Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: February 2012 (Page 1 of 2)

Somewhere … in my memory.. on the Border

In 1986 I was in my final year of studying drama at UCT. I was at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival and involved in about four different productions. We would watch the Buffels and Kaspers rumble along Bedford street in the middle of the night on their way to Irene township. There was a state of emergency. The ANC was banned. Black theatre makers were still beaten up on the streets of Grahamstown. My brother was in his matric. He had received call up papers. And I went to see Somewhere on The Border by Anthony Akerman. In that time, that voice of dissent, the swearing, the rawness (even though chunks of it were banned) the immediacy, the horror, and most importantly the bravery of the piece were all so radical. It was knife edge stuff.

The minute this version at The Flip Side at the Baxter started last night I had a memory flashback to the story of these young boys on the border, especially the story of the little Jewish soldier, played now by Glen Biederman-Pam. Funny, because I know Glen’s dad. He was my leader at youth camp. So watching this production was inextricably bound with old memories and expectations, and old feelings and remembering how things were. I was also with Big Friendly, who had finished his National service in 1985. The experience of the play was complicated, to say the least.

Good performances are what made this production good, and some of them were really very good. Luan Jacobs is fantastic as Paul Marais. His performance is consistent, subtle, engaging, and totally convincing. Glen Biederman-Pam is really stand-out good as the sensitive Jewish boy, David Levitt and Ndino Ndilula as the black characters is excellent. The others are a little less successful and end up playing the character and the stereotype.

One thing that struck me though, is the difference in body tension that young men (or is it young actors?) have today, compared with what I remember. One of the reasons this production did not keep me on a knife edge is because the actors default to such relaxed bodies. There isn’t the constant tension of fear, of the unknown, of the desperation, and the madness. These boys have to work hard to feel and show what was normal then. And I guess the horror that lived in the bodies of our young men (soldiers and actors) is very difficult to imagine, let alone play.

Still, this is a good, solid production of a play that is 26 years old. Older than the cast who are in it.

 

OWL

I’m not even sure why I liked it so much. But OWL, written and directed by Jon Keevy, with Briony Horwitz is a strange, slightly addictive and creepily ‘growing on you’ piece of theatre.

A skinny wide eyed girl appears from the back of a small, falling-to-pieces couch. And she starts telling the story of herself, the girl Olivia, from when she was 10 and she moved with her dad to a small town in the Overberg. The story follows the meeting of and friendship with Kay, the strange, blonde girl next door. Did the falling-to-pieces couch just move?

Beautifully observed writing makes this piece totally delicious. I usually hate grown-up actors pretending to be children, but here, Briony is strong, and unusual, and has an innocent integrity that manages to pull it off.

The simple, swiveling couch is the only set and prop. The lights and sound are effective and unobtrusive. Same goes for Fiona du Plooy’s choreography. Thing is, none of that even matters, because OWL is a great story. And I love a good story.

On nightly at The Intimate. GO.

 

The Deep Red (over)Sea(s)

Once again I must resort to the art of shameless self-promotion. You see, my one-person prose poem for performance, The Deep Red Sea, has been chosen for an American SWAN Day (Supporting Women Artists Now) readings showcase in in Washington DC that will take place on 31 March. It was chosen from 53 submissions and it will now get a professional director and performer working on it, and I am so chuffed.

I’ve had a hard time for a while, coming to grips with how hard it is for me (and my fellow South African theatre makers – those damn words again) to get our work up and running, and supported, and funded, and attended, and recognised at home. I must confess that I have been hanging on, waiting to hear about whether a project of mine has been accepted for something here, and I have gone through the five emotions of grief and loss and still not heard, so when good news and recognition comes from outside the country it has a double lovely flavour to it.

Obviously I won’t be able to go to Washington DC to see my play being staged. I’ll be doing some other less glamorous thing to bring in a few shekels. But it’s really nice to know that it’s happening.

Dangerous, delicious Alexander Bar

I can’t drink like I used to, but last night I really tried. And I am paying the price today. I have only been capable of moving from one horizontal surface to another, narrowly avoiding the floor. My eyeballs are sore. I got rat assed last night after getting permission from my friend Snax, who said she would drive. We were at Nicholas and Edward’s fabulous new bar in Strand Street, Alexander Bar.

Snax and I went there early and ate a fantastic cheese platter as we sat on our corner of the bar; all the tables were full. Alexander Bar is pretty, retro, quirky, with phones on every table and a telegram facility. Its staff are warm and funny and I love ordering Miss Molly in My Bed (a delicious red wine) from them. That was dangerous enough. Then our friends started arriving. And then I had tequila. Yhu. I shrieked with old friends, made brand new ones, danced with someone. I really, really, really jauled. And we came home at 2am.

This could become a nasty new habit, once every five years. I can’t live through another hangover like the one I have today.

Not so Absolucy

I want to put this off and forget about it. I want to not be here and not really do this. You see, I went to the opening night of Absolucy at The Kalk Bay Theatre last night and it was horrible. There are going to be many who disagree with me, and I’ll get lots of comments and people will end up tuning me, but I can’t help it. This show was not only not my cup of tea, it was also not anything else.

This is a one-woman cabaret style fake/true ‘story’ about someone who has talent but also has a drinking problem. It’s a confessional ‘biography’. It’s kinda like an excuse to do some songs, some with added costumes. The great thing is that Lucy Tops has got an unbelievable and amazing voice. She is also a very pretty girl. So we have a pretty girl with an amazing voice, but no show. There is nothing. No story, no character arc, no meaning, no irony, no comedy, no comic timing, no theatricality, no originality. Lucy is a great voice and great physical being with total disconnect between what she is singing and doing, and the material. She is also self-conscious which makes everything seem so fake.

My advice to Lucy is; get an experienced director and workshop the material. Develop the character. Find the style. Commit to the performance in a more genuine way. I know. I should probably lighten up. But Absolucy left me in the dark.

Massive, Moving, Sacred Elephant

photo by Rob Keith

It was sweltering as we climbed into the hot box of the Intimate Theatre. Once or twice a year it is so hot in there, the only option is to succumb to sitting, coated in your own sweat that becomes a steam cloud around you, mixing with everyone else’s steam cloud. It was quite fitting then to watch Heathcote Williams‘ poem Sacred Elephant, performed by Jeremy Crutchley and directed by Geoff Hyland, also with an amazing costume designed by Ilke Louw and evocative lighting design by Luke Ellenbogen.

I have loved Heathcote Williams’ poems about animals; Whale Nation, Falling For a Dolphin and Sacred Elephant, since I read them about twenty years ago. (I do have to confess that I have not loved the performances of Whale Nation that I have seen.) This stuff is murderously difficult to get right. It is a complicated balance of intellectual, emotional, lecture, poem, history, ecology, myth, and agit prop and too much of any one of those can make it exhausting.

On a floor and wall cloth of hessian, a weirdly human/elephantine Jeremy Crutchley breathes sacred life into the body that will carry the words. Then for seventy minutes he praises, croons, weeps, rages, pleads, rants, whispers the story of Elephant.

Is it worth saying that there were many performer choices that I really didn’t enjoy, but that didn’t stop me from being completely moved? Strangely self-conscious and weirdly phrased, Jeremy navigated the minefield of this material sometimes wheedling, sometimes whispering, sometimes shouting. Every moment is chosen and considered. Every gesture in its place. And is mesmerising, haunting and sad.

As we filed into the still hot night, we spoke and felt disturbed by the ugliness of humankind (where ‘kind’ is the least appropriate word) and in awe of a performer who could carry the weight of a poem to Sacred Elephant.

 

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