Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Anthea Thompson

Up close but Living Remote

It was Living Remote’s opening night at The Kalk Bay Theatre last night and there was a crowd of press, Cracks, friends, family and even ordinary audience to celebrate one of Cape Town’s finest and funniest actresses, Anthea Thompson.

Living Remote is a “medical demonstration” presented by Anthea’s bizarre character Bertha Cummings. Bertha is a properly cooked, drug dispensing, varicose veined, sif dressed Capetonian old lady who dispenses medical advice to her audience, amongst other things. I first saw Bertha in Cracks and here she is in a full show.

Now, as far as I am concerned, Anthea Thompson could perform the phone book brilliantly. She is that good. And Bertha is a great vehicle for her funny bone; she has superb timing, wicked characterisation and a brilliant connection with the audience. There are moments of total comic genius here. Bertha’s eye test on an audience member is still one of the funniest things I have ever seen, and her phone call with her daughter is pure comic evil.

The whole show could be tighter and some things definitely work better than others. I found myself laughing out loud to things nobody else found funny, and the opposite too. People were falling off their chairs at the physical and sexual stuff that I don’t get so much. But, go see for yourself. Whatever tickles you, there’ll be something here to get you going.

I’m gonna be a Crack!

I am so looking forward to this Friday. It’s my birthday, and I am performing with an all girl improv team from TheatreSports at the monthly Cracks Only show at The Baxter! I think that it’s a great way to celebrate my femaleness and agedness. It also counts as work, which I love doing on any celebration day.

Cracks Only is wickedly funny Marianne Thamm, delicious, quirky comedienne Anne Hirsch (one of our TS team too), clever, physical character comedy actor Shimmy Isaacs and brilliant actor Anthea Thompson (who is in Broken Glass at The Fugard at the moment so won’t be being a crack on Friday). Cracks Only normally have guests at their monthly performances and this Friday we are them! Tandi Buchan, Candice D’Arcy, Yve Pelser and I will be jumping into some testosterone free improv as the final act of the evening. Anything could happen.

I can’t wait! Tickets cost R100 and can be booked through Computicket. The show starts at 2130. I’d love to see you there.

Romping Taming of The Shrew

Last night was my annual trip to the suburban bush, for Shakespeare among the trees. Maynardville is a treasured institution of Cape Town, and, for some, I imagine it’s their only theatrical trip of the year. That’s why it’s important for me that the experience is a good one. It’s Shakespeare, and a bad production can put someone off for good.

I met friends before the show and we picnicked on the lawn. I made sushi and picnic salad pockets (but that’s a discussion for another blog) and we listened to the actors warming up, and then we all filed in to take our seats under the stars. For the last almost ten years I have managed to make sure I was invited to opening night of the yearly Maynardville, but this year there was a double glitch so last night I sat down with Cape Town’s general public. It was a treat. (One of the things I have been really good about is not reading what anyone else thought about the production so I could have a very open mind.) Before the lights went down a young woman behind me told the Wikipedia summary of the story to her quite inebriated and very jolly boyfriend. It was a wonderful summary, for in case the story was difficult to follow, but she had nothing to worry about.

Now, I need to say a few things about the actual play. I can totally take or leave the Taming of the Shrew. No, actually, I would rather just leave it. It is not my favourite Shakespeare play. I have never before seen a successful production of it (I remember a particularly laborious one at Artscape many, many years ago). I think it’s because often the production gets seriously bogged down with the terrible responsibility of trying to manage the sexism and misogyny inherent in the story. Well, the huge success of this production is that it doesn’t take this on! There is a “who cares?” attitude about it that allows it to be silly, comedic and clever without a smidgeon of high horse or excuses. What follows is a story that is clear if not ridiculous, performances that are delicious if not serious, and spectacle that can be enjoyed without any analysis.

Director Roy Sargeant has done a really good job, particularly in these areas: He has cut the script brilliantly. The story skips along and makes total sense, and he has managed to keep all the important bits in. He has taken a concept and style and setting that works really well with the text and has run with it. This makes the production brave and cheeky (although the Seffefrican beginning and end is unnecessary and a bit clumsy) and, from an audience point of view, delightful and accessible. He has not for one moment been bogged down with the issues of the story. It is as if he had a ‘whatever’ attitude. And it works.

The other thing that Roy did brilliantly is the casting. This is a delicious cast. Anthea Thompson and Grant Swanby, the leads, are fabulous. Anthea is brilliant, with her ability to send up, be ironic, really speak the language and give it shtick. She was my nine year old friend’s favourite. And what a relief to see a more mature Kate, giving the story more credbility. Grant is delicious, relaxed, flowing and gorgeous to watch and listen to. Then there is the next tier of characters and actors. I am going to list my favourites, Mark Hoeben is brilliant. Brilliant. I loved every moment of him on stage. Francis Chouler is really, really good. He totally got the character right from the start. Darron Araujo is amazing. He is hilarious and delightful. Adrian Galley is wonderful; easy, warm, funny and great. Nobody was bad. And John Caviggia as the widow was hilarious and mad. Even the teeny, non-speaking parts were well performed, and special mention must be made of the lion puppeteers who were outstanding.

The great thing of having a small(ish) cast is that the production didn’t suffer from the big parts being played by actors who are good at Shakespeare and the smaller ones not managing. With this cast I heard and understood every single word. I can’t tell you how important this is for me.

Dicky Longhurst’s designs are delicious. The Italian circus styling, retro combined with modern cheeky Rome, is sumptuous and gorgeous, and fun to look at. That lion puppet was magnificent. (My only quibble was Richard Lothian’s blue one piece which was his costume from A Circus Side Show. At least make one change to it. It’s mine!). Faheem Bardien’s lighting is awesome. His tent of fairy lights is especially delightful and magical. And the shlocky Italian retro pop pre-show and interval music is my best!

This production offers a non-snobby, totally accessible, fun, beautiful to look at, exciting Shakespeare. If Shakespeare makes you nervous, this is the one to see.

All Cracked up!

I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to see Cracks, but last night Big Friendly and I finally got there and I had one of those best times of laughing my head off for over an hour.

This incarnation of Marianne Thamm’s on stage mid life crisis as performed by her, Anthea Thompson, Shimmy Isaacs and Anne Hirsch is at On Broadway, which used to be the New Space which was not a theatre for a long time after it stopped being the old Space.

Cracks In The City is comedy. There is stand-up (mostly Anne and Shimmy), sit down and demonstration comedy by host Marianne, character and song by mistress of transformation Anthea, and even funny recorded sketches. Marianne is one of the funniest people I know and she has this completely wacky, very fast delivery of material that is bizarre, original and quite mental. She is a fantastic emcee and host for the evening. Anthea’s character, a lopsided breasted old stinker, who has a bit of a habit dispensing and taking pharmaceuticals is hilarious, and her singer who sings a dirty little song had me weeping. Anne Hirsch does a fresh young stand-up routine, my favourite part being the Sokkie sucks; you have to see it. Then Shimmy does a warm, delicious combination of stand-up and sketch which is local and totally lekker. I particularly smaaked her gangster dance/fight routine.

The most hilarious moment of the show (and one I will never, ever forget) is a visual one, virtually impossible to describe here (but you know me, I’m going to give it a bash!). Anthea’s old lady is doing the most bizarre sequence of ‘eye’ tests on a hapless male volunteer from the audience (last night’s man was this tall, grinning stick of embarrassment) and suddenly, after placing him in the right position on stage she gallimpses towards him with a chart that he needs to read. It is so fast. And weird. And totally, completely beyond anything. I thought I was going to suffer a physical ailment myself from that lopsided speed assault on that poor man.

Obviously some stuff is more funny than others, and each audience member will have their favourite favourite. Four completely different cracks on stage. I was jealous, but in a good way. All I wanted was to be a crack. And I am one! Hau!

A tiny footnote must be added. What’s with the shabby little venue downstairs? Big Friendly and I went down there after the show to wait to say thanks to the cast and the lights were on bright, there was no music, a programme called ‘teen mom’ was on the big screen TV, but Big Friendly thought it was called ‘Please change the lamp’ because that was the display message on the screen, we weren’t offered a drink (in fact I don’t even know if there were wait staff around) and it felt a bit like being in a hospital waiting room. Which is not a good thing to feel after an amazing, funny show that makes you want to hang around afterwards and drink and talk and laugh. What gives?

Cracks In the City is on at On Broadway until the 27 November.

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