Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Quack

Womb Tide – Best stage pomp ever

On the way home in the car, and the journey from The Baxter to Woodstock is very short I admit, I struggled but couldn’t explain to Big Friendly how I felt about FTH:K‘s new production Womb Tide, which opened at the studio last night.

I was very excited for this show. I am a believer in FTH:K. I love what they do, what they stand for, their passion, commitment, creativity and brilliant work ethic. I love the amazing Womb Tide mobile hanging in The Baxter foyer. I really, really wanted to like this production.

And for the first fifteen minutes I was absolutely charmed. Liezl de Kok is so cute, engaging, magnetic and delicious (not to mention entirely beautiful) and Daniel Buckland is delicious and equally engaging. I loved being introduced to the characters and set and relationship between them. This culminated in the best SOS (sex on set) moment I have ever seen on stage. That is how it must be done. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

Unfortunately, that was the, excuse the pun, climax of the play for me, and from then on it became quite hard going. Here’s what I think happens. Everything feels the same. Because of the minimal use of words, and almost clowning technique of physicalisation it all comes out on the same emotional level. When things are cool and dandy (love, sex, marriage) there is enough energy and action to keep things sparking and alive. The minute the thing turns serious it starts feeling long and uncomfortable and repetitive.

I know that Ugli Bob (the amazing director Rob Murray) is strongly moving in the direction of creating a physical theatre vocabulary. The danger here is that the piece, the subject matter and storyline, seem to need a shift of treatment when things change emotionally. The actions are just not enough, and the few words are just moments of deep frustration for the characters, and I suspect for some of us in the audience too. Which also brings me to my next point. I definitely got the few words, or even part words, in their seventies flavoured Seff Effrican accents, but I didn’t really understand why some stuff was in gibberish.

Unfortunately, for me, there was a disconnect between the set-up and the story.I felt like I could see what was happening; I understood it all fine, but I was somehow disengaged. While the piece has so many things that work in its favour; a great cast, brilliant set, gorgeous and committed puppeteers, lovely costumes and props, clear intention and style, it didn’t reach the finishing line for me. I felt like I wanted to be crying at the end, but instead I was pissed off with the person sitting next to me who had been fiddling with her very bright phone for twenty minutes.

I also felt that the sound was a combination of FTH:K’s last two productions, Pictures of You and Quack! There was another problem, and that was the space. I missed all the stuff that happened on the floor, when the actors and puppet and puppeteers were not standing up. In fact I am pretty sure that I missed quite important stuff in the story, that I just never saw happen. This is a problem with the studio, but it was horrible feeling like there was stuff going on that we couldn’t see at all.

Look, it could just be me. In fact, I’m half hoping that it is, and that others will find this work brilliant. Please leave comments. Let’s have a debate.

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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