Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Lara Bye

Song and Dance – A charmed beginning

Last night Ntombi Makhutshi won Best Director for Song and Dance, my play that was a finalist (and runner up) in the PANSA staged play reading competition for new South African plays. Once I had (irrationally, you know what happens when you suddenly find yourself being all competitive and ‘competition brained’) gotten over my disappointment of not winning, I was able to get back to the real stuff, and I want to pay tribute and give thanks here to that; the real stuff.

First of all, thank you PANSA. This competition is an amazing platform for us writers. What a brilliant way for the scripts to get a first outing. It is a long-waited for, very valued part of the theatre calendar. What is also so important here is that the staged readings feel safe, creative and fun as well as competitive. It is a fantastic thing to be part of. Thank you Brian, Angela, Nono and Max (the PANSA people I harassed on an almost daily basis) for your support, problem solving, enthusiasm and encouragement. And Paul, thanks for the butternut soup. Also, thank you Magnet Theatre; I loved being in your space.

The director and cast of Song and Dance were a dream come true. Ntombi Makhutshi understood what I wanted to say with this play right from the start, and then she set about making it happen with confidence and a deliberate intention. I thought that it was extraordinary that she was able to get so much of the physical comedy and timing into the piece with only a few days’ rehearsal. This was helped by our brilliant casting of Deon Nebulane, Anele Situlweni and Zondwa Njokweni, who rose to the challenge and made my script look brilliant. To be honest, my biggest sadness that Song and Dance didn’t win Best Play is that the cast is not going to go to Durban for the final. I would have loved them to have gone.

I was so happy that so many of my friends made the effort to come and see it. And I was delighted to receive such positive, constructive and helpful feedback from the judges Lara Bye, Tess Fairweather and Mzi Vavi, as well as from the audience. This steers me in the direction of how to make the script better for when it happens for real in a full-scale production.

I was delighted and humbled by the standard of the company I kept, with winning writer Peter Hayes (for his play Suburbanalia), Karen Jeynes (previous winner for Everybody Else Is F***ing Perfect) and Fred Benbow-Hebbert (whose plays have been in every PANSA finals). I was beyond excited that Ntombi not only held her own but took the honours in  company with the brilliant and experienced Tara Louise Notcutt, Pieter Bosch Botha and Jaqueline Domisse.

There will be very little resting. We may not be off to Durban, but the plans will start soon. Thank you team. This is just the beginning of Song and Dance.

The Deep Creative relief of I, Claudia

Aaaaah! Everyone knows I’ve been in a theatre funk lately, with the last few things I’ve seen not taking me to the good theatre space of wanting to rush out and force everyone I know to go and see the play, but last night changed things back for me.

On our way to The Kalk Bay Theatre Big Friendly said his wish for the night was good snacks (The Kalk Bay Theatre puts on a very sexy, jolly pre-show opening night snack and hang out), and a short play (we had both been up since the crack of dawn.) He asked me what I wanted from the night and I said “transformation”. I am delighted to report that we both got our wishes, in spades.

Now, first up I must confess to this being the first time I have seen I, Claudia even though it has been on twice in Grahamstown and at least one other time in Cape Town. Susan Danford performs, Lara Bye directs this one-hander written by Kristen Thomson.

It’s a tiny story of a young girl managing her puberty, the separation of her parents and her father’s new relationship, the death of her pets, school and all the thoughts and crazinesses of bursting out of your emotional and hormonal skin. It’s told through Claudia’s, the school janitor’s, her father’s fiance’s and her grandfather’s voices. And it is totally engaging, hilarious, moving, and magical.

Susan Danford is amazing. Because she is working with masks (that are fantastic by the way, and made by Melani-Rene Louwrens) you forget that it is beautiful Susan in there. She totally becomes the characters, especially Claudia, in the deepest possible way, removing herself from them almost entirely, and giving them new life, which radiates through every finger tip and through the holes where we can see shining eyes. She, Lara Bye and the production team have done an awesome job.

I was mesmerised throughout. I was transfixed. and I was transformed. Take my word for it. Beautiful, magical, moving theatre. On for another two weeks at The Kalk Bay Theatre.

Edit! Next four weeks! No excuses not to see it.

London Road

London Road_40 Last night was the ‘world premiere’, as Simon Cooper (owner of The Kalk Bay Theatre, theatre producer and all round theatre lover) proclaimed of Nicholas Spagnoletti’s play London Road. It was a glamorous affair at my favourite independent theatre in Cape Town.

I feel like I have already been on a long journey with London Road, having seen both staged play readings of the play over the years, so I felt like I knew what to expect from the characters and story. Wrong!

London Road is a two hander, set in sea Point. It is about the unlikely friendship that develops between Rosa (Robyn Scott), an old and sickly Jewish granny, and Stella (Ntombi Makhutshi), a Nigerian drug dealer. Lara Bye directs, with design by Craig Leo and lighting by Faheem Bardien.

I have to say that I cried. A lot. It is a very moving piece. Unexpectedly moving. And that is because this team of creators have done a fabulous job. Nicholas has written characters that any actress would die to play. Jealous is how I feel! Lara has teased out the script with Nicholas, making it subtle, poignant and very, very moving, and the actresses are completely brilliant. Craig Leo’s design, and by that I mean his magic drawers that bring out everything but the kitchen sink, is the perfect solution to the play.

Robyn Scott is a master of transformation. She becomes my great auntie Hilda. Rosa is so completely…Rosa. Her attention to detail, her weird little vocalisations, her make-up, her funny old lady sandals, her constantly moving little hand. She is a master. Ntombi Makhutshi is gorgeous, powerful and just so engaging. It is a treat to watch these two on stage.

I cannot think of a single reason why anyone in Cape Town shouldn’t see this play. It is proof that a play can grow, develop, be reworked and become something totally precious and beautiful. Bravo to all.

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