Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: James Cairns

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.

 

Sie Weiss Alles

James Cairns and Taryn Bennet in a script written by James. It is no secret that I am head over heels with James Cairns as a performer. I won’t miss anything he does. (Dirt is one of three shows at the festival that I would be prepared to see again.) I also think that Taryn is gorgeous. So it was a no-brainer that I would enjoy their performances but, I must confess, I was dubious about the subject matter.

A German SS officer interrogating an actress (who he had known previously) just before the Russians arrive. I have sort of done with this period in history, and I don’t really enjoy seeing English in German accents. But, this is an incredible idea, turned into an amazing piece of writing, twisting every possible moment on its head. Then there are the beautiful, original performances and connection between these two that make the work totally absorbing. But that’s not all. There are such layers, such surprizes, such thrilling observations. The two of them end up rehearsing the ‘get thee to a nunnery’ scene from Hamlet in the most exquisite, revealing and actor loving way. Genius. It was transporting.

I revelled in watching a ‘straight’ play, with real characters, real characterisation, real dialogue. I loved the reliance on old fashioned production values and the playing out of a great script. Sie Weiss Alles is great work performed brilliantly. See it.

Rhymes with wit, smells really bad

The Fleur Du Cap awards have sent out an embarrassing and contrite press release on artslink explaining how they discovered that two of the recipients of awards in two separate categories on the night were wrong! So, read the story. The gist of it is that judges were surprised at the results on the night and ‘discovered’ that the two awards had been given to the wrong people!

James Cairns who won (not!) for Best Performer in a One Man Show and Ilse Klink who won (not!) for Best Performer in a Musical were quietly stripped of their awards and the “rightful” recipients, Antoinette Kellerman and James Borthwick were officially crowned the winners. Anyone else find this one of the siffest, most unsavory things for the respected (but often controversial) annual Cape theatre awards to have done?

Nothing like saying “sorry, wrong guys” to royally screw up the credibility  of the process, the judges the organisation, the supporters and the artists who were (and weren’t) nominated! A bit like pissing on your own battery and then still hoping it will run your car, if you ask me. I would be furious, and hurt and embarrassed if I was James or Ilse, and confused and embarrassed if I was a ‘newly crowned’ winner.

There are also some really fishy questions that need to be asked. If the ballot is really secret how were the ‘glaring mistakes’ discovered? Then, why was it not left alone? At what point could it be helpful or respectful or credible to open that can of ‘past-its-sell-by-date’ worms? Why? Why do something that definitely only causes huge harm and creates massive doubt in the minds of all who won, and didn’t win and those of us who watched. Why make your own names gat like that?

The story is a horrible, hurtful slab of skinner, complete with shock value, skandaal and bad taste. And I don’t know how it can be fixed.

Aikona FDC and Distell.

Fine, Fine Dirt

Dirt

It’s quite weird seeing James Cairns three times in a row on stage. I saw his last show The Sitting Man twice, and last night it was the opening night of Dirt, the second one man show he is performing at The Kalk Bay Theatre. Well, the guy is amazing. Amazing James. I am a bit in love with him for sure. You know when a performer just nails it for you? That’s him.

Dirt has similarities to The Sitting Man that can’t go unnoticed if you see them one after each other, like most of us in the audience did. I have to do a leetle comparison; I can’t help it. One man show, trip down to Cape Town, amazing typical South African characters, brilliant ideas, and everyone (and thing in this case because Tom the dog is vital!) played and made by James. The Sitting Man, however, was all James in that he wrote and directed it as well. Dirt is written by Nick Warren and directed by Jenine Collocot.

Dirt; a road trip with three guys and a dog on their way from Jozi to Cape Town to their poker buddy’s funeral. Soap actor, Jamie …. ag, Sam, who is an egomaniacal ‘me me me’ shagging machine, Grant, the new father who is fast going down that hole of his wife’s obsessive and post-natal depression behavior, and Wayne. Wayne’s name tells you exactly what kind of poor, unfortunate and typical fella he is. Just say “Wayne” with a bit of a whiny Jozi accent. And then there is Tom the dog. I swear, I felt like I knew everybody in this play (and I probably did!). James’ characterisation, timing, detail, and totally wacky observations are classic. I couldn’t take my eyes off him, and Big Friendly said he thought I was having an asthma attack I was laughing so hard.

Dirt is funnier than The Sitting Man, but it is a lot less weird and dark. It’s more ‘written’ than The Sitting Man so it has some razor sharp dialogue from each character, but it is also more complicated and a little less successful because these guys have to talk to each other, so there are times when James has to hop about to be each one of them. Dirt is gorgeously directed by Jenine. I loved the ladder of props that became chapter headings. Loved it.

Ok, ok, I admit it. James Cairns is my new best thing. The guy could do an award winning performance of telephone book reading. Might have to see this one twice too!

Hooked and Sitting Man – Two great reasons to be in Kalk Bay

It started with a beautiful drive from hot, sunny town straight into a wall of mist on Boyes Drive to get to Kalk Bay Books. Of course Big Friendly and I overshot the traffic by an hour and we got to Kalk Bay early enough to have cappuccinos in The Annex, a gorgeous restaurant behind Kalk Bay Books. Melinda Ferguson was also already there. It was the launch of her second book, Hooked, that we were attending. Melinda is one of my oldest and dearest friends so there was much love to go around. I am deeply proud of her and how she has actively and consciously made her life beautiful and meaningful. The bookshop was packed to the rafters and Melinda spoke straight from the hip and heart. She was entertaining, frank, outrageous in the most charming way, and she was patient with the many recovering and not so recovering addicts who had a million questions.

Armed with my very own, signed copy of Hooked, we marched down the road to what felt like home! The Kalk Bay Theatre. Man, I love that place. Honestly, I stomped up those stairs into the warm, loving embrace of some of my favourite people in my favourite spot. Now, I absolutely have been a bit theatre-phobic the last while, but I was amped for this show The Sitting Man, written, directed and performed by James Cairns. I saw and loved James in Brother Number, at the Kalk Bay Theatre a coupla years ago.

The Sitting Man is a fantastic one man show. With only a chair on stage to fill the brief of the title, James, by performing a series of characters who are linked by action, slides into a world of South Africans that are immediately identifiable, hilarious and tragic. He is so good at them it almost feels like he is channeling this weird bunch. His accents are spot on. His hands! They change subtly with every character. His face! Now, James has a distinct face, plus his head is totally clean shaven, but every character looked different. He is so adept at playing these human creations of his that he fills them with a rich emotional context, even though we spend so little time with each of them. The story, about a parcel that needs to get taken from Jo’burg to Cape Town, is a teeny bit convoluted, and there is a big, fat loose end that prompted Big Friendly to exclaim “It can’t be over! What happened? What was inside the parcel?” But it is a wonderful vehicle for stringing together these fringe, loser, weirdo men. My favourites were first, the drunk pool player, whose perfect Sotho accent was classic, second, the daggahead, a reminder of more than one smoker from my youth, and then, the poor farmer. James is brilliant, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I was sad when it was done! The Sitting Man has a three week run before James switches over to his other one man show Dirt. Do. Not. Miss. This.

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