it is always a war zone. I am bullied by oncoming taxis on our narrow Woodstock roads that are piled to the rooftops with schoolchildren. I am cut off by cars cutting in front of me from the fast lane to take the split onto De Waal Drive, making me brake and swerve. I am surprised by drivers who refuse to follow the one way and drive the wrong way up it because it is shorter. Today I was overtaken by a driver who then stopped in front of me twenty meters later to let out a passenger. In peak hour traffic.

So this is my theory. We behave on our roads like we behave in this country. Everybody is taking the gap. Everybody hates everybody else. Nobody wants to help, negotiate, give a little. Everybody is flammable with rage, ungenerous to fellow drivers, hideously mannered. Everybody is busy blaming somebody else and nobody is taking responsibility. I don’t know what came first, but I know that when there is change we will see it on our roads. I can’t wait.

Where the Audience is King

I took the jibe about TheatreSports personally (comment 14). Usually I’m not that sensitive so I tried to work out why I was this time, and I think I’ve come up with an answer. TheatreSports is loved; not only by those of us who perform it, but also by our audiences, who have proved their love by coming over and over again in the last 18 years. Of course there have been times when there’s been a bit of a dip in attendance, but I think that a theatrical product running mostly twice a week in Cape Town, for 18 years is testimony to the fact that audiences love it.

I got to thinking about how hard it is to get bums on seats in our theatres in Cape Town (and even in SA in general). Aside from the totally tried and tested big musicals (and not even those every time), shows really battle to do even short three week runs. My guess it is because most people don’t like theatre much; not enough to make it a regular thing anyway. And so I got to thinking why, and I have come up with a few reasons for that too. The first and most obvious reason is that theatre has a bit of a bad rep. I think most ordinary people think “it’s not for them”. I think most ordinary people think that theatre is intellectual, arty, fringe and high-brow, with only the big, well known mainstream musicals (in which at least some of the songs are known) being safe live fodder. I think most ordinary people think that theatre is expensive, especially when they could be making a horrible mistake and ending up being bored to tears, confused or intimidated. I think theatre can be quite scary for those who do not have theatre vocabulary or experience. I also think that most ordinary people have absolutely no, or very little trust in what reviewers, critics, theatre makers, and the publicity and marketing machines say about the shows.

And so to meganshead. It seems like I have developed a bit of a reputation for being a harsh judge of the stuff I see (even though, on average, I like and am complimentary about 70% of it) and I have had the sense lately that people think if I don’t like something it is because I have a problem. But why would I? I take my self appointed, opinionated and personal blog reviewing very, very seriously. I want my readers (however tiny my readership) to know what I thought, and for them to trust that it is an honest response. That way we can build an audience who trust a certain opinion and can feel safe about going to the theatre again and again, and even joyfully contesting what I say when they disagree.

I am a firm believer in “the audience is always right”. Nothing makes me happier than when a little sleeper of a production does better and better, selling out by the end of the run because friends have told friends to go and check it out. So thank you TheatreSports (and industrial theatre which is made for a target audience) for reminding me that the Audience is King.

The Haunting of KDHS

I suppose it was bound to happen. Someone was bound to decide to start the KDHS matriculating group of 1982 on facebook and I would end up on it. And that would be the beginning of me starting to have to think about high school, and in my case, how much I hated it.

102 people (so far) out of about 200 have been joined, and as could be expected from a Jewish South African class that graduated in the terrible early 80’s, the spread around the usual places in Jewish diaspora is wide, with only a handful of us still back at home. (The irony is not lost on me that most immigrating Jews felt like staying here was the soft, comfortable option!)

I need to be honest. I remember as little as 20 names as people with faces, personalities and substance. Most are so vague that I can barely attach them to a face, especially one that is 30 years older. And while I am interested in some of the people individually, and even made facebook friends with them before the group, especially ancient primary school ones, I find that, mostly, I am conjuring up horrible memories of school. Two nights ago I had one of those ‘back to school’ nightmares, in which old faces from my school past are back to make my life miserable, and I can’t find the maths classroom, ever.

I am momentarily, at the age of 46, finding myself having those totally rebel moments. I want to wear the black arm band that we wore (Karen Zwi, I remember you in particular) when Neil Agget died in detention. I want to smoke cigarettes in the downstairs girls’ toilets (even though I haven’t smoked for 10 years). I want to sing anti government songs, write bleak death poetry and beat up the boys who beat us up (and lied). I am terrified to find out what most of my old classmates think and feel now, because my instincts tell me that while we  have turned almost middle aged many of them have stayed as conservative (if not become more so) then they were.

I find myself reliving those disappointments and injustices again. I find myself remembering the frustrations of being a young thinker in a tank full of rules. I find myself remembering the hurts felt by me and others, and really not enjoying those memories at all. I find myself thinking with shame about some of the childish, insensitive hurts I caused.

And I am shocked at how deep those wounds go, and that I still feel them.

So, when lots of people in the facebook group suggest a class reunion, I swallow bile and my palms sweat. I experience a kind of fear that I do not normally feel in my life (even though I still live in South Africa). The weird thing is, I have done what I consider to be really well in my life. I live well, work at what I love, have a beautiful long term relationship and joyous friendships. I am mostly proud of myself. Except when I think about school. So, King David High School, and those that were with me, this is my honest response.

Another Friggin’ (fabulous) Tribute Show

The mix was noticeable. Old old. A few young and hip. Some dweebs. Establishment (from a theatre point of view). Friends and family. It was the opening of Another Friggin’ Tribute Show on THE SAME night as Coldplay! So the seventy odd people that weren’t at the gig were at Pierre Malherbe’s new one man show, directed by VIncent Meyburgh at The Intimate. I was glad. I’m not into Coldplay (although I like their greatest hit I Will Fix You).

This one man show is a non-musical tribute to music (in general and in particular) and how it moves you. Pierre is quite a bit younger than me but a lot of the influences, and the ‘how’ of listening to music, and taping, and how Pink Floyd altered our musical DNA and how we became music lovers are very similar. It was often like he was speaking my childhood, adolescence and youth into memory.

The show is very funny. Very. It is a unique blend of stand-up, sketch, personal take and musical nostalgia. I love Pierre on stage. He is wacky, cute, crazy, physically gawky, and quite demented, but all in a very engaging way. He develops a vibe with the audience, and, even though he is quite clear at the beginning that he will be doing all of the talking, it does actually feel like one of those ‘remember when’ conversations.

This is the show’s first airing, and I am sure some of the stuff will tighten up as it goes along. My favourite bits were the pre-show sketch, the taping sequence, the anti ‘one particular band’ (I won’t spoil it for you by saying which one) hysteria and the very Cape Town references. Actually, my all time favourite bit was the totally ridiculous comparison with being as upset as if someone had stabbed a labrador in the face. But you had to be there.

Pierre has managed to create a delightful, weird, accessible, friggin’ funny show that is slapped with nostalgia, musical mayhem, and delicious attachments to (musical) people and things. A bit like a South African Nick Hornby, brought to stage in Cape Town. It’s on until the 15th October.

Unconquered by Mary and The Conqueror

My date (a theatre loving actress) and I popped off to Artscape‘s Arena last night for the opening of The New Writing Season’s 2011 first offering, Juliet Jenkin’s Mary and The Conqueror. I am feeling particularly indebted to those involved in this programme because of the support, belief and opportunity they gave my play The Tent, so I really wanted to love this production but I really didn’t.

The premise is; on a beach in some weird waiting afterlife, Mary Renault the author meets one of her historical characters that she was obsessed with, Alexander the Great. This is how they both end up reflecting on the loves of their lives, both same sex relationships. After analysing their lives and accepting some stuff Mary is able to ‘get into the water’ with Alexander and leave.

The cast is Diane Wilson, Adrienne Pearce, Armand Aucamp and Francis Chouler and they are directed by Roy Sargeant.

The big question about this production, and the play itself, is why? What’s the point? No doubt there are answers somewhere but they don’t end up on stage. The interactions between Mary and Alexander drag on repetitively, with her responding in the same way to his questions (and in the same tone) and he refusing to give a straight answer in a weird coughing up of trying to find the words. While both boys are terribly pretty in their little white Speedos (why little white Speedos, I have no idea) we have no real sense of the lives that they lead, and the ups and downs of the relationship between the conqueror and his general ends up feeling a little trite and immature, and mostly, quite boring. It’s hard to follow all the talking about stuff that happened or will happen, but never happens on stage. It’s odd hearing them speak in a funny pseudo Italian accent. It’s awkward watching them pose and swagger, caress and fight. It’s a bit like chaaf chaaf acting, even though they are both very pretty in their little white Speedos (or have I already said that?).

The women fare a little better with a more genuine and earnest exploration of their relationship, but it’s also repetitive, and predictable. Their secret love affair, played out against the background of a conservative Camps Bay community never quite sparks to life after the promise of the first scene, although I really enjoyed Adrienne Pearce’s character and performance.

The moment of the piece for me was Adrienne Pearce in her monologue; slightly different from the style of the rest of the play, where she is shatteringly revealing about becoming ill, and it is deeply moving. We needed many more of these.

Part edutainment/reenactment historical, part secret same gender relationships in a tough time, part how to live with a difficult and ambitious figure, nothing really gets going here. While Alfred Rietmann does a great job of making it look beautiful, it’s all a little pointless and rather dreary. Sorry.

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