Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: writing (Page 1 of 13)

A reply to the ‘comments’

These are people you are talking about.

These are not dogs you keep out of the lounge for shitting on your carpet.

These are human beings,

Forced to live on a sports field, in the middle of winter.

These people, who must follow the rules and not light fires for fuck sake

because they are a safety risk, are living on a sports field in the middle of winter.

These people, who work amongst you, go home to a sports field in the middle of winter.

A sports field is their temporary home for an undetermined time.

From their sports field where they live worse than the dogs that snuggle at your fires, your heaters, your stoves, your electric blankets, your carpets, your underfloor heating, and bark at your curtains made from imported fabric and sewn to fit just right in your double glazed windows,

They see the gentle smoke from your double chimney.

They see your electric gates open and close to swallow and then regurgitate your 4x4s.

They see you fall out of your cars and slam, slam dash indoors.

They see you with armloads of shopping, dressed in bundles of clothing.

These people who live on a sports field in the middle of winter.

And you want to know why they are angry, desperate and uncontained?

You can’t believe how they could burn what they have?

You don’t understand why they aren’t lying down quietly under that second hand blanket you gave them for charity when the fires happened in March?

Maybe its because they are living on a sports field in the middle of winter.

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.

 

The Woman Next Door

I have broken a reading dry spell by devouring The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso in just under a week.

This extraordinary novel is set in a terribly familiar Cape Town, but its angle on the issues of land restitution, racism, culture and aging are so original and thought provoking I will never think about these things in the old way again.

The protagonists are two old ladies, next door neighbours, who live in a sheltered, gated community in Constantia. They hate each other vehemently, but are forced, by circumstances both beyond and in their control to negotiate a relationship.

Through their backstories we get to know each of them and their secrets, lies, and special shames, and then they are brought forward and thrown together, exposing their relationship to a post-Apartheid Cape Town that challenges them in different ways.

I think that there is something so brave in choosing two eighty year olds to be the leads in a story. It is a high risk that pays off though. I was drawn into Hortensia’s stuck ways, and grumpy oldness from the beginning. Marion was also deeply familiar to me, with her broken Jewish background and dysfunctional family.

Mostly, what hooked me and kept me attached to every page, paragraph, sentence and word was Omotoso’s writing. It is beautiful, simple, direct, haunting, deliberate, light, clever, funny and achingly moving.

It is a book that will stay with me for a long time, and I will turn the words and ideas, about loss, and love, and being a stranger, over and over in my mind and heart.

Reimagining Meganshead

I hate the idea of this blog fizzling out, but lately I have been struggling to commit to writing the thoughts in my head out, and down.

I don’t know why the world has become a ‘less to write about place’ for me, especially since there is so much going on, and I have such strong opinions about everything. I guess it’s because I am irritated by the strong and contentious opinions I see around me, from people who, in general, know very little about the topic at hand. So much so, I have become suspicious of every Facebum status update, and I keep checking the hoax sites for proof that the latest crime warning scam, or water purity concern, or WhatsApp neighbourhood watch group freak out (did you read the one about plastic bags tied in trees FFS?) are all bullshit.

Somehow this tiny form of the bigger picture of fake news has left me a little fearful of my own voice in a ‘do I dare?’ kind of way. I feel safer amongst the words of others.

But, I miss writing here. I love the space I have created here. I love this particular sound of my own voice. So, bear with me. I am busy reimagining the space. I think it is about to become a creative space again, and I am going to start with the challenge of writing something, even if it is just a tiny poem or paragraph or single thought, every single day for a month. I might also go back to some video stuff. Funny stuff. See you soon.

White

It has been a hard and ugly time out there. Racists like Matthew Theunissen and his defenders make it challenging for lesser known racists and polite bigots to get away with their usual anxious whine, asking someone (read black someone) to tell them what it is they need to do to fix things and to make up for their lives of white privilege. I have watched and listened on social media, our single ‘independent’ option of talk radio in the Cape, Cape Talk, and in comments and on blogs, how white people have started tying themselves in over complicated knots trying to work this stuff out. It is hard. It is hard and sometimes even paralysing. Nobody knows what to do or say, or write, without sounding like something they aren’t, or don’t mean. And it is tiring, thinking about this stuff all the time, and trying to work it out, and trying to find one’s place on the spectrum of racism, because it is virtually impossible to be a white South African and not have a smallanyana white racist skeleton in our cupboards.  These skeletons can be anything, like me not opening my mouth when witnessing an undercurrent of ignorant race shaming while facilitating a workshop, because it was ‘not my place’ to, to walking past when a white employer spoke to his employee in public as if he were a retard. Yes, these moments count.

I am on a steep learning curve about my own racism. I have to check in daily with what I grew up believing, how it manifests in my impulse behaviour, and the conscious effort I must make to be different. This makes me a racist. I was once hurt when I proudly announced that learning to speak isiXhosa had changed my place in my world (even though that is true) and someone pointed out that my pride was an arrogant, ill gotten pride; one that could be equated to the charity-giver mentality of many subtle racists out there. Think of the Lindt cake giver. It was true. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but one I needed to swallow in order to become more self aware. It is fair to say that isiXhosa speakers are utterly delighted when I make an effort to communicate in isiXhosa and are overwhelmingly helpful and generous with me and my efforts, but does this not reinforce the status quo that I am a rare and wonderful thing; a white person trying to learn another of the official languages?

And here’s the thing. There is so much that is heartbreaking and hellish and agonising about the process of learning how to un-racist your life and your deep inner self. But, it is never ever as heartbreaking and hellish and agonising as being on the receiving end of racism, daily, in big and small ways, in ways that cannot be explained or articulated. This is why it is such a grave offence to ask what black people want you to do.

White people (and please hear me when I say that that includes me) are loud at making their opinions heard. This, I am certain, is a left over from being the voice of authority. Even ‘woke’ whites are very comfortable with expressing themselves, in blogs (yes, the irony is totally noted here) and in phone-ins with talk show hosts, and letters to the editor, and in the comments section, and on those absolutely dangerous Facebook status updates. I have been in rooms, running workshops, where a white person has comfortably uttered the words, “Apartheid is over, get over it.”, to black people who remain brain numbingly silent. Honestly, how do they even begin? So, when there are blanket statements made about whites I sometimes do gasp, before going back to breathing, because of course there are those opinions, constantly reinforced by whites. And if there is only one thing I have learned it is to separate out what I need to take personally and what I am comfortable with saying, no, that isn’t me.

I know too, that writing this piece is its own special brand of navel gazing. I have been unable to write anything for a while now because this stuff has made me writing stuck. This is not writer’s block, when there are no ideas, but writer’s paralysis, where my many ideas seem irrelevant and trivial. it also means that I am deeply critical of others and their opinions, which in turn makes it difficult to express myself unselfconsciously.

A light in my tunnel at the moment is Eusebius McKaiser‘s Run Racist Run. It is a collection of essays, deeply personal, ideological, philosophical and intelligent, all about journeying to the heart of racism. He is very clever. He is able to put all of this hard stuff into gorgeous writing. He is able to make a rational argument for the racist in every white person, without us feeling personally attacked. This is huge. I am only half way through, but the biggest re-affirmation I am getting is that we white people need to stop making a noise and start listening. Proper listening. Not waiting for our turn to speak. We have had that, in spades. “The first test of one’s commitment to be in dialogue with someone else is an ability and willingness to hear them, truly, as opposed to simply waiting to speak and tell them they are wrong.” This is the first huge step in resisting the desire to tell people what to do, feel and say. Hard, especially for super opinionated me.

I am grateful to Eusebius, who doesn’t let me off the hook, and probes the deep recesses of my consciousness, helping me explore my self. I have moved and shifted, from being a loud libtard (what a word) to a more introspective, on the spectrum but aware, recovering (I hope) racist. The biggest shift and the hardest work is going to be in the listening, and listening, and listening.

Like a Friendship

12108727_10153223922241008_7465013988944086042_nComing back here after a long absence is like picking up the phone to call a close friend after weeks of busy stuff has gotten in the way. I have missed being here, and I miss the particular headspace of writing my thoughts out and then sending them into the very public ethers.

I think what happens is that sometimes there is a natural flow between the kinds of writing I am doing and my blog, and sometimes there is a complete disconnect when I am engrossed in a particular writing project (like finishing my screenplay for example, yes, yes I finished a screenplay, and I am very excited). Mostly the writing on my blog reflects where I am in my other writing, and right now I am in a writing hiatus. I have three very strong ideas and only one committed to index cards. I am going to have to ramp it up a notch and start doing the words of it very, very soon.

So I distract myself with everything else that is not actual writing. Yes, there is other stuff, like directing the brand new (and very funny) Violet Online Rebooted (Love Me Tinder) which opens on 18 April, and working with some gorgeous AFDA honours students on a show.

I am in that interesting, illusive, in between world that is before committing and still dreaming and terribly frustrating, where brilliant ideas come to me while I am driving, or sleeping, or feeding the dogs, and they aren’t put down or remembered. Sometimes only the feeling of the idea remains, without anything to attach it to, and sometimes a character appears, fully formed, with absolutely nothing to do.

And I can do really, is wait. But I have decided to keep in practice here.

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