Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Faniswa Yisa

MedEia MedEia

A show I saw twice. A show I loved. Seeing it again was like listening to that album that you heard only once but loved, again. It was like watching a story you know well, and the inevitable ending, and seeing it play out, and remembering while watching.

Brett Bailey’s MedEia is beautiful, spectacle, style, sound and word. That’s the part I love the most. It is word music, word story, word image. I will write this how I saw the show. You know the story. I will tell you why I loved it.

I loved it because it was like watching/listening to Laurie Anderson tell/speak and I love Laurie Anderson. I loved it because it starts with flames and a cover of David Bowie’s Wild Is The Wind. My best David Bowie song. It has a sad sad song later on, when things go pear-shaped and people start hurting and dying, a song I know and don’t know the name of that I recognise from my own sadness even though I don’t understand the words, but it is the right song for me, and I love that song and its sadness. I loved those three black goddesses Indalo Stofile, Mbali Kgosidintsi and Namhla Chuka, in white who speak, and move, and send out woman emotion as the chorus, bound by beat, bound by word, bound because they are the helpless chorus, but powerful, powerful. I loved Faniswa Yisa as Medea, her voice, her crazy, simple, emotional everything. I loved Jason by James MacGregor who is the snake in the garden of Eden. I loved Apollo Ntshoko because his dancing made me ache. I loved Frank Paco who drums the soundtrack and heartbeat and brain freeze of the story and keeps it from going anywhere except the end. Mostly I loved this text, this  Oscar van Woensel collection of words in this way to tell this story, like this.

For sure this production is not for everybody. It is for the opposite of everybody. It is bold choices. It is style instead of outpouring. It is song lyric. It is mpepu and baby powder dust and black and white and inevitable. It will be lost on many. It will find some hearts. It is the most dangerous kind of theatre for this country because it isn’t made for us, or about us, but it tells a story of one of us, as woman, as stranger, as the one who stays in love.

Flower of Shembe

You know that feeling when many of the crowd get to their feet for a standing ovation at the end of a show and you remain plastered to your seat? The first thing I always think is, is it just me? Didn’t I get it? Later on, thinking about it, and once I am over the thought that it’s all a bit “emperor’s new clothes” I realise that it’s all to do with being moved. I have to be moved to my feet. That’s what sweeps me up.

There is so much that is amazing about Neo Muyanga’s ‘operetta’ Flower of Shembe. The huge, metal flowers of the set. The water. The music. The costumes. The performers, musicians and dancers. And yet, everything distracts from everything. It’s like watching a giant, gorgeous parade. The story is interesting and complicated, but, the overall feeling is that (other than the curtain call/finale, which was my best part) it’s all too on the same level; of energy, of performance, of dancing. It comes at you, over and over again, in exactly the same way. And I think this is such a great pity.

Faniswa Yisa, Chuma Sopotela, the gorgeous angel dancers Thabisa Dinga and Sean Oelf, the mad king Ledimo played by Luvuyo Mabutho (my absolute favourite performer of the night) were all really good. But I got bored of them doing the same thing, over and over again, with the same intensity. Nothing built. We were taken straight to the moment, and then it was repeated too many times. There is no doubt that director Ina Wichterich is an amazing choreographer, but for me, it felt like the scope of the work got the better of her. Beautiful ideas were clumsily executed (like the angel contraption), gorgeous music had bad technical sound.

Secretly, I wished I could have watched the musicians playing on that set, and listened to the magical, transcendent music. The rest was a big, repetitive distraction.

The Table – Friday night supper like every Jewish family knows it

When I got to Grahamstown The Table had just finished its run on the main fest and I had to listen to the radically differing opinions of my trusted friends. Some loved it while others hated it. I was delighted when I realised that I was going to be able to see it after all on my last night in Jozi.

It seems like an odd choice for The Market Theatre; a very niche story about a Jewish family friday night; not really the kind of stuff that I would imagine being very accessible to an 80 percent black Jozi audience. This was true of last night’s audience, for sure, being made up of 80 percent of a group of black, mostly wheelchair bound or on crutches young people, who were waiting patiently in the foyer when we arrived. It was the kind of audience who laughed at weird places and during all the “sensitive” moments.

The play, created by Sylvaine Strike, the director, and Craig Higginson tells the fraught story of how the three grown children of a family find out that the family maid’s daughter is their half sister. This all happens on a Friday night Shabbat dinner, where they have gathered a year after the father has died. Flora (Janet Carpede) the maid’s daughter (Khabonina Qubeka) is back from studying overseas, the matriarch (still beautiful in her seventies Annabel Linder) is in a private hell of her own holocaust memories, Daniel (brilliant Brian Webber) is sick and has been thrown out by his wife, Ruth (the amazing Karen van der Laag) has eating issues, and the baby Levi (William Harding) is in love with his soon to be revealed half-sister. It’s complicated.

I have had a very interesting response to The Table. It’s weird, but it feels like I really liked it, in spite of itself. The play is in two separate styles; a strongly stylised Sylvaine Strike movement based interpretive visual almost slightly grotesque mode, and then a terribly naturalistic ordinary kitchen sink-ish emotionally fraught purge. And I liked them both, but was never sure how well they got on with each other.

Then there is the story (and I love a story), which just feels like there’s too much of it. The discovery of the black half-sister who lived under their roof without them knowing (reminding me strongly of Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies), the mother’s holocaust drama (that includes the table and reminded me of the movie of Everything is Illuminated) and then all the fraught family stuff that includes a healthy Jewish guilt complex, unresolved and hideous jealousy issues, lots of love, childhood memory games and the usual sibling stuff when a bunch of adult children get together. Too much story.

While all the performances were really good (some characters definitely had more meat written into them) Karin van der Laag and Brian Webber were beyond amazing. This play deserves to be seen just for them. I absolutely loved watching them and when I wasn’t convinced about other stuff they helped me get over it.

Everybody has spoken about Sylvaine’s trademark style of direction being all over this piece. I haven’t seen enough of her work to know about this, but there are moments of really beautiful magic, where things are stretched and extended, weird juxtapositions happen, strange things take place with ordinary props and subtext is played out in slow motion movement. Some of these are breathtakingly lovely.

A funny thing happened to me during the show though. There was a constant nagging at the back of my mind, and I struggled with it all the way out into the parking lot, and then back home, when it hit me. During the Directors and Directing weekend Faniswa Yisa spoke about loving working with The Magnet Theatre company because she was sick of only ever having the option of the playing the maid in South African plays. She said that those were the parts written for black women. Put in a black maid. And there she was last night. The black maid; steadfast, loyal, hardworking, traumatised by her own personal secret, and in her housecoat and doek. Surely, surely there are other parts for black women when they are in white stories?

Sunday in G’town

Yesterday was seriously long; we had a 10am and 10pm TheatreSports show and I needed to keep myself as busy as I could in between. Hectic.

At 12 I went to see Phillippa Yaa de Villiers in her one woman show, which is mostly autobiographical, called Original Skin. It was during this performance that I was again reminded of the difficulties of festival performing, especially when your piece is small and trying to be poignant and you have what sounded like loud community/protest/drumming theatre in the room behind you. Phillippa’s story is touching, warm and heartfelt, and there were moments when I had more than just a lump in my throat. I just struggled with the direction, which was, dare I say it, boring. The feel of the play is old fashioned, and while there are many moments of genuine loveliness in the text and writing, the show climbs gently onto and sits on an unmoving bus for the most part. I left feeling a little disappointed that my friend’s amazing story wasn’t very well presented.

I wanted to see something at 2pm but I honestly could not find a thing to see. I read the daily schedule about 11 times and went to have some lunch instead. Then, at 4.30pm I went to see The Magnet Theatre’s Every Year Every Day I am Walking, directed by Mark Fleishman and performed by Jennie Reznek and Faniswa Yisa. I am probably one of the last people in SA to have seen the show; it has been everywhere, and all overseas too. I am so happy I finally saw it and it is definitely my Best of the Fest. Of course it bothers me that it is a show that has had to travel and perform everywhere to gather a big G’town audience, and Ugli Bob, you are much on my mind as I formulate new ideas and thoughts around the whole festival shebang. Nonetheless, Every Year Every Day I am Walking was great. A beautiful story, consummately told, with its own original style, flavour and signature. It was absolutely moving, beautiful theatre. This was what I was looking for at the fest. I loved it and I wished I had seen it earlier because I despised this particular (big) festival audience with a passion. The young man next to me had one of those noisy windbreaker jackets on, which wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t kept falling asleep and dropping his head either forward, back or even sideways towards me. Every time he did this his jacket made those loud shifting sounds. Then, five minutes before the end of the show I heard a noise behind me and a voice I recognised as Simon saying, “Sit down!” These two idiots were trying to leave! They were obviously going to be late for something else they had booked for and were trying to sneak out of the theatre from way at the back, on hectic scaffolding that booms and clangs with every step you take! I wish that was all, but no, the woman in front of me’s cellphone went off, and instead of diving into her bag and switching the thing off she just put her bag down and ignored it. I kid you not. I finally had to tap her on the shoulder and tell her to turn it off. It’s not like there wasn’t the pre-recorded message before the show, virtually pleading with people to find their phones and switch them off! So poor Jennie and Faniswa competed with these two lumps and a cellphone retard in their final, resolution moments and both they and I wanted to kill.

The recession has not affected how people spend money on food and drink here at the fest. I popped into the Long Table at about 6.15pm, (Dulce’s, with Wi-fi was full) and in ten minutes flat, after I had gotten my micro-waved food and sat down, the place had become a zoo, with a queue to the door and tons of people smoking inside. Unbearable. I left, with still some few hours to go before our last show at 10.

Then I hit on a brainwave. I decided to go and see Sleight of Mind, Stuart Lightbody and Bryan Miles doing their special brand of magic. They perform in the same venue as us, so I would just be there, ready for our show afterwards. The venue was filled to the brim with schoolboys. I felt a bit sorry for them because they were desperate to be volunteers at every moment but older, bigger ones were always chosen. This hour long magic show was a delight. Both magicians are slick, cute and charming, and they work fantastically well together, supporting each other and moving seamlessly from one thing to the next. A very cool show, with an amazing newspaper trick at the end.

TheatreSports had had a great show in the morning, but 10pm proved to be a bit of a struggle. We got through it ok, but it wasn’t our best, that’s for sure. And that sums up the festival for me, with a day to go. Not my best, but I got through it ok.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén