Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Charl-Johan Lingenfelder

Life is a Cabaret (but the world wants Disney)

Cabaret-03I don’t know why I have ended up at matinees at The Fugard twice in a row. I should have learned my lesson the last time, at David Kramer’s Orpheus in Africa, where all I wanted to do was kill the people around me, with their sweets and things in wrappers and coughing and cellphones and generally disgusting behaviour. I walked into the gorgeous Fugard foyer yesterday, took one look at the special matinee audience and felt sick. A Saturday matinee audience is the worst collection of old and deaf, parents and children, out of towners who don’t want to drive home too late, and me. So, what I am about to say about this extraordinary production of Cabaret is tainted by who I experienced it with. Just so you know.

As you, dear meganshead readers, are aware, I made a deliberate and hard choice not to write review style posts about theatre anymore. It stopped working for me, for many reasons (written about here in old posts). So it is interesting that I am returning to it so passionately with this show; mainly because I feel emboldened and want to declare why I thought this production was superb, on many levels, and why it is exactly this that has been its failure.

Matthew Wild’s vision for this production is dangerous and beautiful. His design is awesome, and his choices are strong. But, even just mounting this production was a huge risk for the hero director of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and The Fugard management, who must have wanted to come up with a successor to Rocky. Initially I questioned the choice. There have been recent productions of Cabaret to compare it to, and of course there is the dangerously dated Liza Minelli movie that has locked this story into that version. Ok, so Rocky suffered the same conditions, but Rocky is fun, and outrageous, and cheeky and naughty (in that join in ‘I can be a little naughty too’ way). Cabaret is dark. Cabaret is proper horror. Cabaret is bleak, and historical, and complicated, and tragic. In a nutshell, it is not fun. This is a problem that many musicals face, but there is the promise of fun in Cabaret and I think it is what people remember. Liza Minelli as Sally Bowles; a ditzy, big-eyed innocent who just loves to be on stage, is what people remember. Cabaret has been disneyfied in memory.

Before the show even started I became aware of the loudness of the gran and her friend next to me, and the clacking of the ice in the miserable teenager’s plastic cup in front of me. “Ooh look, it says Berlin!” said the gran to her friend after repeating word for word the typing as it appeared on the scrim. Clack clack clack went the ice. Everything was more or less ok until the first boy on boy kiss. Then the gran got loudly disgusted and I knew we were in for it. They didn’t even know the story. And, unfortunately, this is how it was for most of the audience; some of whom didn’t even make it back after the long first half.

Charl-Johan Lingenfelder’s performance of the emcee is totally inspired. He is a marvel in this role. It is a performance that is multi-layered, disciplined, articulate, magnetic and riveting, as well as beautiful, painful and exquisite. He moves from being charming and bold to horrifying and then exhausted, and every moment is a commentary on the world his character inhabits. And he plays the piano accordion. And he sings like a demon angel, and he dances his ass off. It is almost unbelievable.

The rest of this superb cast are extraordinary too. Everyone. Claire Taylor’s interpretation of Life is a Cabaret is the best I have ever seen. I thought everyone was fantastic. I loved the choreography, and styling and costumes, and I even loved the set (although it was a bit clunky).

This well thought out, clever, harsh, bleak, challenging show is not cute, or sentimental, or full of heart. It is ugly and raw. The girls are too thin. The boys are cruel. The main characters are complicated failures; the world is on its head. The choreography is clever; sordid but context conscious. The protagonists are weaklings, and self-absorbed. Nobody is loveable. The closest we get to liking someone is the Nazi sympathiser. He is personable. How clever. How complicated.

It is no secret that I am not a fan of musicals. The singing always gets in the way of everything. And in the real acting scenes here this is a great challenge. Also, the acting scenes are dated. They are old fashioned and long. This is also a huge challenge that I think has been handled boldly and bravely, but it is a high risk choice for a Disney ready audience. They want it offered to them. They don’t want to do a stitch of work.

I think this production is the best Cabaret I have seen. But, during the interval, in the toilet queue I heard old ladies complaining that it was too weird, and one old lady said, ” I’ve seen it twice before and this isn’t the same.” That is what they wanted it to be; the same as something they remembered.

So here we are. Between a rock and a very hard place. Thank you for this amazing but totally misunderstood piece.

(I think Jesse Kramer took this pic that I lifted from the Fugard website)


The Line

I thought I would only get to this in the morning, after taking a bit of time to compose myself, but I can’t help it. It needs to be written now. Truth is, I am waiting for my face to get back to normal, from an hour long cry.

Tonight was the opening of my sister-in-law Gina Shmukler’s play The Line at The Baxter Studio. It is only on this week, as part of the Rolex something or another (not exactly sure), but this means that you need to make a very special effort to get to one of the very few performances. It is absolutely required viewing.

This play has arrived in CT with a lot of hype because of how well it did in Joburg at The Market. I was nervous about how it would translate for a Cape Town audience, particularly an invited, opening night one. I didn’t need to worry. It delivered on every level and I was in trouble after the first five minutes and didn’t ever pull myself back.

Some of you will know how the subject of xenophobia gets me going and so it is no surprise that from this point of view I was invested. Two actresses play characters and tell stories taken directly from interviews with perpetrators, victims and witnesses of the out of control xenophobic attacks that rocked South Africa in 2008. And it is devastating.

The Line is a radical, complex, powerful, shattering, horrific, personal, critical, and ultimately human look at these xenophobic attacks, and how it affected those involved. I knew that this was what it was about, and yet, revisiting it in this way was like opening the emotional floodgates. That’s because the piece is so contained and clear and it is able to cut to the real dark heart of this horror without ever getting sentimental, preachy or message mad.

The two actresses, Khutjo Green and Gabi Harris are nothing short of extraordinary. I marveled at their performances. The set (Niall Griffin) and sound (Charl-Johan Lingenfelder) were perfect, as was the lighting, but I say this as an afterthought. I was totally undone by this piece in its totality, and I cannot urge you strongly enough to go and see it. Go.

2013 Fleur du Cap Awards

I am a leetle worse for wear this morning. That Distell bubbly has quite a kick to it if you have more than three or seven. I was definitely in a celebratory mood after the lovely ceremony, even though my faves didn’t win. I had my money on Daneel van der Walt and Charl-Johan Lingenfelder. That is how it goes I guess. The judges and I seldom agree.

There were three stand out moments at the ceremony this year. The lifetime achievement award to Richard Kearns from The Baxter was brilliant, moving and so satisfying. Great choice FdC. Then Mbulelo Grootboom’s thank you speech, incoherent as it was, was an emotional delight. Lastly, Quanita Adams’s speech (delivered by her brother) with a moment’s silence to all the Lenas was a sobering and powerful touch.

Then it was Partay time. Big Friendly left after sampling the meat and I stayed on. I forget the rest.

Emotional Creature

Lucky and great timing meant that I could attend the VIP opening of Eve Ensler‘s premier of her play Emotional Creature at The Market Theatre Lab last night. My gorgeous sister-in-law Gina Shmukler has been working on the production (which is how I wangled being there) in a production capacity.

It was very exciting to be at the new Lab, housed in a sexy, huge warehouse, a block or so away from the actual Market. It’s a fantastic space, and a fantastic theatre.

Emotional Creature is a collection of monologues, strung together with moments of dance, song, girl power and bonding. It’s a call to girls around the world to mobilise, be proud, speak out, share their stories and feelings and find an authentic voice of expression. The whole cast are teenagers, most of whom are still at school!

The simple but pretty set, effective lighting and gorgeous digital visual background support what these girls manage to do on stage, which is totally beautiful and mind blowing and, unbelievably emotional.

I have been doing my share of crying in the dark lately, but this one was the biggest, best and longest sob. It was ‘snot en trane’ that made me look like a mascara stained marshmallow afterwards. (I must say, in case there is any confusion, that this is a good thing; me being turned into an emotional weep machine by the power of theatre.)

It took me a little while to go down the path with these very young but extremely talented performers. But once the Bulgarian girl’s story started I was unstoppable. Both the woman sitting next to me and I were weeping, snorting, sniffing and wiping our tears, all the way through the rest of the show. My response was absolutely visceral. My emotional body tapped right in, like an electrical connection, and I was totally transported on the deepest emotional level.

It’s not all bleakly, unstoppably sad. It is in turns funny, cute, acerbic, powerful, liberating, quirky, silly and even wistful. I felt blessed to have been part of it, delighted to have heard Eve talk to us as we stood in ovation afterwards, and were moved by her passion, excitement and girl juice that drives her.

Every schoolgirl, student, mom, dad, friend, lover, teacher must, no, needs, to see Emotional Creature. Everyone in the whole wide world.

And, our own Charl-Johan Lingenfelder’s music, songs and soundscape are completely fabulous.

Coffee and political inspiration

I had one of those most delicious coffees today with a somebody who I think is fantastic, Charl Johan Lingenfelder, and he filled me with a sense of true, crazy, bubbling inspiration; something I haven’t felt in a while. It was a proper exchange of ideas that left me wishing I could dash into our world and do them all! It was also exciting because we shared thoughts without payoff or payback, we got hysterical about ‘things in common’, and passionate about ‘stuff that counts’.

One of his ideas was a strongly political one, which totally suited my mood, since I have been preoccupied with politics approaching this election. The truth is that I’d love to get involved, but can’t visualise my place, skills, and most importantly political party affiliation. But, it got me thinking about a campaign that I think would be so brilliant, and I want to put it here, and see what kind of response it gets.

I want to choose a date, towards the end of 2012, say, the 25 November. It will be known as “The Cut Off Date”. The day before November 25 2012 will be the last day for blame. It will be the last day for excuses, scapegoating, passing the buck. It will be the last day for racists. It will be the last day for corruption to go unnoticed or unpunished. The day before “The Cut Off Date” will be the last day for taking chances with other people’s lives, the last day for government to blame the past for its lack of delivery, the last day for people to use their colour (whatever it is), gender, age, language, education, sexual orientation, and situation in general as a reason for entitlement of any kind. It will be the last day that anyone elected in any government or civil servant position will not be audited by those who put them in those positions. It will be the last day where treating someone without dignity will be tolerated.

The Cut Off Date will be the first day where people are rewarded for good service. Actions will be replaced by promises, work will happen instead of meetings. No more white or pink or blue papers on how things should be, only how things should be. It will be the first day where not one cent of South African tax money will ever be spent on another commission to prove the guilt of or find the blame for, because we won’t need to. The Cut Off Date will signify a change from telling to listening, handouts to sharing, lectures to conversations. Ok, I know I’m getting soppy, unrealistic and romantic here. But that’s what I want. I want a Cut Off Date.

On that date people will stop waiting and start living.

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