Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: theatre stuff (Page 1 of 66)

NT Live, and theatrical thoughts

I hope you have noticed that I have been writing reviews for Weekend Special, Cape Town’s newest and most comprehensive online arts and lifestyle magazine, started and curated by Karen Rutter and Jane Mayne, two vital and veteran arts journos, contributors, editors and theatre and music lovers. It has been an honour writing for the website that has made an enormous impression on the arts in Cape Town since it started up in December.

I have written about plays, movies, series and even a restaurant, and it has been such fun. One of the best parts has been that I have gone to preview screenings of the NT Live¬†productions. I was absolutely transformed by St Joan, and Hedda Gabler, was awe struck by¬†Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, and have a few on my list that I am so excited about (tomorrow I will see Emelda Staunton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?).

What has been such an eye opener has been that even the famous, experienced and visionary theatre makers in the UK don’t always get it right. Last week I saw Obsession, directed by the amazing Ivo van Hove, with Jude Law, and it was truly horrible. It was agonisingly horrible. And without sounding like I am gloating, there is something so comforting in knowing that even the masters get it wrong.

Of course, the lesson is that we can all fail when trying to make theatre (or any art actually), but it is the trying that is so important. Here, at home the rules of engagement are so different, and so much of the theatre (and film) we make is terribly, boringly safe. Safety can be in what is expected of us, or it can be in having a proper, paying job, or it can be doing the same thing over and over again. Safety is low risk, low challenge, low stakes theatre, to get by. Low risk theatre is easy to make, needs short rehearsal times, and short cuts on everything including the massive commitment needed to make a show. And then, add meek critics to this; those that would rather not say if something is bad because they don’t want what tiny audience there is to stay away, and theatre is dead in the water. Nobody wants to see stuff that hardly blows air up your skirt.

Now, before everyone gets hysterical, I am totally generalising, because it is a miracle that so much great theatre IS made here, in spite of how ball achingly hard it is, and how we have none of the support, money, sponsorship, subsidy, history and culture of theatre attendance and theatre vocabulary that the UK has. I know. But there is something so extraordinary about a spectacular failure, as opposed to a whimper. And I just don’t see that here.

 

Improv excitement

I sprang out of bed today with the happiest sproing because on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night I am going to be improvising with ImproGuise and we are doing a different improv format on each of the nights and this makes me very damn sproingy.

We are going to be playing our hearts out at my favourite theatre, The Alexander Bar, and we are on at 9pm and we want you to come and witness the fun and join in the laughter. On Thursday night we will be warming up with old school TheatreSports; short form, competitive improv games, with suggestions and scores from the audience. Friday night is reserved for our new format Tribute. We have only played this once before and we were transported by it. The first half is an improvised documentary about a made up band. Then, after suggestions for titles from the audience, we pay tribute to the band by singing four of their songs; all made up and never heard before. You need to be there to believe it. Finally, on Saturday night we’ll be doing SuperScene, where each player directs a scene using the other players, and the audience votes for which ones they want to continue seeing, until there is the last and final, winning SuperScene.

You know me; any opportunity to get my improv on. I am so, so sproingy. Please go here to book. The venue is tiny and you only have 3 nights to choose from. Yayayayayayyayayayyay!

PS. I was a little bit underwhelmed by the response from actors regarding my proposal for improv masterclasses. Maybe you want to come check out the show and then see?

Improv for Actors

Dear Cape Town actors, I am seriously considering running once a week masterclasses in improv, specifically for actors, but I need to ask you outright whether you would come, and whether you would make it a regular thing? Is this something you think you need, or would benefit from?

My vision is that we would work in monthly modules. For example, we would do four sessions on being present, four sessions on improvising a character and character work, four sessions on status and relationships, and so on, pretty much ad infinitum.

I am also open to the possibility of focussing on what you as actors need from these sessions. I know that there is always a request for improv as an audition tool.

Improv is my big love, and I have seen how it has helped me, both on and off stage. Aside from the delight of performing improv, I also adore sharing the love as a facilitator and improv teacher.

Who is keen? Be honest here, is there a need? Would you come? Should I find a venue and propose a time? I would try and make attendance at these classes really cheap and accessible, so what would be an affordable price? What would be a good day (or evening, or morning)? How much would you spend on weekly classes? How long should a class be?

I would love to get your feedback before I source a venue and put in the work. Let me know by sending me your contact details in an email at megan@improvision.co.za

 

White Night

I went to a thing last night at one of our theatres. This is not about the thing itself, but more about who these things are for. There were two shows going on; one in the big theatre and another in the small one, but they were white shows, and almost all of the audience was white too. The whole feeling in the space was one of whiteness. And the whole thing felt like there were a hundred white elephants in the room. Big, old, stinky, immovable, Surf white elephants filled the space and all the white people squeezed past them and said nothing.

Now of course it is funny that I am saying this. I am white. My date was white. And most of the people I spoke to (except for the people at the door, obviously, and the ushers, obviously, and the bar people, of course) were also white. The people I spoke to and connected with are fantastic, and enwhitenened, and aware and concerned. But we were all in a huge room together in Cape Town, South Africa, and the whiteness was blinding in the night.

This is not how we change things. Almost all white casts playing to almost all white audiences is not ok. And we will pay for these mistakes if we aren’t already paying. We need to change it right now.

A First Audience

My body is an amazing machine. I have woken up this morning with an entirely different sensation in my entire body; one of almost relaxation. I had no idea how tightly I have been holding on, with a seriously stiff back and shoulders, taut stomach muscles and even tension in my jaw and face.

But last night we (Chantal Stanfield and I) had our first preview audience for From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, and it was a test. A hard test because the preview audience, ‘friends of the theatre’ at Auto & General Theatre on the Square are a tough crowd of mainly old, mainly been around the block, mainly Jewish theatre goers, and we had no idea at all about how the show would go down.

As the lights dimmed and the music started I realised that I was clutching my pen so tightly I had broken though the skin on my palm. Chantal came onto stage and started. It was like my body started leaking out the tension with every word she said and every reaction from the audience. By the time she reached what we think of as the turning point there were those in the audience who wanted to clap. I found myself beaming. And then, at the end of the hour I found myself melting completely as many in the audience stood to give her a standing ovation. A Standing Ovation at our first preview.

What a blissful, comforting, lovely relief. My whole body feels it. Ok, I have woken up with a stye in my eye the size and shape of Swaziland, but that is obviously the exact point of tension release.

I can hardly believe I have most of today free. It is a gorgeous, cloudless, perfect Joburg morning. Then tonight it is our second preview and we open tomorrow night for real. Only a few tweakings and fiddlings and we are good to go.

I am finally allowing my body to start thinking about home. Big Friendly, dogs, cats, beach, wind, improv, other work that has been seriously neglected. Deep breaths in and out. Life is good.

 

the best improv fest

I know it hardly makes sense for me to be talking about the next best thing when the best thing of the moment hasn’t even started yet, but I have to. You see, although From Koe’siestes to Kniedlach hasn’t opened yet (it previews on Tuesday and Wednesday and opens on Thursday at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square this week), and that has been my main and most absorbing focus, once it is open I whizz back to Cape Town without a moment to catch my breath and start playing my heart out in ImproGuise‘s fifth annual improv fest.

Starting on Monday 6 March, and with a different format every night until Saturday 11 March, this is the improv festival I cannot stop thinking about. The intimate Alexander Bar theatre hosts us each night at 7pm for an hour long exploration of on the spot creativity, team work, imagination and fun. Nothing thrills me more than a week of improv every night for almost a whole week. And I am playing with Cape Town’s finest improvisers and make-believers. The Alexander theatre is small, with only 42 seats a night, and the different formats we are playing are a combination of audience favourites and ‘brand-new-never-tried-before’. My old favourite is Documentary; a completely made up documentary (think fake news only much more creative) based on a few suggestions from the audience. The format I am the most excited to try out is Tribute, part documentary, part tribute show. We make up the band, the members, the people who influenced them, and then we sing their songs, based on titles given by the audience. There is also Naked Improv, Duos, Westword and Alexander Abbey (our nod to period drama). I am salivating.

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