Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Pierre Malherbe

Cute as Bear Shit Champ

I am one of the didn’t-see-it-last-timers. I had been kicked off Artscape’s New Writing Programme’s opening night invite list, and I was in production with something else and I never made it; but obvz I had heard all about it, and was amped to see it last night. I even managed to beg to be invited to its opening at The Fugard, and I am so glad I did.

Champ. 3 actors dressed in bear suits and their demented hippy manager/director are having a particularly crap day at the Mall and their kiddie’s entertainment is being sabotaged by the pissing monster child, 6 year old Rodney. Things go from very bad to very worse when they score six bottles of Stellenbosch whiskey. That is all I am saying.

Champ is Mark Elderkin, Nicholas Pauling (who are completely amazing, show makingly great) and Oliver Booth (a little less completely amazing) as the bear suited actors, Pierre Malherbe as the completely whacky and bizarre Waldo (I love Pierre Malherbe a lot) and Jenny Stead, the Minnie Mouse from hell of Mall Management (who managed to pull off a final monologue like a maniac). Champ is also filthy mouthed playwright Louis Viljoen (who already won the Fleur for Champ for Best New South African Script) and director Greg Karvellas. And amazing Julia Anastosopolous designed the gloomy and grim looking set (I loved what happened to it during the Horror).

Now I am not scared of swearing. This is good, because there is a lot of it in Louis’ fast and hectic dialogue, and some of it is very explicit and creative. I am also not (very) scared of the predicament of under employed actors, and I know their (our) type very well. It should probably be said here that I spent two years working weekends at The East Rand Mall (in a job so indescribably hellish I cannot even do it here), and I spent about two years performing dramatised school tour walkabouts at the V&A Waterfront. Yup. Fo shizzle. So, Champ was pretty familiar territory for me. And I guess, that’s what made it (stripped of every second expletive) damn funny and cute.

Champ is a fast, fun, filthy frolic through the hells of malls, acting, and fucked up relationships that produce offspring with the worst parents. I had a good laugh out loud time.

PS. I also loved the pre and post show music, and I was also jealous. I want to be in a play like that and speak that dialogue.

Another Friggin’ (fabulous) Tribute Show

The mix was noticeable. Old old. A few young and hip. Some dweebs. Establishment (from a theatre point of view). Friends and family. It was the opening of Another Friggin’ Tribute Show on THE SAME night as Coldplay! So the seventy odd people that weren’t at the gig were at Pierre Malherbe’s new one man show, directed by VIncent Meyburgh at The Intimate. I was glad. I’m not into Coldplay (although I like their greatest hit I Will Fix You).

This one man show is a non-musical tribute to music (in general and in particular) and how it moves you. Pierre is quite a bit younger than me but a lot of the influences, and the ‘how’ of listening to music, and taping, and how Pink Floyd altered our musical DNA and how we became music lovers are very similar. It was often like he was speaking my childhood, adolescence and youth into memory.

The show is very funny. Very. It is a unique blend of stand-up, sketch, personal take and musical nostalgia. I love Pierre on stage. He is wacky, cute, crazy, physically gawky, and quite demented, but all in a very engaging way. He develops a vibe with the audience, and, even though he is quite clear at the beginning that he will be doing all of the talking, it does actually feel like one of those ‘remember when’ conversations.

This is the show’s first airing, and I am sure some of the stuff will tighten up as it goes along. My favourite bits were the pre-show sketch, the taping sequence, the anti ‘one particular band’ (I won’t spoil it for you by saying which one) hysteria and the very Cape Town references. Actually, my all time favourite bit was the totally ridiculous comparison with being as upset as if someone had stabbed a labrador in the face. But you had to be there.

Pierre has managed to create a delightful, weird, accessible, friggin’ funny show that is slapped with nostalgia, musical mayhem, and delicious attachments to (musical) people and things. A bit like a South African Nick Hornby, brought to stage in Cape Town. It’s on until the 15th October.

The Incredibly Long Quiet Violence of Dreams

Off to Artscape’s Arena theatre I went last night for the opening night of the play adaptation of K. Sello Duiker‘s book The Quiet Violence of Dreams, adapted into a play by Ashraf Johaardien, which was as long as this sentence! The Siyasanga company in association with Artscape presented it, with Fatima Dike directing the sexy, young cast of Fikile Mahola, Richard Lothian, Chiedza Mhende, Pierre Malherbe, Lee Roodt and Chris Gxalaba.

I have such mixed, and even conflicting thoughts and feelings about this production. I suppose that could be good, but I’m not sure. The story is about a young man who struggles with mental illness, all wrapped up with his struggle with his identity, who ends up on the road to a semblance of stability after finding himself working as a rent boy in a Cape Town massage parlour. The play explores the seedy, underbelly (I hate that word) of Cape Town in the shadow of its wealth, glamour and tourist shine. Maybe I’ve been reading too many crime novels set in Cape Town but it seems that everybody is digging around in its seedy underbelly (that word again).

One of the things I loved best about the script were the casual mentions of all things Cape Town. I know the city so well I was able to place the date of the play by the mention of The Piano Lounge. Cape Town was beautifully captured, from a drama student’s flat, to an ex-con’s Sea Point place, to a room in Valkenberg. I always knew I was watching a story that was unfolding right here, in this city, with the comings and goings of a group of young people, and how fraught, complicated and contradictory their lives are.

So what’s the problem? So far so good, it seems. Well, firstly, the play was longer than Mamma Mia! Two very long acts, with a lot of scenes that felt like repeats. There has to be a better way to chop and cut it down. Then there was the very well justified but seriously old-fashioned graphic sex and nudity and sexual violence. I certainly wasn’t the only one in the audience who found this awkward and embarrassing, and that is different from being challenged and finding it uncomfortable. It was clumsy, unsexy and cringe worthy.

Some riveting scenes of drama, like the strange scenes and interesting dialogue between the Falkenberg inmates, the weird scenes with the protagonist Tshepo (Fikile Mahola) and his father (Chris Gxalaba), and the quirky, short but powerful scene where Tshepo loses his waitering job, were interspersed with interminable, repetitive scenes, minute in their detail of naturalism.

Then there was the furniture; the endless, moving around of these big heavy blocks of the set in between scenes. Endless.

I enjoyed watching all the performers. I love Pierre Malherbe, and the characters he played were different, interesting and engaging. I found Lee Roodt strange and magnetic. I thought Chiedza Mhende was gorgeous if a bit one dimensional, but that could have been Mmabatho, the character she played. Fikile Mahola was fantastic as Tshepo the protagonist. He was clear, emotional and convincing. But I remained totally unmoved by the story, and the comings and goings of this little bunch of lives.

It’s entirely possible that this story is a bit dated; it sits in the steam room heydays of Cape Town in the early nineties, so what it needs is a different approach. Perhaps a more consistent stylisation that would bring it onto that big, white open canvass of the set? Perhaps a more descriptive approach to the sex, without us having to watch every last bulge, bum wobble, funny undies and performer having to do it all? It feels like it is just trying too hard to be controversial and dangerous, but we’ve been there. And done that. And it’s been better.

Finally; The Tent. Up and Open

Yay. From today there will be other things in my life. We opened last night and I was really happy. I like this play. I love my designer Alfred Rietmann and his set and lights, and Pitchie Rommelaere’s  phenomenal sound. I adore my stage manager Lucas Macuphe. But, most importantly I am completely in love with my extraordinary, talented, diverse, committed and gorgeous cast. Indulge me. I am going to list them and extol their virtues.

Sizwe Msutu. Accomplished, magnetic, powerful. Brilliant story teller and character actor. A rock and a pivot. A star.

Nicola Hanekom. I am in awe of this, one of South Africa’s most shit hot actresses. She is unbelievable. Most talented, beautiful, committed, emotional, connected and creative. She takes the character Ruth to another place.

Pierre Malherbe. So, so good, A director’s actor. Questioning, involved and super skilled. This guy makes the play.

Nelson Chileshe Musonda. Gorgeous. Talented. Delightful. Hilarious. nobody else could be Samson.

Leon Clingman. Creative, serious, intelligent, hardworking. He turned the character of Charlie into a person.

Albert Pretorius. I love watching this guy. Mark my words. He is going places. Brilliant. Catch him in the incredible …miskien at The Intimate later this month.

Deborah Vieyra. She stepped in at short notice and made my life so easy. A delightful, charming, gorgeous actress.

Lungelo Sitimela. Hilarious, hard working, intuitive. An old fashioned, proper, real actor.

A cast from the theatre gods. Thank you for making my dream come true.

Grace

Every day for the last while I have been choosing one word for my Facebook status. Sometimes they are silly or funny; sometimes they are serious, personal or meaningful. Today’s word was grace. I love that word. It has such a good attitude about it. And it is also a poetry word. So much so, it inspired my friend Phillippa Yaa De Villiers who left her whole, magnificent poem, Grace, as a comment.

It was an inspired choice of word for me too today because it epitomised how I am feeling about my work on The Tent. Loving it. I am filled with the grace of my cast, and the really beautiful work they are doing. They move from moment to moment like dancers, playing with nuance and meaning, emotion and technique, and I am learning from them and delighting in them. It’s a cast of eight, so I don’t want to go into detail about each one’s magnificence here. Instead I am going to list their names so you know who I am talking about. Sizwe Msuthu. Nicola Hanekom. Pierre Malherbe. Nelson Chileshe Musonda. Albert Pretorius. Leon Clingman. Deborah Vieyra. Lungelo Sitimela.

I am also graced with a brilliant technical team, stage manager, asm, crew. And the designer Alfred Rietmann, who, when he is not in his office, is scratching in the skip for builder’s junk to use for our set. He is from that old school of thought. Theatre runs in that man’s blood. He loves it. His love has no boundaries, work hours, limitations. He is one of those ‘anything is possible’ guys. I am so lucky to have him.

Tomorrow morning is when we do a full, proper run of the play. I am beside myself with everything. I am saying grace.

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