Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Rob Murray

CT Fringe Revisited

Yesterday the full programme of the 3rd CT Fringe was announced to media and theatre lovers at my favourite theatre and second home The Alexander Bar. I wasn’t there, but I was invested. I am involved in two shows on this year’s fringe. I am performing in the premier of a brand new play, The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner, and Niqabi Ninja, Sara Shaarawi’s play that I have directed, will also have five performances at this year’s fringe.

For those of you who know me, my participation may be quite a surprise, and even a radical turn around. Believe me, I am still trying to get my head around it too. So much about what I find problematic about the CT Fringe still holds true. Actually, all still holds true. Once again, the festival model puts all financial risk on the artist, with very little possibility of proper financial return. The financial outlay is big if a production is not sponsored, like Niqabi Ninja, where I have to shoulder the financial burden of registration, venue hire, publicity and actual production costs. Then I have to do big maths to hope that we have audience numbers that will not only cover costs but still be able to give the performers a decent cut. To be fair, this model only works in an artist’s favour if there is producer money, or proper sponsorship. But I am not sure how many productions go into the festival with donor money.

The other big thing about the CT Fringe is, who is it for? Who is its target audience? Is it another exclusive, elite Cape Town experience that further alienates those creating work in challenging conditions without helping them get the work out to the audiences it deserves? Why does the Fringe not serve the greater community of Cape Town? And the answer here is, it can’t. And that still remains terribly problematic for me.

So why am I doing it? Well, with The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner, the decision of being part of the festival was taken out of my hands, and as a performer I was happy to go with the consensus of the company. It was how it was, and I, like most not very famous actors, was delighted at the opportunity to be on stage regardless. I still am. So excited.

With Niqabi Ninja I have a deep commitment to getting the message of the piece out to a wider audience, and the CT Fringe seemed like a good place to start. I am so proud of the work, the actors, and the impact it has already had on the small audiences we attracted at the Alexander Bar, but I know that it needs to speak to a much bigger, broader audience, and this is just the start. We have made the work to be absolutely portable and festival friendly. And this will be our first festival outing, to test its waters, and gauge its response.

But, the main reason I signed Niqabi Ninja up was because of the gentle persuasion, encouragement, support and genuine engagement I had from the festival’s new guest Artistic Director Rob Murray. (Some of you will remember my experiences with the past one in not such genial circumstances.) I trust Rob (enough to shake a stick at him and know he will not bite). I believe in him. I believe he has, in as much as his position allows, a genuine understanding of the challenges faced by those who are creating theatre and trying to get it out to an audience.

So, for those of you who missed our tiny run at Alexander Bar, please come and support Niqabi Ninja at the CT Fringe. We have made the tickets as cheap as we can, to improve accessibility and affordability. We are in the City Hall 3. Here are our dates. 22/09 20:30, 23/09 18:30, 24/09 22:30, 25/09 20:30, 26/09 18:30

And then, come and laugh with (and at) me on stage at City Hall 2 in The Finkelsteins are Coming To Dinner. There are 11 shows spread over the whole of the festival. This one is going to be a winner.

Return to Traveller

It was a long and varied evening yesterday that started off with a really delightful TheatreSports show at 6pm. After that I made my way to The Cape Town Edge venue, The Princess Alice, to see Return to Traveller, a piece ‘organised’ and put together by Julia Raynam’s mind and name, Resonance Bazaar. But before I went in I monopolised Rob Murray, director, and Liezl de Kok, performer, of Quack! I had a lot to say, and the debate was heated and healthy.

Back to Return to Traveller. The stage was set with the strangest and most interesting musical instruments. There was a weird circular harp thing, a very big one string bow, a weird silver metal plated disc thing, shakers, horns and Warrick Sony’s electronic table, with turntable, apple lappie, mixers and other tech stuff. What the show was was Warrick, Dizu Plaatjies and a guy from Portugal (playing the weird instruments) playing interesting music and sounds to a strange and beautiful movie of rural Africa, water, kids, roads, trees, travelling, and an interesting backing track. Sounds weird, but it was strangely engaging and beautiful. I loved Dizu and Warrick; two genius musos and performers. I wasn’t as enthused with the guy from Portugal, who, while having the most impressive instruments, seemed a bit out of his depth musically and, to my unmusical mind, was just mucking about. I must say this though. This show, musically improvised, is more the G’town fare I know and love: Risky, weird, esoteric and strangely engaging and enjoyable.

I made the forty minute drive back home in a good mood. Ah, G’town.

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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