Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: world of work (Page 1 of 12)

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.

 

Thinking Improv

I went to a meeting yesterday to find out what a potential client needed. She had said she wanted improv theatre for a client presentation, but I wasn’t convinced that what she was asking for was improv; i.e. performers making stuff up. I was pretty sure she wanted industrial theatre; performance to support a boring event of power points and speeches.

I was right. She had been handed the notion of improv theatre by one of her superiors, didn’t really understand what it was, but couldn’t let go of the name of the thing. She was great, and responsive, when I explained to her the difference and what I thought she was asking for, but the default name of improv theatre stuck around for the meeting, and I was the one who had to let go.

And so I used the basic tools of improv for the rest of the meeting. I listened. I built on her ideas. We worked as a team. We developed the scene. I got her excited. She got me excited. We were so creative, and funny, and enthusiastic. When we walked down to the parking lot it felt like we had finished a healthy workout.

I am writing our ideas into a concept document and I have all the right improv energy to do it. Love improv. Even when it isn’t the thing.

 

Limbless without Internet

With the law of averages it was bound to happen, and now we are in it. On Sunday morning we woke up to no internet connection and a stone dead land line. The usual jumping through hoops with Hellkom is always a challenge with on-line forms pretty unworkable, phone in fault systems utterly laborious and maze-like in their inefficiency, and of course, the usual lying reply of “they’re working on it right now and will call you in 5 minutes” a kind of standard response if you ever get to speak to a human.

I can’t believe how much of my work depends on me being online. I feel completely bereft and crippled. I am currently using my cell phone as a hotspot so I can write this, because I feel like I have broken a promise I made to myself to write every day.

And I keep remembering bits and pieces of things I needed to do, or said I would do and am not doing. Even just paying my cellphone account, or sending a press release.

I am totally useless at trying to imagine what needs to happen in order for it to be magically fixed. Big Friendly is a tech angel in my life when it comes to that, only he is feeling limbless without online access too. We are like a household that has been struck by a tech plague.

So stay with me online friends, and virtually hold my hand and un social media’ed thoughts while I sit, immobile in the real world until connectivity is restored.

Joburg Nights

The window is open and the cricket is so loud its like a one cricket band on steroids. I love Jozi at this time of year when everything is lush and green and the summer heat is tempered with rain on most days.

I am up here directing Chantal Stanfield in her one woman show From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, opening at the Auto & General Theatre on The Square. It previews on 28 Feb and opens on 2 March, and even though we have just started rehearsing this week, I can already tell that it is going to be so lovely. When I suddenly have a waterfall of ideas (most of which will never manifest and be in the final result) I know I am operating in my creative space and it is delicious. It’s also that time when I find things on the rehearsal floor achingly (and repetitively) funny, and my cheeks are sore after every session.

It is interesting working in a space that isn’t my home, and I seem to have lost any small ability to multitask (let’s face it, I don’t have much ability to start with). Everything feels different. Space and travel and timing and food and even the air is different from home. Here I am loving other dogs (missing my dogs), walking the aisles of unfamiliar supermarkets, driving a different car. It’s like I have swopped my life for someone else’s.

This is the second Jew-ish themed piece of work I have done in the last while (I performed Mother in The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner; a show I am dying to do in Joburg, hopefully still this year). For someone who is reluctantly Jewish as I am this is hilarious. And we are rehearsing in a pretty Jewish neighbourhood too. All my Jewish radar is on high alert. When you are looking for it, Joburg can be pretty Jewish. I keep having the urge to tap into my ancient Jewish network, to insist they come and see the show.

Whenever I come up to Joburg (my hometown) I am split between wanting to live here and in Cape Town. The urges for both are so strong. This is definitely second prize though; if I can’t live here and in Cape Town at the same time at least I can come up here for a couple of weeks at a time for work.

And, if you are in Jozi you can come and see what I’m doing. Let’s hook up.

 

 

Improv Inspiration

Not that I need it, but yesterday is living proof that improv is the most extraordinary tool and philosophy in the corporate environment.

A few weeks ago I was approached by an international company who wanted to find out about the possibility of doing some industrial theatre at a conference. They had a product (a data system) that needed to be launched, and they wanted us to spice up the launch and make it fun and exciting. After a lovely chat, they were broad minded enough to consider my suggestion that we run an improv workshop/show shop with the delegates (instead of doing rehearsed sketches), and then pepper the presentation with some improvised interventions. (I must add here that the terrifying idea of trying to understand the product and then deliver accurate content around it was the main reason why I wanted to avoid writing a script and then rehearsing the stuff).

Only after I had sold the idea to them did I hear that there were going to be 200 delegates. 200! That is 200 people in a room, 10 at a table, 20 tables.

So when we (three veteran improvisers) arrived at the venue yesterday and started setting up while everyone was at lunch I felt like an imposter. How were we going to pull this off? I shouldn’t have worried. It was magnificent, and energising, and hilarious and potent and unbelievably barrier breaking. It worked. It was amazing. My fellow improvisers Tandi Buchan and Brett Anderson were superb, and we managed to change and charge the room.

Now this is all I want to do, for the rest of my life. So, if you need us, let me know. Send me a line on megan@improvision.co.za

 

Khwezi Ninjas

NN by Nicky Newman - WEB-12I had no idea how perfect the timing of Niqabi Ninja was going to be, but on the eve of the announcement of South Africa’s election results, in front of the whole country, four young female ninjas performed a silent, poetic, theatrical protest that was somehow more meaningful than the election results themselves.

Four young women invoked the buried tragedy of Khwezi, Zuma’s rape victim, as he stood behind a podium, oblivious. And then they were violently removed.

In our short run of Niqabi Ninja (a play that deals with sexual harassment and mob rape in Egypt, but reflects on it everywhere in the world) we became more and more aware of how men were largely ignorant of the prevalence and impact of sexual harassment and even rape itself. We realised that all women who ever have to walk somewhere or share public space at some point, have to prepare themselves for the inevitability of harassment. Women are exhausted by the relentlessness of this constant and ubiquitous targeting.

It is Women’s month (hilarious), and Women’s day on Tuesday (a whole day!) and there are programmes and discussions and even adverts about what this means. But those four ninjas ‘said’ it perfectly, and they were shut down immediately. I know for certain that the time is absolutely now for everybody to see and experience our play Niqabi Ninja. I need help to get it out there. Anyone know who can produce a nationwide tour? Every campus, high school, organisation, government building, police station, boardroom needs to host a performance. Now.

Call me with your ideas. 0834403961.

(Above photo by Nicky Newman)

 

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