Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Janni Younge

Directors and Directing impressions

When I was driving home last night I thought about the possibility that I would be the only person who would be writing (in this contradiction of a public and private space that is my blog) a deeply personal account of the extraordinary weekend of directors, directing, performance and conversation that Jay Pather and GIPCA made happen. I must confess to feeling a little overwhelmed. So much had happened, so much had been said, so much had been felt. So I have decided to put down my impressions; things I remember thinking and feeling, in the hope that it will capture some of what it was like to have been there.

In Anton Kreuger’s closing comments he spoke a list of things that he liked and connected with; ideas, thoughts, words. I loved his rambling, almost poetic sensibility and I am going to try and steal it here.

Things I loved, in no particular order. I loved Malcolm Purkey’s opening speech. He is a generous, loving theatre guy and that’s how he made me feel. I loved the fact that a two and a half day intensive experience with a relatively niche topic could be so completely well attended. I loved the gentle, ever present hand of organiser, conceptualiser and curator of the event Jay Pather, who followed every single moment. I loved the support people expressed for each other’s work; there is so little opportunity for that in real life. I loved Marianne Thamm; she is so brave, and clever, and clear. I loved our strange and passionate discussion at Kauai over lunch. I loved Nicola Hanekom’s reinterpretation of Boesman en Lena. That chick has balls the size of coconuts. I loved Chuma Sopotela in Aubrey Sekhabi’s version. I loved Zingi Mkefa’s whimsy and voice. I loved Amy Jephta’s well prepared note which was so much about the work and so little about the “I”, and I loved why and how she got pissed off. I loved Chris Weare’s interjections and observations that are all about his passion and clarity and cleverness. I loved how funny Janni Younge was; I had no idea! I loved Pusetso Thibedi’s production Capturing Sanity and his personal ease and charm. I loved hooking up with old friends and sharing in the stuff of theatre making. I loved the catering, the organisation, the team of production people that gave their work such gorgeous value. I especially loved how some of the participants, who were only in the limelight for a very short time, sat through the whole weekend. I loved Liz Mills, Jay Pather, Brent Meersman and Caroline Calburn who were excellent chairs.

Things I did not love; in no particular order. I was bored by how long it took most people to ask a question. I found it almost impossible to go from the beginning of what they were saying to the end with any idea of where they were going or why if you know what I mean and could you respond to that please? I was left unmoved by clever and affected cynicism in both participants and delegates. I just don’t get that choice. I was irritated with the hypocrisy of many directors and actors who never support each other’s work. I was cross with how many director people and actor people and theatre people still chain smoke. I was disgusted by what they did with their stompies. I was irritated by Mwenya Kabwe’s self-appointed watch dog status as external, black, gender specialist critic. I was blown away by Nicholas Ellenbogen’s dof ignorance that in a moment managed to cause such ructions. I was offended by the remark that was made and then repeated that there are no script writers or playwrights in South Africa. There are. I am one of them. We have no idea where to take our scripts once they are written, or what to do with them. I was a little emotional that Zabalaza and Thami Mbongo didn’t really acknowledge that Ikhwezi was started with a desire to do exactly what they are doing now, even though I deeply respect their new vision and energy. I was shocked that many participants came and then left after delivering their input.

There were a few things that I think were overlooked. In the discussion with critics, the much more successful role that the Afrikaans newspapers play in Cape Town in promoting and reviewing theatre was not mentioned. The role of theatre managements and their relationship to directors was not even considered, except by Neil Coppen in a death reference to The Playhouse. The question of patronage was not raised. In all the discussions about colour nobody mentioned that the entire company of The Mechanicals was white.

There was a rumour I picked up that UCT’s Drama department are going to turn the Little Theatre into two black boxes. My heart broke. Obviously, I am utterly convinced that this should not happen. What does everybody else think?

Over and above everything that I thought or continue to think about is what my role as a director is. I was invited to the weekend as that weird thing, ‘media’. I felt like a participant. I identified with directors, performers, writers and teachers. Overwhelmingly I felt like I was there as meganshead. These are interesting labels for me. What am I? I’m not sure there is a simple answer, nor that I even want to go to that analytical place. I work in the role of director. And when I do, I know what kind of director I want to be. I want to have the warmth that we agreed was vital. I want to have brilliant relationships with actors who trust me and who I trust. I want audiences to know how much they are taken into consideration by me when I make work for them. I want to be part of the magical theatre team. I want to feel safe and scared and thrilled and paranoid and hysterical and sleep deprived and concerned and angry. I want to feel.

And that’s what I did this last weekend. I felt. Everything.

 

Understanding Ouroboros

Without a doubt I should have read the program before the show, but I was too busy at the #BaxterTTT (Baxter taste and tweet, for those of you who have no idea what I am on about) where I was tasting (more like chugging actually) wine, and tweeting (mainly obscure stuff to @uglibob, @_taramay, @TarrynSaunders, @AlisonFoat and @RobVanVuuren) and taking pictures of my pink boots and posting them on twitter. I should have read the program before!

If I had read the program before, I would have known that all the puppets (except for the obviously not, like the death ones, and the party ones for eg.) represented two people. If I had read the damn program before, and not after, only this morning, I would have known exactly what Ouroboros was about (including the meaning of the title, which I also guessed at), instead of having to make up my own version about what was going on. So, I should have, but I didn’t. And that’s ok.

What I experienced in Ouroboros. Magical, mystical, strange, uncomfortable, often unfathomable trip. Beautiful, magnificent, moving puppets who float in and out of the complicated story like cloud people. Strange art animation that delights and confounds. Haunting music. Moments of heartbreaking theatre beauty. Moments of hard to make sense of preciousness. Exquisite lighting. Confusing. Captivating. Breathtaking. Sad.

A whole paragraph devoted to the puppeteers. Cindy Mkaza, Jason Potgieter, Beren Belknap, Tali Cervati, Gabriel Marchand, Chuma Sopotela. Most extraordinary. Dressed in light clothes they were the opposite of disappearing puppeteers. Especially when they were together they were like a crowd of living ghost people. Sympathetic, egoless, loving, perfect puppeteers. I was in love with them. And they never spoke a word.

Director and conceptualizer and visionary Janni Younge has made a brave (and terrifying) choice. This is a deeply original show. It’s not a Neil Diamond Tribute. In a city where people go and see theatre as a matter of course, as a way of living and reflecting and being this Ouroboros would be full every night with people debating about it, and talking about it, and differing, and getting excited. I am terrified that Cape Town is not that city. My own experience is that we have more of a… Neil Diamond Tribute type audience. So I am going to beg you to see this show. I am not going to say that you will love it, but I am going to say you will have feelings about it, and some of those feelings will have to do with love. And life. And what it’s all about. Challenge yourself.

PS. The child and baby puppets are so beautiful they made me shiver and gasp with delight.

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