Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Carel Nel

Creepy, darkly funny Murderer

It’s true I often heard the sound of just me laughing last night at The Mechanicals’ opening of Murderer at The Intimate. I do find weird things funny. Like a huge chainsaw being fetched from the back wall. And the sight of really skinny Norman (the amazing Carel Nel) having to move double his own body weight. But those things are just me.

Murderer by British playwright Anthony Shaffer, directed by Chris Weare, with Carel Nel, Nandi Horak, Dorian Burstein and Emily Child is a seriously odd and off-the-wall piece of ‘straight theatre’ that takes you to a dark place pretty quickly and leaves you there as things get worse.

I think it’s difficult to get a live theatre audience to have the kind of creeps they get in movies. It’s even harder when the characters are such a miserable bunch of unlikeables, but that is the success of Murderer. We might not like any of them but they can freak us out big time. Carel Nel as Norman, and Emily Child as his wife Elizabeth, are my favourites, taking the freaking to a whole new level.

I also loved the use of The Intimate (people are coming up with genius ways to interpret the space), the brilliant mix-n-match real and drawn set and very effective sound and lighting needed to create the atmosphere.

I think this play is going to get better and creepier as it goes along. If you love CSI this is better. If you’re a horror and thriller junkie with murder mystery in your blood, this live theatre version will do it for you. Otherwise you might just find it deeply, darkly funny in a revolting kind of way, which is also good.

The great divide

How do I write about the fabulous Fleur du Cap Awards that happened last night when my beloved dog Gally is sick? How do I talk about the fact that my favourites to win, Nicola Hanekom (Best Performer in a Solo Performance) and Carel Nel (Best Actor) who I hoped would win without believing they would, did, while Gally is at the vet? How do I explain how fabulous Heather Mac, Mark Harris, Amber Parr and Alfred Hinkel’s new dance company Garage were when my heart is aching with the drag of my old friend who is planning to leave us? This is my morning.

Last night’s glamorous affair was one of the loveliest Fleur du Cap Awards I have been to. I loved the show. It was simple, well conceived and heartfelt. Heather Mac and the rest were perfect, giving the whole evening great continuity and flow. Alan Committee is flippen, outrageously, rudely hilarious. I loved him and he is my favourite awards emcee. I was delighted that the Lifetime Achievement Award went to Chris Weare. How absolutely, truly deserving. I loved how emotional he was and I loved his speech about partnerships. I loved that FTH:K were honoured with the Innovation in Theatre award. I loved the additional categories that honour designers more.

I was dismayed by the same old same old ‘this award thing is so white’. We know. If somebody knows how to change this tell me. I will be the first in line to make it different. I was happy to drink gorgeous Distell shampoo. A bit too happy, I think. I loved hanging with friends, air kissing acquaintances and looking at the prettiness.

But, when I got home last night Gally was sick. Here she is, sitting on the stoep with Chassie yesterday morning.


Die Rebellie van Lafras Verwey

photo by Jesse Kramer

When we got home and Big Friendly walked back up the stairs last night he stated quite firmly,”Now that’s theatre. That wasn’t the usual kak we go and see.” When we got inside he was still excited and his brain was full and he couldn’t go straight to bed.

We had gone to the second opening night of The Mechanical’s offering of Die Rebellie of Lafras Verwey at The Intimate Theatre. (On Monday, at TheatreSports class I had cursed their bits of set hanging from the ceiling!) This is The Mechanicals first foray into Afrikaans and it is a total, out and out success.

I don’t know the play, written by Chris Barnard in the 1960s. I understand that it was written as a radio play.This incarnation is deftly and creatively directed by Albert Maritz. He has done an awesome and convincing job. Only afterwards, when I was talking and listening to some of the audience conversation did I realise how bold he had been in his interpretation (not having seen the play meant I didn’t know the difference).

It’s all about this mild mannered civil servant, Lafras Verwey, who has a deep, complicated, violent inner life, which plays itself out in a dangerous and tragic way when it gets confused with reality. Afrikaans Kafka! Carel Nel is Lafras Verwey and he gives the performance of a lifetime. I could not take my eyes off him for a single moment. From the very first word and movement he created a complicated, fraught, neurotic, charming and hysterical man and he did not falter in this for even an eyelash twitch.

Nandi Horak and the rest of the cast (Stian Bam, Wilhelm van der Walt, Roxanne Blaise, De Klerk Oelofse and Tinarie van Wyk Loots) offer intense and creative support for Carel through this mammoth journey. This is ensemble work at its strongest and most effective.

The set is a magical masterpiece of found stuff, creating a 1960’s Brazil (the movie) influenced soundstage, with bits of South Africa’s weird civil servant past, like those funny metal filing cabinets and a teeny typewriter and those stamps and ink pads, and fantastic bicycle junk, and sad shelves with sad home stuff. It’s a busy, complicated mix of fantasy and reality. The lighting, by Guy De Lancey, is phenomenal. Outside light shines in through the side window and door. Little lights in interesting places are eerie. Sound and light cues are timed and mixed and juxtaposed to create a weirdly unsettled feeling.

What I missed (bits and pieces and words here and there) was made up for in feeling. This is an exciting, riveting and beautiful production. Don’t be scared if your Afrikaans is not totally up to par; you will get it. And the reward of a beautifully directed, deliciously performed piece of theatre is so satisfying.

Nightmare Dream, Brother

When I started this blog I promised myself that I would be as honest as possible. My position was to send people off to see stuff I thought was good, and also to let people know about the stuff I thought was bad. I wanted people to know that I would say bad things about shows if I thought they weren’t good, but it has become harder and harder to do that. It is especially hard when you really like some of the people involved and you hope that the work is going to be something you love.

After seeing Dream, Brother (written by Duncan Buwalda, directed by Tara Louise Notcutt and performed by Carel Nel, Wilhelm van der Walt and Cintaine Schutte) at The Intimate last night, I had a hot, sweaty, sleepless six hours thinking of all the excuses I could use to not write this post. Because I really didn’t like this production, pretty much from start to finish. (And, do I jump in and say why, or do I just shut up? Well, I’ve decided to jump in. So, for all of you who liked it, or aren’t going to manage particularly hard criticism, stop reading now.)

First of all there is the story; which starts off simply enough. On the one hand, boy meets girl. In separate monologues other guy (psychiatrist) tells how he met, wooed, fell in love with, and married his woman. We follow both the stories, from scene to scene, with confusing dress changes for the girl, and much reciting of The Owl and The Pussycat, before things smash together, converge and degenerate into complete chaos, with a fight, a snakebite, madness and a most “unconventional” psychiatric treatment. Too much story. Too much to have to make sense of.

So that’s the story. But I have issues with the subject matter too. It feels like every play being made is “boy meets girl”, and what happens after, with no effort to portray actual people. It’s not enough to just give your characters jobs; writer, painter, vet, psychiatrist. The characters just aren’t fleshed out enough, so what happens is that the actors are forced to rely on themselves too much, and they end up making terribly obvious choices. This is especially horrible when things get emotional (or mad), and it’s all a bit cringe making. I love Carel Nel as a performer, but not in this piece. It feels like he has little to work with and he spends a lot of time in anxious preparation; lots of panicking and checking that he is ready, tucking in his shirt, straightening his (and other guy’s) tie. Cintaine Schutte is in the same boat (pea green or other), only she comes off slightly worse because the script and the direction is ungenerous to the female character. Unfortunately, her performance verges on trite generalisation. Other guy, Wilhelm van der Walt, is ok in the monologues but when his story converges with the other one nothing can save him from the ridiculous stuff he has to say and do.

Tara is excellent at making things look really good while using very little (again she thanks her parents for the use of their furniture!) and it did look good. But this time it wasn’t nearly enough.

Yes, it was the hottest night ever, in the sauna that is The Intimate, and this doesn’t make for great concentration. Yes, it was opening night, with all that kind of energy. Yes, I am still grumpy about how hard it is to make good theatre and then get people to come. Yes, it is possible that I am no longer part of these theatre makers’ target audience. Still, Dream, Brother entirely doesn’t do it for me.

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