Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Angela Nemov

So You Think You Can Love

Sonia Esguiera is kak funny. And that is why her new one woman show So You Think You Can Love that opened at Artscape’s Arena last night really works. It is kak funny. The content is nothing new. A girl wants to find a boyfriend, and get married and have babies. The people in her life; her mother, best friend, personal trainer, spiritual ‘guide’ etc, are equally desperate that she hooks up. But when she does, is it Mr Right, or Mr Right On?

The thing with Sonia is that she is very, very good. Her take on this all feels fresh and fun. Her comic timing is perfect, her characterisations are spot on, her emotional connection is strong, her physicality is great. But who cares about all of that? She is bladdy hilarious, and that’s why this show is the best way to spend an hour.

It helps that it is well directed (John Trengrove) and that the set (Angela Nemov) is gorgeous, simple and surprising (you can’t believe what is hidden in, under and behind it), but again, who cares? Sonia is kak funny. She could be standing on a pile of books and be reading the telephone book (do they still make telephone books?) and she would be that. Kak funny. So go see it, and laugh.

Special Special Thanks to Guests from Afar

The drought has been broken. Last week I saw three not good things in a row. I was feeling like theatre was the emperor and it was wearing no clothes and the people were praising because they were too scared to say what they thought. But last night definitely restored my faith.

I went to see the first preview of Nicholas Spagnoletti’s new play Special Thanks to Guests from Afar (I have been kicked off the opening night invite list after years of attending everything at Artscape’s New Writing Programme – probably for writing about  a production I didn’t like) and it was like drinking from a fresh new glass.

Special Thanks is about old South African friends attending a wedding in a weird little spot in Germany. Two good friends and the brother of the groom hook up for some interesting discovery stuff about themselves and each other and it is a really funny, touching, wacky and lovely script.

The best part about the production (especially since it is the first outing of the play) is that it feels like such a successful collaboration. Visible is the crazy funny sensitive hand of the director, Matthew Wild (Matthew I have got to get my hands on some of that weird German folk music! Ehrmagherd!) , the gorgeous cast of Nicholas Dallas, Gideon Lombard and Chi Mhende, fab designers Angela Nemov and Alfred Rietmann, and of course Nicholas.

I love how Nicholas has chosen three really strange and interesting characters to bring to life. They are not the marriage couple, or even the best friends. They are the strange “what do we do with them?” bunch. “Adults who will sit at the children’s table.” The brother of the groom (Lombard) is even weirder. Go and see why.

These delicious actors are going to have a ball, the minute they realise that this production works. They are already busy with such lovely nuance and it’s going to be fabulous to watch them grow. I think this one is a winner. Bravo.

Kung Fu The Comedy of Errors

A big new breeze, a fresh young wind has blown into Maynardville with director Matthew Wild and his creative team at the helm of this year’s Shakespeare in the park. The most exciting thing about this production is how young it is. Let’s face it; Maynardville is an institution, and coupled with the fact that it’s an annual Shakespeare, it pulls serious weight. So a young, new generation of theatre people is so welcome to shake it around a bit. Did they? Almost.

Last night the park looked so pretty with the chinese lanterns and lights and I loved the White Rabbit sweets, chinese fortune cookies (and completely irrelevantly, The Creamery ice cream).

Then we took our seats as the sun went down for some The Comedy of Errors. This is so difficult for me to ‘review’ for a number of reasons, but the main one is that I saw the National Theatre production in London not two months ago, and I can’t help comparing, which is totally, ridiculously unfair. The Comedy of Errors was also one of my first Maynardville experiences, which I remember unbelievably clearly. Soli Philander was in it and it was done Asterix style.

So, I thought, how about two lists, of things I loved and liked and things I didn’t like or didn’t work for me.

I loved the concept. I think the Kung Fu theme and the execution of it was delicious, iconic, modern and funky. The detail of the design (Angela Nemov), costumes (but not so much the girls’ ones), the styling, the actual Kung Fu and the music was fabulous. I loved the second half which was jolly and rompy and Kung Fuey. The school kids will go crazy. I loved Rob van Vuuren and James Cairns as the set of Dromio twins. They were brilliant. In fact, I’ll come right out and say it, Rob stole the show. Literally. He was the best thing in it, on it and through it. I will never, ever forget his explanation of how fat Nell was. James was his perfect twin. Lovely. I loved Andrew Laubscher as Antipholus of Ephesus. He was just the right mix of arrogance, frustration, speed and wit to be hilarious. I enjoyed Stephen Jennings as Egeon and his opening speech was warm and truthful and set the right tone. I also enjoyed Chi Mhende as Solinus. She was still, commanding and clear, with a gorgeous voice. I could hardly believe she was huge, fat Nell as well – a total transformation. I enjoyed Francesco Nassimbeni’s Angelo a lot. His character, the cockney-crooked foreigner-doing deals in China was totally slimily typical, down to his cotton socks in sandals (although I did worry for his voice). I loved the fact that I could hear and understand every single word on stage, and mostly get the meaning of the Shakespearian (having Liz Mills as voice coach was a genius move). I loved the silent basket merchants, carefully placed with their stock for eating, and fighting. I loved the fighting. And the sound effects. And the omnipresent, cute and quirky DJ (Nieke Lombard).

Things I did not love. I thought that it was all a little bit too serious, especially in the first half. I know, that’s when you have to set the scene, but I think the first half was handled too carefully, making it a bit slow and brooding. I did not love the fifty million accents. None of that made sense for me, especially that the sisters Adriana (Sonia Esgueira) and Luciana (Frances Marek) had two different accents.There was Italian, old fashioned Chinese, send-up Chinese, posh English, standard English and a kind of Kung Fu Chinese and it was too much. I did not totally love Nicholas Pauling as Antipholus of Syracuse. Though his performance was clear and well delivered, it was too serious and slow and considered to fit the comedy, and it was out of whack. I was disappointed that in the gorgeous styling there was the choice to have cloth sea. I hate cloth sea, especially if the cloth is too short to make like water. Ban cloth sea I say. I did not love the immovability of the set. Although I loved what it looked like I thought it was underused and a bit overbearing.

My advice to the cast, especially in the first half, is to find the funny. The play is a ridiculous case of Shakespearian mistaken identity. Let’s get there as fast as possible.

In a nutshell. Yes there is a fresh new wind at Maynardville. Did it blow my wig off my head? No. But the gentle wind does bring with it some pleasant possibility of change. I love the youth, effort, commitment, courage and flair of a brave new thing.

 

Mostly mesmerising Interrupting Henry

I finally got to Artscape this evening to see Interrupting Henry, the second play in Artscape’s New Writing Season; there have been a series of misses resulting in me not getting there sooner. It’s written by Myer Taub, directed by Matthew Wild, and designed by Angela Nemov with music by Shaun Michau and lighting by Faheem Bardien.

Interrupting Henry is about a new drama teacher who tries to put on The Diary of Ann Frank as the school play and he gets into a bit of trouble with the rigid school staff and the normal school rules and regulations. The problem is that this isn’t very fleshed out in the script so it doesn’t have much emotional weight or resonance. Nonetheless, the story and it’s execution are very entertaining.

Things I loved about the play: The Set. Angela created an amazing set that was interesting, had great, shifting perspective, excellent usability and great colours. The lighting. It completely worked. The sound and music; it was haunting, rousing, big and contemporary. Ivan Abrahams as Samuels. He was hilarious, complex and totally delightful as the onbewus, typical headmaster. Julia Anastasopoulos as Elsa Brown. I love watching Julia on stage.

Things I didn’t like: Teresa Iglich as Smith. Sorry, don’t get her. Bits of the script that worked too hard or too little at making sense or delivering the issues. Travers Snyders. He brought very little to the role of Zed, the schoolboy. Vaneshran Arumugam as Henry. I think Vaneshran had an off night (I usually love him as an actor) but he seemed very unfocused and all over the place tonight.

I think the script needs to be developed. I remember being a stand-in teacher for Myer (the playwright) when he was a school drama teacher, so I see where he gets his inspiration but I think that the issues need to be brought to the fore in a more committed way.

Still, I really enjoyed watching it.

Site specific at The Slave Lodge

I don’t get to see much of Myer Taub‘s work. It’s mostly site specific, historical/heritage work that isn’t widely publicised. I saw Myer at Wrestlers on Saturday night and he asked me to come along to the Slave Lodge in town for the final performance of the piece he created for Iziko (the SA museum guys), which was yesterday.

I had mixed feelings about going. I wanted to see what Myer and his cast were up to, but I generally find site specific, historical/heritage stuff a huge drag, especially if it is aimed at school kids who are, I am sorry to say, my worst king of theatre audience to be part of. It often feels like you have to make do with extremely un-theatrical conditions, embarrassing interactions with your audience (who also feel like arbitrary spare parts) and relatively dreary historical subject matter.

Which was why yesterday was a bit of a surprise and delight. The piece was commissioned to commemorate the first slave uprising in the Cape in 1808. Although the story was a little convoluted, we got the idea as we were led by the three performers through various spots in the Slave Lodge where we, the audience, would gather to watch the scenes performed by them.

And what was so cool was how the group of school kids started getting into the show and the story. In the beginning I found myself next to two boys who could only take their eyes off actress Bianca (who was playing a sexy washerwoman/narrator at the time) to flick each other’s ears really loudly. I had to use utmost control not to kick their shins. But by the time we had entered the courtyard and the story got more bloody and exciting (and clearer) the kids were following every word. We were joined at that stage by a group of black American tourists who tagged along for the rest of the show and took many photos and answered cell phones. 

What really made this piece of work very exciting for me was the costuming and styling. The actors were dressed in gorgeous, yet simple costumes and all the props and bits of set lifted the whole production into the theatrical realm. It was designed by Angela Nemov who is all over the place at the moment. She was also responsible for the incredible set and design of Dalliances.

I know how hard it is to make this kind of work and to lift it from the squirmy and embarrassing to the successful and powerful. One of the first jobs I did when I had just come back to Cape Town in 1994 was a site specific historical walk about tour for school kids at the V&A Waterfront! So kudos to Myer and his team.

The Slave Lodge is one of those places that everybody knows about and nobody (except tourists) goes to, but it’s an extraordinary space. Check it out.

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