Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Amy Jephta

Directors and Directing impressions

When I was driving home last night I thought about the possibility that I would be the only person who would be writing (in this contradiction of a public and private space that is my blog) a deeply personal account of the extraordinary weekend of directors, directing, performance and conversation that Jay Pather and GIPCA made happen. I must confess to feeling a little overwhelmed. So much had happened, so much had been said, so much had been felt. So I have decided to put down my impressions; things I remember thinking and feeling, in the hope that it will capture some of what it was like to have been there.

In Anton Kreuger’s closing comments he spoke a list of things that he liked and connected with; ideas, thoughts, words. I loved his rambling, almost poetic sensibility and I am going to try and steal it here.

Things I loved, in no particular order. I loved Malcolm Purkey’s opening speech. He is a generous, loving theatre guy and that’s how he made me feel. I loved the fact that a two and a half day intensive experience with a relatively niche topic could be so completely well attended. I loved the gentle, ever present hand of organiser, conceptualiser and curator of the event Jay Pather, who followed every single moment. I loved the support people expressed for each other’s work; there is so little opportunity for that in real life. I loved Marianne Thamm; she is so brave, and clever, and clear. I loved our strange and passionate discussion at Kauai over lunch. I loved Nicola Hanekom’s reinterpretation of Boesman en Lena. That chick has balls the size of coconuts. I loved Chuma Sopotela in Aubrey Sekhabi’s version. I loved Zingi Mkefa’s whimsy and voice. I loved Amy Jephta’s well prepared note which was so much about the work and so little about the “I”, and I loved why and how she got pissed off. I loved Chris Weare’s interjections and observations that are all about his passion and clarity and cleverness. I loved how funny Janni Younge was; I had no idea! I loved Pusetso Thibedi’s production Capturing Sanity and his personal ease and charm. I loved hooking up with old friends and sharing in the stuff of theatre making. I loved the catering, the organisation, the team of production people that gave their work such gorgeous value. I especially loved how some of the participants, who were only in the limelight for a very short time, sat through the whole weekend. I loved Liz Mills, Jay Pather, Brent Meersman and Caroline Calburn who were excellent chairs.

Things I did not love; in no particular order. I was bored by how long it took most people to ask a question. I found it almost impossible to go from the beginning of what they were saying to the end with any idea of where they were going or why if you know what I mean and could you respond to that please? I was left unmoved by clever and affected cynicism in both participants and delegates. I just don’t get that choice. I was irritated with the hypocrisy of many directors and actors who never support each other’s work. I was cross with how many director people and actor people and theatre people still chain smoke. I was disgusted by what they did with their stompies. I was irritated by Mwenya Kabwe’s self-appointed watch dog status as external, black, gender specialist critic. I was blown away by Nicholas Ellenbogen’s dof ignorance that in a moment managed to cause such ructions. I was offended by the remark that was made and then repeated that there are no script writers or playwrights in South Africa. There are. I am one of them. We have no idea where to take our scripts once they are written, or what to do with them. I was a little emotional that Zabalaza and Thami Mbongo didn’t really acknowledge that Ikhwezi was started with a desire to do exactly what they are doing now, even though I deeply respect their new vision and energy. I was shocked that many participants came and then left after delivering their input.

There were a few things that I think were overlooked. In the discussion with critics, the much more successful role that the Afrikaans newspapers play in Cape Town in promoting and reviewing theatre was not mentioned. The role of theatre managements and their relationship to directors was not even considered, except by Neil Coppen in a death reference to The Playhouse. The question of patronage was not raised. In all the discussions about colour nobody mentioned that the entire company of The Mechanicals was white.

There was a rumour I picked up that UCT’s Drama department are going to turn the Little Theatre into two black boxes. My heart broke. Obviously, I am utterly convinced that this should not happen. What does everybody else think?

Over and above everything that I thought or continue to think about is what my role as a director is. I was invited to the weekend as that weird thing, ‘media’. I felt like a participant. I identified with directors, performers, writers and teachers. Overwhelmingly I felt like I was there as meganshead. These are interesting labels for me. What am I? I’m not sure there is a simple answer, nor that I even want to go to that analytical place. I work in the role of director. And when I do, I know what kind of director I want to be. I want to have the warmth that we agreed was vital. I want to have brilliant relationships with actors who trust me and who I trust. I want audiences to know how much they are taken into consideration by me when I make work for them. I want to be part of the magical theatre team. I want to feel safe and scared and thrilled and paranoid and hysterical and sleep deprived and concerned and angry. I want to feel.

And that’s what I did this last weekend. I felt. Everything.

 

between you & me

Tara Louise Notcutt is the second recipient of the Emerging Director’s Bursary, given out by The Theatre Arts Admin Collective, The Baxter Theatre and GIPCA (yow that’s a lot to get right!). It’s a great initiative, giving resources, space, salaries and budgets to a young director and cast to mount a production. So, last night was the first performance of a short run of her play between you & me at the Methodist Church in Obz.

I am a huge Tara fan after …miskien became one of my favourite plays of last year and maybe even ever. Tara won her Fleur du Cap award because of it. So I was very excited to see between you & me.

It is the simple story of girl meets boy, pretty young love, getting comfortable, losing each other, and splitting up, performed by Jaco Nothnagel and Tarn de Villiers. It is told in bits and pieces of conversation, dance, movement and monologue.

My first teeny problem is a personal one. The audience was split, with half on one side of the hall and the other facing them. It is really hard for me not to watch the faces on the other side and I find it the most distracting way to watch stuff. The set is lovely, with its centrepiece of a huge old church table around, under and on top of which all the action takes place. I loved the weird upsidedown lino with dictionary pages stuck to it, and the strange canopy from which errant petals escaped.

The play, and performances, left me with constantly mixed, constantly up and down feelings. The story itself is very much one we have seen before. In fact Amy Jeftha, the first recipient of the award, directed a play she had written called Interiors at the beginning of the year which felt very, very similar. But that’s ok, it means we all have something to relate to; the ups and downs of the journey of a relationship. It’s just here the characters are just not specific enough. They are so average I guess, which makes it hard for me to care much for them. They don’t really seem to have ‘characters’. There are beautifully crafted moments of dialogue, beautiful moments of extended movement, beautiful positions created across the huge space of the table and even beautiful silences; it’s just that they aren’t all strung together and  there is not beautiful stuff in between. Mainly the dancing, which I just don’t get. For me, singing and dancing must be done by singers and dancers, and I could get myself into big trouble here by saying that these two aren’t like professional dancers.

Both Jaco and Tarn have stuff that they do brilliantly. Jaco is particularly connected when he is looking for his English translations, and then his naturalism is spot on. Tarn has a super-intense gaze, and her little moments of irritation, hurt and sarcasm are excellent. My sense is that they need to bring more to the table (‘scuse the pathetic pun-like reference) from a character point of view. And here is another hard thing; sexual tension and magic. I saw them try. Really hard. But there isn’t much of that going on between these two and the audience is so close. I don’t know how to solve that one; it really requires a special kind of magic to believe in the relationship.

Other things I had mixed feelings about. I loved the soundtrack but not the sound system. I found Tarn’s costume the costume from hell; totally cute and sexy, and constantly terrifying because it looked like it was going to reveal her, or break.

There is no doubt that Tara is a going places young director and that this is a wonderful opportunity for her to explore her craft. Now Tara, you need to take it a step further and work on somebody else’s script or concept. You need the freedom to make bold, unselfconscious choices with other people’s ideas and words. I really look forward to more of your stuff, even though I didn’t absolutely love this one.

Inside Interiors

I felt very special, I must say. I was invited to a special preview performance of Amy Jephta’s new play Interiors at The Intimate Theatre last night. This kind of theatre is what I want to write about. It is a tiny, independent, original little piece, that is obviously only at the beginning stage of being. It also only has six performances, Tuesday to Sunday this week, so people of Slaap Stad, if you want to check it out you better get your act together.

The blurb about Interiors goes “It all starts when He gives Her a table for their first wedding anniversary.” And that is really what this play is all about. That is where it starts, and that is where it ends, with a lot of relationship stuff in between. Amy has written a delicious little script. It’s cute, wacky and it has an original take on a well worn theme; the path from boy meets girl to ‘WTF is he/she on about?’ It has a kind of Juno quality about it (especially with the choice of music) and I have no doubt it is the kind of play that will have huge appeal for a young, fresh theatre audience. This is good. Very good.

Amy also directs Nadia Caldeira and Bren Belknap, who are the Woman and Man respectively. They are both recent graduates of UCT’s drama department, and here lies my first problem. Neither of them have shaken off drama school yet. Nadia is by far more successful; it’s just in those little moments of tippie toeing between scenes, or ‘physical theatre’ acting that it comes through. On the whole I found her mostly engaging, although I wished that she had made slightly stronger character choices, especially when she was standing still with her hands held girlishly in front of her. Beren, for me, didn’t manage Man very well. His performance isn’t real yet. He falls into big, meaningless facial gestures and drama school (and sometimes even American?) pronunciation too often, and he didn’t really connect to the Man, or Woman genuinely enough. I know this sounds like harsh stuff; I just think that if you are going to try and pull off a two hander then you need two very, very strong performers, since they are it really. That is who you watch and who you have to put the story across.

Amy’s direction has moments of genius inspiration, but there are funny little bumps too, which make it inconsistent. Still, it is a treat to watch and listen to a fresh new voice in theatre. I do believe that this little piece has tons of potential and will grow and grow the more it is put on.

Yawazzi are responsible for the multimedia (which I completely loved) and lights are by Jon Keevy (and they are also really cool; being The Intimate an’ all). One tiny thing though, stage management and designers; I think I recognised that table. It was used in my favourite play of 2009, …miskien? wasn’t it?

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén