Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: January 2012 (Page 1 of 2)

The Real Mario

When I first came to Cape Town this last time in 1993 I met Robert Hobbs, who changed the way I was to work and feel about theatre. He is a talented, mad genius and I love working with him. We made Walking Joe, an insane and beautiful show, and this character is stolen directly from one of Rob’s characters in it.

The Taxi and Me

So, I have managed to squeeze my arse onto Mr KapeTown (Soli Philander)’s online radio show, The Taxi. Every Monday at 1030 I will join him to talk about theatre in Cape Town and to urge people to support local, live talent in our city. In a slight departure from my usual out and out honesty that you will always find here, I will be looking for and recommending  the stuff I love. I am really excited about this. One of the things we absolutely can do in this industry is to all try our hardest to get people to go. Mostly, when people finally manage to get to a live show (sometimes for the first time) they can’t believe how amazing it is. I just want to keep reminding as many people as I can that there is amazing stuff on our stages and they deserve our support.

Facebook me on http://www.facebook.com/meganfurniss, tweet me @meganshead, leave comments here, or even email me if there is something you are sure I should be seeing and talking about.

Masterful Money’s Too Tight to Mention

I must confess that I have been disparaging about stand-up comedy. Not that I am a theatre purist; how could I be when my first love is improv in front of a live audience? It’s mainly because I find stand-up often resorts to the lowest common denominator when it comes to subject matter. Also, stand-up can be quite negative. I don’t enjoy it when audience members are picked on and made fun of. And because I love drama, and characters and story I have found stand-up lacking in those departments.

So when I cheekily asked Stuart for tickets to his one-man stand-up show, with the promise of reviewing it, I did have an internal moment of “what have you done? You might hate it and then what?” I didn’t need to worry. We piled into the main theatre at The Baxter (we were in the balcony) and it felt just like an overseas comedy act, like you see on BBC.

The lights and music came on and Stuart arrived, Ray McCauley style, to preach to us about our spending ways. This was just the intro to what ended up being an hour and a half of wall to wall stand up comedy of the highest order.

Stuart’s subject matter was refreshingly original, beginning with the aspirations that start getting us into financial dwang, through to living the high life beyond our means and then the harsh realities of being in a big, fat tight spot. It was material that absolutely everyone could relate to, on almost every level, and it was hilarious. My most favourite part was that there were so few cheap laughs and tricks; and it was clean and so well observed. Also, there was hardly any race or political stuff, at all, at a time when that has become a national comic obsession.

Stuart’s stage performance has so developed since I last saw him. He is filled with positive energy; vocally and physically. He has such a charming and engaging stage presence, and he is completely watchable. I loved him. He and his director Heinrich Reisenhofer have worked hard to deliver the full package, and they do. I laughed out loud often, but also found myself nodding away, relating to what he was saying, and going through. The hour and a half flew by.

Stuart, my favourite, favourite parts were the squirrels. I loved the first one, and then I loved how they came back later on in the story. My second favourite part was the loose nappies. I don’t have children so I have no idea, but the notion of them is beyond hilarious. And then my other favourite was the heavy breather in the Shoprite. Oh,and I also really loved the pervasive condition baby Dave has. Actually, looking back there was quite a lot that I really loved, and that is good.

When I left the theatre I felt good. Stuart’s show is honest and sincere, original and even a little moving. And it is kak funny. Go check it. The Baxter. Three week run. Befok.

Aunt Madge

Sometimes the inspiration for these little moments of nonsense comes from chats with friends. Thanks V, for your family providing this insight.

Kung Fu The Comedy of Errors

A big new breeze, a fresh young wind has blown into Maynardville with director Matthew Wild and his creative team at the helm of this year’s Shakespeare in the park. The most exciting thing about this production is how young it is. Let’s face it; Maynardville is an institution, and coupled with the fact that it’s an annual Shakespeare, it pulls serious weight. So a young, new generation of theatre people is so welcome to shake it around a bit. Did they? Almost.

Last night the park looked so pretty with the chinese lanterns and lights and I loved the White Rabbit sweets, chinese fortune cookies (and completely irrelevantly, The Creamery ice cream).

Then we took our seats as the sun went down for some The Comedy of Errors. This is so difficult for me to ‘review’ for a number of reasons, but the main one is that I saw the National Theatre production in London not two months ago, and I can’t help comparing, which is totally, ridiculously unfair. The Comedy of Errors was also one of my first Maynardville experiences, which I remember unbelievably clearly. Soli Philander was in it and it was done Asterix style.

So, I thought, how about two lists, of things I loved and liked and things I didn’t like or didn’t work for me.

I loved the concept. I think the Kung Fu theme and the execution of it was delicious, iconic, modern and funky. The detail of the design (Angela Nemov), costumes (but not so much the girls’ ones), the styling, the actual Kung Fu and the music was fabulous. I loved the second half which was jolly and rompy and Kung Fuey. The school kids will go crazy. I loved Rob van Vuuren and James Cairns as the set of Dromio twins. They were brilliant. In fact, I’ll come right out and say it, Rob stole the show. Literally. He was the best thing in it, on it and through it. I will never, ever forget his explanation of how fat Nell was. James was his perfect twin. Lovely. I loved Andrew Laubscher as Antipholus of Ephesus. He was just the right mix of arrogance, frustration, speed and wit to be hilarious. I enjoyed Stephen Jennings as Egeon and his opening speech was warm and truthful and set the right tone. I also enjoyed Chi Mhende as Solinus. She was still, commanding and clear, with a gorgeous voice. I could hardly believe she was huge, fat Nell as well – a total transformation. I enjoyed Francesco Nassimbeni’s Angelo a lot. His character, the cockney-crooked foreigner-doing deals in China was totally slimily typical, down to his cotton socks in sandals (although I did worry for his voice). I loved the fact that I could hear and understand every single word on stage, and mostly get the meaning of the Shakespearian (having Liz Mills as voice coach was a genius move). I loved the silent basket merchants, carefully placed with their stock for eating, and fighting. I loved the fighting. And the sound effects. And the omnipresent, cute and quirky DJ (Nieke Lombard).

Things I did not love. I thought that it was all a little bit too serious, especially in the first half. I know, that’s when you have to set the scene, but I think the first half was handled too carefully, making it a bit slow and brooding. I did not love the fifty million accents. None of that made sense for me, especially that the sisters Adriana (Sonia Esgueira) and Luciana (Frances Marek) had two different accents.There was Italian, old fashioned Chinese, send-up Chinese, posh English, standard English and a kind of Kung Fu Chinese and it was too much. I did not totally love Nicholas Pauling as Antipholus of Syracuse. Though his performance was clear and well delivered, it was too serious and slow and considered to fit the comedy, and it was out of whack. I was disappointed that in the gorgeous styling there was the choice to have cloth sea. I hate cloth sea, especially if the cloth is too short to make like water. Ban cloth sea I say. I did not love the immovability of the set. Although I loved what it looked like I thought it was underused and a bit overbearing.

My advice to the cast, especially in the first half, is to find the funny. The play is a ridiculous case of Shakespearian mistaken identity. Let’s get there as fast as possible.

In a nutshell. Yes there is a fresh new wind at Maynardville. Did it blow my wig off my head? No. But the gentle wind does bring with it some pleasant possibility of change. I love the youth, effort, commitment, courage and flair of a brave new thing.

 

Crazy, funny Puppet Asylum

I must be honest, I was a bit dof and didn’t connect the dots that Conrad Koch’s Puppet Asylum was basically the same show My Pro Doll and Neuro Friends, but with a totally different title, and I saw it in Jozi when I was there in August. It is hard for me to see a show twice (unless it’s improv of course) and I had quite a few misgivings when I arrived at The Baxter for opening night last night.

I had nothing to worry about. Yes the set, structure and theme is the same, but this show has been nipped, tucked, shaped, and it has tidied up really, really well. (I can’t say cleaned up because it is absolutely, totally filthy actually). Set in a ‘puppet asylum’, three of the puppets are there, working with Conrad and a doctor on the phone, to help get over their puppet issues. The famous Chester Missing is there. Hilary the aging cabaret star ostrich (who looks exactly like Sybil Sands) is in rehab, and Ronnie, the green monster kid is in a box. They all have outings where Conrad tries to help them with their problem puppet stuff.

Conrad is an amazing ventriloquist, who has honed his skill really well over the years. His craft is slick, and he really pulls it off by being not only fast with doing all the different voices, sometimes in the same sentence, but also by being a good puppeteer. His puppets really come to life.

I love Chester Missing because I love Conrad’s political take, and because Chester is a great vehicle for that voice. Conrad understands perfectly how far a ‘coloured’ puppet can go (very) in dissing the current political status quo on all sides, while Conrad himself remains the voice of reason and moderation. I find Hilary hilarious, especially in her interaction with the audience (which I won’t spoiler here), and Ronnie is a complete crowd pleaser. These characters allow Conrad to showcase his skill, wit and stagecraft brilliantly.

Director Heinrich Reisenhofer has worked hard and well to develop this show and it has come such a long way since I last saw it. I have two little niggles. I think Conrad was nervous last night (being opening who could blame him) so the first intro felt a little forced and childish. Also, I wish the dialogue and repartee with each character was more markedly different; they all get into the same style of “yes I can”, “no, please” conversations. But, niggles they are.

I like that this show straddles stand-up, puppetry, ventriloquism and theatre. I like Conrad. I like Ronnie. I love Chester. Pretty good going. In my 2012 “call to action” campaign, this is a show I feel absolutely comfortable about saying “GO”.

 

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