Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Jaqueline Dommisse

OY! Theatre and DNA

Things have been happening at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective, in Observatory. Twice a week young people from all over Cape Town have gathered, under the inspiration of Caroline Calburn, and the direction of Jaqueline Dommisse, and they have been rehearsing a play.

Last night I went to the opening performance of DNA written by Dennis Kelly and performed by the company of (almost totally) school goers, and I was absolutely blown away.

Every single aspect of this extraordinary production was completely professional, and mindbogglingly good. So good, in fact, that they deserve a proper review.

The plot. A group of teenagers do something bad, really bad, then panic and cover the whole thing up. But when they find that the cover-up unites them and brings harmony to their otherwise fractious lives, where’s the incentive to put things right? A modern Lord of the Flies, with more swearing, introspection and added horror. It is really, really scary.

Jaqueline Dommisse has worked magic with these young performers who have fully developed characters, stage presence and a deep understanding of the material. What they lack in stage experience and technique they totally make up for in commitment and presence, and they work gloriously as a team to create powerful, emotional, meaningful work.

Jaqueline’s set is inspirational. A jungle gym is skeleton, structure, status and school ground. The use of the space is amazing, allowing the children to pound across the distance. Music and superb lighting (Frans) add to the charged atmosphere, and even details like prosthetic make-up are perfect.

There are things that make me happy and proud to live in this city (not often, but sometimes) and a youth theatre company down the road from where I live, is my newest happy making thing.

I am so excited that I am going to be working with this extraordinary company next. They are going to be exploring improv with me, and we will aim to perform some traditional TheatreSports shows at the end of the term. Watch this space.

Very Sad Sadako

Jaqueline Dommisse snuck me in to the first performance of her show Sadako, since I could not get a media ticket and it was sold out! Sadako was written by Peter Hayes, directed by Jaqueline with a cast of amazing puppeteer/actors and designed by Ilke Louw.

I saw the original Sadako many moons ago at The Baxter Studio, and I was surprized at how much of it I remembered. It is the heart wrenching tale of Sadako, who eight or so years after the atom bombing of Hiroshima, gets ‘bomb sickness’, leukemia. Eina.

This production is newer, bigger, better and sadder. All the puppeteers are amazing; but special mention must be made of Roshina Ratnam (Sadako) and Mark Hoeben (who plays her dad and the doctor). They are transportingly wonderful, believable and Mark in particular is effortlessly sincere.

So, here’s what happened to me during Sadako. I could not manage the story of the sick little girl at all. I segued into imagining Natalie, in Boston, who is still undergoing treatment for her cancer, and I was a wreck, a total, wet, sniveling mess. I could hardly breathe. Which makes it hard to separate. But it is amazing when a piece of puppet theatre can take you there.

I do have some thoughts on the production though. It is very, very beautiful and special, but it is long, and because of the slightly old fashioned style, it is slow. This makes it hard for children (there were two wrigglies next to me and they were going nuts). The story has its own inevitable relentlessness and I think there need to be one or two fewer of the intensely poignant moments; there are one too many to be in tears about!

Some of my favourite things were the relationship between Sadako and her delightful best friend, their most cute school uniforms, the sick little boy in his teeny wheel chair, the thousand paper cranes, Sadako’s mom, and the teeny, teeny baby puppet version of the kid in the family.

Sad Sadako is precious, beautiful, and an emotional weep fest. Be prepared.


Stone Words soaring ideas

stones I have just come back from a preview performance of Stone Words before it goes off to G’town. It’s one of The Cape Town Edge’s offerings at the fest this year. Stone Words is a collection of poems, written and performed by Khadija Tracey Heeger, who is accompanied by Glen Arendse on percussion (of all kinds) and Linda Tshabalala on sax (mainly), directed by Jaqueline Dommisse.

What a lovely gem (‘scuse the pun!) of a show. Khadija’s poems are extraordinary and they are varied too, covering a range of emotions, topics, styles and forms. They are in turn clever, funny, poignant, sensual, harsh and and moving. And Khadija performs them brilliantly.

Jaqueline’s direction is so strong, courageous and deft that she weaves a tapestry of light and dark with precision and minute detail. Even though you are watching and listening to a bunch of poems it feels like you are listening to a whole album; one that has themes, moods and cycles. The set and costumes are fantastic and evocative, and beautiful to look at.

Then there are the musicians who support the poems and create their universe so originally. My favourites were the traditional one string mouth bows and the laughing string can. Towards the end of the show there was some delicious interaction with them and Khadija. I think there could be more; they are so engaging and interesting. They mostly are the score but sometimes they are like a table of sound effects for specific words, which is a delight. And sometimes very funny.

I was expecting a precious (even slightly up its arse, you know how poetry can get) show and it absolutely wasn’t. Not once. It was an inspirational, engaging time and will be for anyone who loves good words and sounds.

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