Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Peter Hayes (Page 1 of 2)

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.

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.


I got that festival feeling

This is a picture of me, taken by Jonathan Taylor, at the Grahamstown festival in 1990, twenty one years ago. I am sitting on the Village Green, helping Melinda Ferguson and Chevvy sell their stuff. I can’t remember if I also had stuff to sell.

Melinda and I had driven my father’s Toyota Cressida down to Grahamstown from Jozi with her mobiles, the sets, props and cozzies for two shows, and our other stuff piled in. We were performing the anarchic sequel to Live Technology (created by Melinda and Peter Hayes) called Dead Technology (by Melinda and I) and a little miracle of a co-production with artist Margaret Roestorf, called Live Art Exhibition. It was in a carpeted sunny room at the Monument that is now the Fringe office! It was exactly that; a live performance of Margaret’s and our writing in a room filled with her paintings.

I absolutely loved that festival. I’m not saying it wasn’t hard. At the last moment Melinda and I had a fight with the person whose cousin we were going to be staying at and our accommodation fell through. Chevvy reluctantly agreed to us staying with him in his commune and we lay on a concrete floor in our sleeping bags for a week. There was no hot water. Everyone else in the house were traders, not performers, and were very stoned and loud. Melinda and I would pack bags with our various costumes and leave them in the boot of the car while we went to the market in between shows.

But our shows were fantastic, and we were passionate and obsessed. And we jauled like there was no tomorrow. Most late, late nights we would end up rolling around on the stinky carpet in front of the fire at The Settlers Hotel opposite The Monument. Or we would dance and scream at the late-night ‘club’ in a side street I can’t remember. Most nights we stayed up as late (or early) as we could because we couldn’t face that concrete floor. We smoked millions of cigarettes and hung out with all the performers and critics and musos and even traders (there was cross pollination in those days). Late night cabarets and music and even movies were always full and only the start of the night’s jaul.

Sunlight and the Village Green was recovery and thaw out time, while we collected an audience, sold craft and ate that same Hare Krishna food. We had just discovered it. There were outrageous reggae buskers. There was flaming Ian Fraser, dissing everyone at his sold out comedy slag-offs. There was weird rock at the Graham Hotel, and venues the size of tissue boxes. There were house parties where people were so trippy they literally floated.

Now I’m getting ready to make this pilgrimage again and I must confess to wishing some of the stuff could “be like it was.” I know I’m romanticising. There was the festival in 1993 when I performed The Rhino Woman when I was so, so alone and sad the whole time. There was the time in 1994 (the only time I was ever part of a completely sold out show with added performances) when I was miserable and angry the whole festival. In 1995 I was involved with Journey, directed by Peter Hayes; the only time I was part of the main festival. It was a wild one, dangerous and crazy, the year James Phillips had his accident. I was in love with about ten musos that festival (including Brendon Jury) and I was secretly involved with someone and so was my best friend.

There were festivals where I performed TheatreSports, festivals where I directed beautiful, completely unattended work, festivals when I knew that the work could have been better, when I could have been stronger, festivals where I performed my own bizarre creations. In 1997 (I think) I did The Return of The Rhino Woman, and I was so, so happy; and drunk every night of the festival, with my ‘technical manager’, my friend Justin, who I had roped in to help me.

I must confess, The Long Table is fun, but it’s a different kind of hanging out that’s done there. Somewhere in the 21 years that I have taken to become this person, who is this age, everything has changed. I just am hoping that this festival, where my own fest identity will be completely different because I am going solely to see work and write about it, I will get that feeling. It’s the slightly mad, almost dangerous, a little out of control, manic magic creative electricity. Bring it on.


I have struggled with the idea of writing this week. It feels so personal; putting my thoughts into words here, and Big Friendly and I have taken the death of the best-loved-cat very hard. Somehow it has meant that I have not wanted to be public about anything. But I miss writing this blog, and I have missed writing ‘for me’ in general.

And I do have some good news. And it has to do with writing. I entered my play The Tent into an exciting ‘competition’ run by Proyecto 24 (degrees – I can’t find that little circle for the symbol) S. It was a Theatre in Translation competition which meant South African plays would be translated into Spanish, Spanish plays would be translated into English and then five finalists (and one winner from them) would be chosen. And The Tent was a finalist. And in such good company too. Here is the official list!



• GREEN MAN FLASHING – Mike van Graan (Winner)

– translated by Patricia Labastié as LUZ VERDE – proofread by Nikki Froneman and Rodrigo Alonso Gómez Gutiérrez

• SISTER PRISCILLA’S DILEMMA: THE NUN WITH A GUN – Julian De Wette – translated by Eduardo Arques as EL DILEMA DE LA HERMANA PRISCILA: LA MONJA CON PISTOLA – proofread by Nikki Froneman, Rodrigo Alonso Gómez Gutiérrez and Elena Stella

• I AM HERE – Peter Hayes – translated by Clara Tilve as ESTOY AQUÍ – Preliminary translation by Fidel Soler Ulloa. – Proofread by Nikki Froneman and Mariana Taguchi.

• THE TENT – Megan Furniss – translated by Mariana Taguchi as LA CARPA – proofread by Nikki Froneman and Odette Fernández López

• LOT – Nicola Hanekom – translated from Afrikaans into English by Ilze Brüggemann as FATE. Proofread by Cliff Smuts – translated from English to Spanish by Rodrigo Alonso Gómez Gutiérrez as DESTINO – proofread by Nikki Froneman and Mariana Taguchi

I think this is very, very sexy. It’s also worth remembering that award winning Nicola Hanekom starred in the production of The Tent at Artscape in 2009.

We are going to try and raise enough funds to go to Buenos Aires in November to witness the play readings of our plays. All great ideas are welcome.

The Circles We Weave and The Deep Red Sea

Last night I hooked up with a very old friend, Peter Hayes, who hosted a bit of a reunion for a mutual friend who is visiting from overseas. We haven’t been much in each other’s lives the last while but it took five minutes for old blood to flow like it used to. When we were joined by another friend of the visitor we started threading and looping how we all knew each other. I know this happens in Cape Town a lot, but following the threads to where they connected last night was so filled with synchronicity. We worked out that M had been brought along by a friend to the opening night of The Return of The Rhino Woman, a play I had written and performed, with Peter directing, at The Coffee Lounge, in 1997! She had come with L, who met Peter that night and they went on to have a long relationship.

The Return of The Rhino Woman was the sequel to The Rhino Woman; both plays about love, and audiences, and pain. And I guess The Deep Red Sea is the third in the trilogy. So I feel like I am spinning closed the circles again, and sending them out, in this life of friends and connections and remembering, then creating.

Mixed bag

Today was show day. I came to town full of commitment to see as much as possible. There was nothing on at 10am so I decided to choose the weirdest title I could find and went for Examz – No Enigma. It was not to be. I got the venue wrong and was too late to get to the right one on time, so I messed that chance up.

So the first show I saw at the festival ended up being Ncamisa (Kiss) – The Girls. This one woman show is directed by Peter Hayes and performed by Pam Ngwabeni. And it’s a very honest and real account of being a soccer playing lesbian in a Cape Town township. I don’t think that I am the target audience, not really connecting with any of the things, although I did completely appreciate the human drama. The lesbians in the audience were absolutely connected and very, very moved. I had mixed feelings about this trademark Peter Hayes show, which had some really beautiful moments and some not so successful ones. I guess my biggest problem was how hard it was for Pam to tell her story in English. She is just not comfortable enough with the language for it to express her emotions, thoughts and transitions. Lots of the poetry of the script is lost and she is always a bit self-conscious when she is talking. This is a great pity, because she is really so lovely. I think it’s possible that the piece might work much better if she does it in Xhosa. I also had a nagging feeling that the play isn’t ready and could do with a ton more work to make it really good. A one-woman show is really hard, and performance experience is needed to sustain it. I left the venue with an uneasy feeling that I was missing something else and then it dawned on me. Ncamisa – The Women is the black, female version of Get Hard, Peter’s famous one-man show that was a hit all over the country (including the fest) about ten years ago. Down to the undressing, the naming and placing of the dead, and even a climactic sex scene at the end. And when I finally cottoned on I was even more confused about the why and how of this play.

Then, off I went to the exact same venue to see Quack. This is FTHK’s new offering, created by Rob Murray and his cast. I loved a lot about this show but was confused by much of it and irritated with the repetition that made it feel long. I thought I knew what is was all about, having read a lot of the blurb, but I should have read the programme instead of sticking it in my bag and forgetting about it. It would have helped; but not entirely. Like their Pictures of You, Quack is a masked, wordless piece, but this does not match with the story it is trying to tell. Pictures of You is beautiful, strange and moving because the mundane is recognised so acutely. Here, the story is so weird and fantastic it is difficult to understand without words, and the mime and hand signaling becomes derivative and obvious. Funny thing is, I know that this piece is going to evolve and become great but I think it is not ready for an audience.

So both of these plays aren’t ready. Which makes me think. If plays are ‘allowed’ to be on the fringe three times, then this first offering is like a test drive. Which is not great for an audience since they end up being the paying Guinea pigs, which is why people wait to hear about it and only see it the second or third time around. And that seems like not a great way to do things for me.

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