Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Oscar Petersen

Chekhov makes me go back on my word (it is that good)

I know. I know what I said about writing ‘review’ style posts on meganshead. I know I made a declaration about how I wouldn’t, but I have to. I am compelled to write about last night because I don’t know how else to let you know how special Die Kersieboord, by The Mechanicals, is.

It was absolutely icy, and totally wet last night, the second night of the first Chekhov offering (The Cherry Orchard in Afrikaans) that The Mechanicals are doing, in rep with the double bill of The Bear and The Proposal. To be honest, the last thing I felt like was dragging my sorry arse outside, away from the fire and warm dogs. But I am so completely glad I did.

Sandra Temmingh directs this gorgeous translation, with an ensemble cast that are stunning. Every single one of them are so perfect and gorgeous that I feel bad selecting Oscar Petersen out, but he does have the most mind blowing moment of the show.

It runs for an hour and twenty minutes (short for Chekhov). I last saw the original, unabridged version over twenty years ago. My Afrikaans is nowhere near fluent so I am not sure how much is completely different from that version, but this is the new, improved one for sure, and it makes for the most riveting, moving, entertaining, satisfying and delightful theatre.

But there is more. Somehow, Sandra and her cast have turned this production into the most relevant piece of theatre for South Africa (white South Africans in particular) and the connections are direct and totally electrifying. It is a massive achievement. It is not commentary, or satire, or protest. It is a gentle, horrifying and hilarious story of loss and change and human ridiculousness. It is beautiful and I urge you to go and see it.

Die Kersieboord runs 6 – 17 Aug and 28 – 31 August Tuesday – Saturday at 20:00
The Proposal (20:00) and The Bear (21:15) run Tuesday to Sunday 22 – 27 August and 1 – 12 September.

As a side note, we will be performing a long form, Chekhov style improv show on Tuesday 27 August at The Kalk Bay Theatre called Chekhov’s Women, in honour of Women’s Month.

Doodsnikke – Buried Child

Big Friendly and I went to last night’s preview and taste and tweet of Doodsnikke at The Baxter. Most times I have to drag Big Friendly along, but when he heard that it was with Anna-Mart and Gys, I couldn’t keep up with his big steps. He loves them and for good reason; they can make a production, especially when they are in the same one. They have got that special thing an acting partnership has. They bring out the sticky stuff in each other. This is exactly what is needed for a Sam Shepard; tons of sticky stuff.

So, Buried Child, translated and transmogrified to a farm outside Kimberly, in Afrikaans and smatterings of English, with sur-titles (of the original play) has the potential to be quite demanding on the suspension of disbelief of an audience, especially someone like me, who knows Buried Child very well. (In fact we recently saw the Mechanicals version at The Little Theatre). And yet, from the moment we walked across the sandy set to sit in seats arranged on three sides of the playing space I ‘had that feeling’. Everyone who lives theatre will know it. It is a creepy, magical, otherworld feeling that introduces the possibility. That’s what good (and great) theatre is all about.

I loved this production. I loved Gys de Villiers, who was shocking to me as an old person. He was in turns powerful, weak, moaning, wheedling, hideous, pathetic, cruel, disgusting and hilarious as Dodge. I adored Anna-Mart van der Merwe as Hannie. She was exquisite, layered, complicated and so powerful. I loved Oscar Petersen as Tilden and Albert Pretorius as Bradley and I thoroughly enjoyed Ivan Abrahams as Pastoor Dewis. I thought that Sartjie Botha’s translation was layered and interesting and she managed to pull off quite an awkward relocation. I loved Patrick Curtis’s set and Birrie le Roux’s costumes and Mannie Manim’s lighting. I think that director Janice Honeyman has given the production the wonderful cohesiveness of an internal world spiraling in on itself.

The only thing that bothered me slightly was the kind of performances the two young actors Travis Snyders (as Vincent) and Thenjiwe Stemela (as Shelley) gave. As Big Friendly cleverly put it, on stage with these other masters they just didn’t seem to have the technique to match. For me it resulted in relaxed bodies and shouting voices.

The thing I loved the most about this production was how compelling it was to watch. There are still images, feelings and thoughts racing through my brain this morning.I was moved and provoked.  And, as a Sam Shepard loyalist, my feeling is that he would have approved.

When we were driving home last night Big Friendly and I shared some dark secrets of our own. We all have a buried child somewhere in our families.

 

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