Today was show day. I came to town full of commitment to see as much as possible. There was nothing on at 10am so I decided to choose the weirdest title I could find and went for Examz – No Enigma. It was not to be. I got the venue wrong and was too late to get to the right one on time, so I messed that chance up.
So the first show I saw at the festival ended up being Ncamisa (Kiss) – The Girls. This one woman show is directed by Peter Hayes and performed by Pam Ngwabeni. And it’s a very honest and real account of being a soccer playing lesbian in a Cape Town township. I don’t think that I am the target audience, not really connecting with any of the things, although I did completely appreciate the human drama. The lesbians in the audience were absolutely connected and very, very moved. I had mixed feelings about this trademark Peter Hayes show, which had some really beautiful moments and some not so successful ones. I guess my biggest problem was how hard it was for Pam to tell her story in English. She is just not comfortable enough with the language for it to express her emotions, thoughts and transitions. Lots of the poetry of the script is lost and she is always a bit self-conscious when she is talking. This is a great pity, because she is really so lovely. I think it’s possible that the piece might work much better if she does it in Xhosa. I also had a nagging feeling that the play isn’t ready and could do with a ton more work to make it really good. A one-woman show is really hard, and performance experience is needed to sustain it. I left the venue with an uneasy feeling that I was missing something else and then it dawned on me. Ncamisa – The Women is the black, female version of Get Hard, Peter’s famous one-man show that was a hit all over the country (including the fest) about ten years ago. Down to the undressing, the naming and placing of the dead, and even a climactic sex scene at the end. And when I finally cottoned on I was even more confused about the why and how of this play.
Then, off I went to the exact same venue to see Quack. This is FTHK’s new offering, created by Rob Murray and his cast. I loved a lot about this show but was confused by much of it and irritated with the repetition that made it feel long. I thought I knew what is was all about, having read a lot of the blurb, but I should have read the programme instead of sticking it in my bag and forgetting about it. It would have helped; but not entirely. Like their Pictures of You, Quack is a masked, wordless piece, but this does not match with the story it is trying to tell. Pictures of You is beautiful, strange and moving because the mundane is recognised so acutely. Here, the story is so weird and fantastic it is difficult to understand without words, and the mime and hand signaling becomes derivative and obvious. Funny thing is, I know that this piece is going to evolve and become great but I think it is not ready for an audience.
So both of these plays aren’t ready. Which makes me think. If plays are ‘allowed’ to be on the fringe three times, then this first offering is like a test drive. Which is not great for an audience since they end up being the paying Guinea pigs, which is why people wait to hear about it and only see it the second or third time around. And that seems like not a great way to do things for me.