Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Miskien

between you & me

Tara Louise Notcutt is the second recipient of the Emerging Director’s Bursary, given out by The Theatre Arts Admin Collective, The Baxter Theatre and GIPCA (yow that’s a lot to get right!). It’s a great initiative, giving resources, space, salaries and budgets to a young director and cast to mount a production. So, last night was the first performance of a short run of her play between you & me at the Methodist Church in Obz.

I am a huge Tara fan after …miskien became one of my favourite plays of last year and maybe even ever. Tara won her Fleur du Cap award because of it. So I was very excited to see between you & me.

It is the simple story of girl meets boy, pretty young love, getting comfortable, losing each other, and splitting up, performed by Jaco Nothnagel and Tarn de Villiers. It is told in bits and pieces of conversation, dance, movement and monologue.

My first teeny problem is a personal one. The audience was split, with half on one side of the hall and the other facing them. It is really hard for me not to watch the faces on the other side and I find it the most distracting way to watch stuff. The set is lovely, with its centrepiece of a huge old church table around, under and on top of which all the action takes place. I loved the weird upsidedown lino with dictionary pages stuck to it, and the strange canopy from which errant petals escaped.

The play, and performances, left me with constantly mixed, constantly up and down feelings. The story itself is very much one we have seen before. In fact Amy Jeftha, the first recipient of the award, directed a play she had written called Interiors at the beginning of the year which felt very, very similar. But that’s ok, it means we all have something to relate to; the ups and downs of the journey of a relationship. It’s just here the characters are just not specific enough. They are so average I guess, which makes it hard for me to care much for them. They don’t really seem to have ‘characters’. There are beautifully crafted moments of dialogue, beautiful moments of extended movement, beautiful positions created across the huge space of the table and even beautiful silences; it’s just that they aren’t all strung together and  there is not beautiful stuff in between. Mainly the dancing, which I just don’t get. For me, singing and dancing must be done by singers and dancers, and I could get myself into big trouble here by saying that these two aren’t like professional dancers.

Both Jaco and Tarn have stuff that they do brilliantly. Jaco is particularly connected when he is looking for his English translations, and then his naturalism is spot on. Tarn has a super-intense gaze, and her little moments of irritation, hurt and sarcasm are excellent. My sense is that they need to bring more to the table (‘scuse the pathetic pun-like reference) from a character point of view. And here is another hard thing; sexual tension and magic. I saw them try. Really hard. But there isn’t much of that going on between these two and the audience is so close. I don’t know how to solve that one; it really requires a special kind of magic to believe in the relationship.

Other things I had mixed feelings about. I loved the soundtrack but not the sound system. I found Tarn’s costume the costume from hell; totally cute and sexy, and constantly terrifying because it looked like it was going to reveal her, or break.

There is no doubt that Tara is a going places young director and that this is a wonderful opportunity for her to explore her craft. Now Tara, you need to take it a step further and work on somebody else’s script or concept. You need the freedom to make bold, unselfconscious choices with other people’s ideas and words. I really look forward to more of your stuff, even though I didn’t absolutely love this one.

The Girl in the Yellow Dress

Simon saw this in G’town and absolutely loved it. I went last night, remembering that I will probably get a chance to see most of what was on at the festival right here in Cape Town, if I haven’t seen it already! It is on at The Baxter, @The Flipside, where the main stage is turned around, with the audience on stage too, creating another small (and freezing) venue. The Girl in the Yellow Dress is written by Craig Higginson, directed by Malcolm Purkey, and is a collaboration between the Market Theatre in Johannesburg and two UK theatres. It is a two-hander performed by British actress Marianne Oldham and South African Nat Ramabulana.

Seeing this play was the first in a bit of a theatre drought for me and I was really desperate to enjoy it. My first impressions of the set were, ok, we’re going to watch a proper play now, and that’s exactly what it was; a five scene play, with blackouts denoting the passing of time chronologically, in a very realistic style. The story is about a young, beautiful girl in Paris who develops a relationship with a young black man to whom she is teaching English. It’s got a bit of sex, psychology, identity, racial issues, and it’s all tied up with the bits and pieces of English grammar; all that ‘past participle’ stuff.

There is no doubt that the two performers are super talented and gorgeous. The story is very clear as the two get to know each other better; with not much left to the imagination. I guess the whole point is that we know that they are lying from the outset but this makes the revealing of the information less of a surprise and more of a ‘get on with it’. I found it all rather pedestrian.

I loved the blackout music and slides. I loved some of the witty lines although most of the “English’ stuff was too dense and sailed over this audience’s head.

I was irritated with the costume and set changes, particularly the last one, where in the dark the plastic to cover the furniture was so loud! I found the flowers trite and predictable. I hated that Pierre had to perform his dramatic stuff standing on bits of torn paper as if it wasn’t there. Truth is, I was bored; my worst thing to be in a play.

When it was done I tried to remember a play that I had liked and I thought immediately of …miskien. Also about a relationship, lies, revealing the truth and the complications it brings, I found the execution of it so much more satisfying. Style, lights, set, direction, music, performances, nuances, the extended moments, all worked better for me to create a heightened sense of theatre. The Girl in the Yellow Dress had moments of drama school cheese about it; that feeling of a director/lecturer getting his students to ‘reveal’, to ‘open up’, to ‘go to that place’.

It comes with massive credentials. It was a hit of G’town and it is off to the Edinburgh fest, England and then Stockholm. But if this is one of the best of the fest, I guess I wouldn’t have had too fantastic a time.

Inside Interiors

I felt very special, I must say. I was invited to a special preview performance of Amy Jephta’s new play Interiors at The Intimate Theatre last night. This kind of theatre is what I want to write about. It is a tiny, independent, original little piece, that is obviously only at the beginning stage of being. It also only has six performances, Tuesday to Sunday this week, so people of Slaap Stad, if you want to check it out you better get your act together.

The blurb about Interiors goes “It all starts when He gives Her a table for their first wedding anniversary.” And that is really what this play is all about. That is where it starts, and that is where it ends, with a lot of relationship stuff in between. Amy has written a delicious little script. It’s cute, wacky and it has an original take on a well worn theme; the path from boy meets girl to ‘WTF is he/she on about?’ It has a kind of Juno quality about it (especially with the choice of music) and I have no doubt it is the kind of play that will have huge appeal for a young, fresh theatre audience. This is good. Very good.

Amy also directs Nadia Caldeira and Bren Belknap, who are the Woman and Man respectively. They are both recent graduates of UCT’s drama department, and here lies my first problem. Neither of them have shaken off drama school yet. Nadia is by far more successful; it’s just in those little moments of tippie toeing between scenes, or ‘physical theatre’ acting that it comes through. On the whole I found her mostly engaging, although I wished that she had made slightly stronger character choices, especially when she was standing still with her hands held girlishly in front of her. Beren, for me, didn’t manage Man very well. His performance isn’t real yet. He falls into big, meaningless facial gestures and drama school (and sometimes even American?) pronunciation too often, and he didn’t really connect to the Man, or Woman genuinely enough. I know this sounds like harsh stuff; I just think that if you are going to try and pull off a two hander then you need two very, very strong performers, since they are it really. That is who you watch and who you have to put the story across.

Amy’s direction has moments of genius inspiration, but there are funny little bumps too, which make it inconsistent. Still, it is a treat to watch and listen to a fresh new voice in theatre. I do believe that this little piece has tons of potential and will grow and grow the more it is put on.

Yawazzi are responsible for the multimedia (which I completely loved) and lights are by Jon Keevy (and they are also really cool; being The Intimate an’ all). One tiny thing though, stage management and designers; I think I recognised that table. It was used in my favourite play of 2009, …miskien? wasn’t it?

Definitely Miskien

miskien The opening night of Miskien at The Intimate Theatre tonight was a great way for me to break what has been a bit of a theatre drought. I loved the show and was very moved by it. Directed by Tara Louise Notcutt and performed by Albert Pretorius and Gideon Lombard, Miskien is the sometimes very funny, sometimes totally recognisable, sometimes almost stereotypical, and mostly very poignant story of friendship and love between two guys.

The characters are beautifully drawn and incredibly well performed, neither man losing a moment, making it engaging all the time. I loved them. I loved their charm, their drunk scene, their rugby watching. I loved how they slipped from English to Afrikaans and from hardcore to naff with such ease.

But it was the direction of the piece that I thought was really masterful. Tara’s attention to detail was so cool. The sound and lights were amazing. The use of the space and the different doors were inspirational and the balance and tension of the final scene was beautiful. I really loved this play.

One of the best things about it is that although homosexuality is a theme, it isn’t a message. Nobody is driving anything home, or being sexually gratuitous, or slam dunking an issue down our throats. This is a story, of how two best friends live, and feel about each other. It is brave, original, sexy, South African theatre.

I must confess that there were times that I worried about the fact that I had dragged a 17 year old schoolboy, who is job shadowing me, with. The hardcore language and sex descriptions had me staring at Big Friendly with eyes the size of saucers, but the schoolboy promised me he was cool with the play, and on our way home he said how much he had enjoyed it. I’m getting old hey? I think this play must do the Afrikaans theatre festival circuit.

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