Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: John Caviggia

Trying…and Failing

My Out The Box Festival got off to the worst start this evening when I was trapped in the Intimate Theatre courtyard for the first performance of Trying. This experience was definitely in my top five of worst pieces of theatre ever, and I am so sorry about the fact that my talented friend and colleague Nicole Franco is in it. (I feel like that about Francis Chouler too, from whom I have come to expect such good things).

In fact, the last time I hated a show as much was two Out The Box festivals ago, and I had that same hideous feeling tonight, of being desperate to escape and totally unable to because the show was in the courtyard where the entrance was on stage.

Rachel Wood (the director) pulled twelve performers onto stage, as well as assembling a production team for video, sound and lights. Which is the reason why there was a technical hitch or three that meant that the show started 15 minutes late; not great at a festival where some people were booked for another show that they couldn’t make.

Once it got started though, I was in theatre hell. Endless, meaningless moments, little or no characters or sense entering and exiting. Arbitrary dancing. Horrible improvised (I assume) relationship scenes. Inappropriate jokes. Ages and ages to set up more arbitrary moments. Dreary movement pieces that went on forever. Cringeworthy, under rehearsed, directionless, repetitive, unconvincing and plain bad. This is ‘experimental’ theatre of the most unsatisfying. And I kept on thinking of the absolute waste; of resources, of talent, of time, of energy, of everything really. There was this one moment quite near the beginning where the one Israeli actress is sort of lying on the tarred floor and another actor is kind of running up and down, backwards and forwards alongside her. I overheard her whisper to him, “Ok, ok, it’s enough!” and he stopped. I so wished I could have said that and the show would have gone away.

The second funniest part of the show was when John Caviggia arrived very late, entered the stage, made his excuses and sat down, all the while complaining that he had heard there was a technical hitch and couldn’t believe the show had started without him. The funniest part of the play was when John Cavggia’s cell phone rang. And he answered it, announced to his friend Rita that he was in a show, commiserated with her about her cat’s gout and then explained that it was a new phone and he didn’t know how it worked. The person sitting next to me thought he was part of the show. He wasn’t.

Romping Taming of The Shrew

Last night was my annual trip to the suburban bush, for Shakespeare among the trees. Maynardville is a treasured institution of Cape Town, and, for some, I imagine it’s their only theatrical trip of the year. That’s why it’s important for me that the experience is a good one. It’s Shakespeare, and a bad production can put someone off for good.

I met friends before the show and we picnicked on the lawn. I made sushi and picnic salad pockets (but that’s a discussion for another blog) and we listened to the actors warming up, and then we all filed in to take our seats under the stars. For the last almost ten years I have managed to make sure I was invited to opening night of the yearly Maynardville, but this year there was a double glitch so last night I sat down with Cape Town’s general public. It was a treat. (One of the things I have been really good about is not reading what anyone else thought about the production so I could have a very open mind.) Before the lights went down a young woman behind me told the Wikipedia summary of the story to her quite inebriated and very jolly boyfriend. It was a wonderful summary, for in case the story was difficult to follow, but she had nothing to worry about.

Now, I need to say a few things about the actual play. I can totally take or leave the Taming of the Shrew. No, actually, I would rather just leave it. It is not my favourite Shakespeare play. I have never before seen a successful production of it (I remember a particularly laborious one at Artscape many, many years ago). I think it’s because often the production gets seriously bogged down with the terrible responsibility of trying to manage the sexism and misogyny inherent in the story. Well, the huge success of this production is that it doesn’t take this on! There is a “who cares?” attitude about it that allows it to be silly, comedic and clever without a smidgeon of high horse or excuses. What follows is a story that is clear if not ridiculous, performances that are delicious if not serious, and spectacle that can be enjoyed without any analysis.

Director Roy Sargeant has done a really good job, particularly in these areas: He has cut the script brilliantly. The story skips along and makes total sense, and he has managed to keep all the important bits in. He has taken a concept and style and setting that works really well with the text and has run with it. This makes the production brave and cheeky (although the Seffefrican beginning and end is unnecessary and a bit clumsy) and, from an audience point of view, delightful and accessible. He has not for one moment been bogged down with the issues of the story. It is as if he had a ‘whatever’ attitude. And it works.

The other thing that Roy did brilliantly is the casting. This is a delicious cast. Anthea Thompson and Grant Swanby, the leads, are fabulous. Anthea is brilliant, with her ability to send up, be ironic, really speak the language and give it shtick. She was my nine year old friend’s favourite. And what a relief to see a more mature Kate, giving the story more credbility. Grant is delicious, relaxed, flowing and gorgeous to watch and listen to. Then there is the next tier of characters and actors. I am going to list my favourites, Mark Hoeben is brilliant. Brilliant. I loved every moment of him on stage. Francis Chouler is really, really good. He totally got the character right from the start. Darron Araujo is amazing. He is hilarious and delightful. Adrian Galley is wonderful; easy, warm, funny and great. Nobody was bad. And John Caviggia as the widow was hilarious and mad. Even the teeny, non-speaking parts were well performed, and special mention must be made of the lion puppeteers who were outstanding.

The great thing of having a small(ish) cast is that the production didn’t suffer from the big parts being played by actors who are good at Shakespeare and the smaller ones not managing. With this cast I heard and understood every single word. I can’t tell you how important this is for me.

Dicky Longhurst’s designs are delicious. The Italian circus styling, retro combined with modern cheeky Rome, is sumptuous and gorgeous, and fun to look at. That lion puppet was magnificent. (My only quibble was Richard Lothian’s blue one piece which was his costume from A Circus Side Show. At least make one change to it. It’s mine!). Faheem Bardien’s lighting is awesome. His tent of fairy lights is especially delightful and magical. And the shlocky Italian retro pop pre-show and interval music is my best!

This production offers a non-snobby, totally accessible, fun, beautiful to look at, exciting Shakespeare. If Shakespeare makes you nervous, this is the one to see.

The Satyr of Springbok Heights

 20090604 Wouter  Hilda hi-resWhat an impressive premier of a local movie. The Labia was buzzing last night with friends, media and even the stars of this little movie, who had arrived for the first official screening.

The Satyr of Springbok Heights is produced, directed and written by Robert Silke, who had all sorts of help from everybody involved on lots of levels, and so it’s this collaborative effort that makes the film work.

It’s all about this block of flats across the way from the Company Gardens in the middle of town, its history, design, and the people who lived, and live there, including a Satyr!

The movie is a mocumentary in the style of Confetti and I love the genre. There are two streams to the film; ‘real’ interviews with people who play themselves, talking about the block, Springbok Heights, and actors playing the people who live there. The ‘real’ people are architecture professor Fabio Todeschini, John Caviggia who knows everything about every style and period of everything, being a drama expert, and Sunday Times columnist Lin Sampson, who, slumped and virtually immobile in her chair, is hilarious and totally weird. Oh, and there are two excellent and very real cameos from two delightful street people, one very friendly and one not so very.

Some of the actors are Godfrey Johnson, who plays Wouter Malan, Victoria Caballaire who plays Hilda Steyn, Nicholas Spagnoletti who plays poor Nathan Golding and Nicole Franco who plays one part of a ‘lebanese’ couple. This is where the movie gets a little uneven. While the characters are huge and hilarious, the performance style is a little too big for the fake documentary style. Most successful is Nicholas Spagnoletti who underplays poor Nathan Golding perfectly. The others are terribly funny, but not very ‘real’, and even though I loved huge Hilda Steyn, I would have preferred slightly more ‘naturalistic’ performances.

That, and the funny way Lin Sampson referred to everybody in the past tense, were my two sticking points. Otherwise, I think the whole thing was quite fabulous. I loved Sean Michau’s music. I loved Nigel Murphy’s off screen interviews. I loved John Caviggia because he is so entertaining, and I mostly loved the fact that with no budget at all, Robert and his friends and connections made a full length feature and bladdy well put it on. Bravo to all involved!

TheatreSports wins big time

So I must confess to the smallest (I lie) of hangovers this morning, but I did do a lot of celebrating last night at the Fleur du Cap awards. The ceremony was the usual glamorous affair at Artscape, with pre-show music and drinks, a full on show during the awards, brilliantly hosted by Nik Rabinowitz and Thoko Ntshinga and a few lekker performances by The La Rosa Spanish Dance Company, Laurika Rauch and Dizu Plaatjies, in particular. The theme of this year’s function was ‘green’ with a green carpet and green inspired invites. A nice touch. I went to the thing with my sister-in-law who was proudly nominated in the category "best performer in a musical" for her performance in Chess, and I was much more disappointed than she was that she didn’t win. I saw the show three times and she totally blew me away. I have to confess though that it was my night! And I didn’t see it coming at all! First up, I was so totally touched that John Caviggia mentioned me in his long and winding thank you speech, acknowledging the work I did in The Merchant of Venice. That was pretty cool. But, blow me away when they announced a brand new category, Innovation in Theatre and I was called up to accept the award, for TheatreSports. This newly created award is to honour theatre that does not fit in to the other more traditional categories; and I think it was fabulous of Distell to make the new award and then to give it to me! I loved it! But that’s not all. Because of the extremely successful campaign of getting friends and fans to vote for TheatreSports, we also won the People’s Choice Award, for which I am most proud. You see, this one is about all the people who love what we do voting for us. And there are a lot of people who love what we do; and who went ahead and voted. It’s been a long, successful road for me and TheatreSports, my theatre baby, of over fifteen years of performance in Cape Town. And it’s really special to be honoured like this. I was so touched (literally hugged and squeezed) by well wishers afterwards, as I ploughed my way steadily through the Pongratz(ulations), and more than one person spoke to me about meganshead, which was also very cool. I am amped for the work I’ll be doing this year! Thank you Distell. Thank you TheatreSports players, present and past, and thank you our fabulous, loyal audiences.

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