Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Scott Sparrow

Cutie Cosi

It looks like I am starting to get able to go and see theatre without breaking into hives. This is a good sign, people! I went with friends to The Little Theatre last night to watch The Mechanicals‘ (the only rep company in Cape Town) offering of Cosi. I didn’t read the programme very well, and I also forgot to bring one home so there might be horrible gaps in what I am about to write.

Cosi the play is the same story as Cosi the movie, where a young graduate gets his first job directing a ‘play’ as therapy for the inmates of a lunatic asylum. I adored the movie; a real feel good, silly, quirky Australian offering with both Rachel Griffiths and Toni Collette in it.

This version is also very cute and totally watchable, and funny and moving at times too. The action takes place in a dusty old theatre, and the story follows the rehearsal process of the totally unrealistic choice of the opera Cosi Van Tutte that one of the inmates is obsessed with. All the while we, the audience, find out more about the motley crew of inmates, and we watch the shift and growth of the young director Lewis, played rather sweetly by Andrew Laubscher. Scott Sparrow directs. I love watching Scott on stage and I missed him out front, but he did a bold, good job of directing this massive cast and all the traffic of this thing.

It is a huge cast, and therein lies its success and downfall. Guy de Lancey is brilliant. Deborah Vieyra, Emily Child, Tinarie van Wyk Loots and Kate Liquorish are fabulous. Everyone else varies from okay to hideous. The really good moments outshine the bad ones, but the bad ones make the production uneven and long. The thing that I love the most about the play though is how totally accessible it is. Yes, accents move in and out, styles clash and smash, pace is up and down, but this is the kind of play non-theatre goers would really love. The story is easy to follow, the characters are fun and quirky, and the dialogue moves mostly at a good pace. There are some really funny and delightfully rude moments too. So, on a Saturday night it should have been full. And there were about forty of us. Damn. I am coming out in hives again. This theatre business sucks!

Decadence sparks

DEC_1 I finally got to see Berkoff’s Decadence last night. It has come back to The Intimate after its sold out run, and is now part of The Mechanicals British Lines rep season. It’s directed by Chris Weare and stars Scott Sparrow and Emily Child.

I understand exactly why it was sold out the first time, and if you are a Slaapstad slacker you are lucky to get the chance to see it this time around. Make sure to check a schedule of when it’s on because it shares the space with The Dumbwaiter (and TheatreSports on a Monday night). Actually, just check The Intimate website for exact dates, like I just did.

This production is tight, slick and wonderful to watch. In fact, the biggest joy is seeing how the actors manage it. The script is 80% less shocking than it was when I first saw it, which means that you really see how the performers manage the text, pace, poetry and style, and they are fantastic. Emily Child is fantastic. She is intense, sexy, strange and totally magnetic. Scott, who is one of my favourites, looks like a bigger version of Daniel Craig and he is great as usual. Chris Weare’s direction is inspired and inspiring. He has not missed a hair of detail and pace.

It’s a special opportunity to get to see some classic theatre, exceptionally well done. Don’t wake up when it’s over and bitch that you missed it.

The Birthday Party

On my way to The Little Theatre last night, for The Mechanicals opening of Harold Pinter‘s The Birthday Party, I flashed back to a most amazing memory. I remember it being a Saturday night; I was still at high school, and SABC 1, 2 and 3 were called something else (anyone remember what?), when Yvonne Banning, the continuity announcer, introduced one of her favourite plays and playwrights, Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party. I remember being absolutely blown away. It was my first introduction to the play and his work and it was like watching a completely absurd horror movie that I hardly understood but loved.

That set up quite an expectation for me last night, which is a bit unfair since I am twenty five years older and have been through all the Pinter pieces that we did for our end of year auditions at drama school. Still, there was that feeling. And Chris Weare directing! (who probably taught me all I know about Pinter anyway).

The minute I saw the set I got it. That Pinter feeling. And certainly, when it started, with the wordless (and super talented and versatile) Scott Sparrow in the light, I shivered. Unfortunately, that menace, tension and confusion was quickly dissipated and never really came back. Oh the cast were good(ish), but they never really cracked it, and as I left the theatre I was trying to work out why.

So here are some of my thoughts. I think with Pinter you need a very long and focused rehearsal process and I think it’s possible the piece was under rehearsed. This means that the moments, the famous Pinter pauses, the bleakness and most importantly the savage menace were lost. I love the idea of a repertory company, and I’m even very jealous that I’m not part of one. I love the idea of the different seasons of work that a rep company can put on, but I do think that with a Pinter you need to give the piece proper, long rehearsal time. In a rep company actors are forgiven for being a bit too young, or not exactly 100% natural choices for the part, but then they have to work doubly hard to get it right.

Here, accents were dodgy, characters didn’t sit and stay, and the whole piece didn’t behave itself. Except for Nicholas Pauling, who stood out for me as absolutely brilliant. He is Pinter weird, darkly powerful and really, really good.

I think this piece will get better later in the run. But I would like to see it with about a month’s more detailed rehearsal time.

Yes! Elizabeth: Almost By Chance a Woman

liz What a great way to break the drought of plays. I am a reluctant and stingy standing ovationer but I was quickly up on my feet to applaud the cast, but mainly, Robyn Scott, lead supreme of this fantastic show.

Last night at the Little Theatre was exactly how theatre should be. There was a buzz in the air. The full house of audience came early and ate pies and drank beer (what a cool idea). Then we went inside and saw a brilliant script fantastically executed.

Elizabeth: Almost By Chance a Woman is the most unwieldy title of a delicious comedy written by genius and Nobel prize for Literature winner, playwright Dario Fo. Its subject is Queen Elizabeth, who is completely off her rocker. It is this that helps make this theatrical experience so wonderful. The play’s subject matter is irreverent and completely obscure, yet the brilliant script draws you in and the journey is a theatrical delight.

The supporting cast in this production are great. My favourite was Nicholas Dallas who plays Egerton. He is hilarious. Shirley Johnston has the unbelievably difficult job of playing poor Martha and she does so very well. It is a bit like the teeniest moon orbiting the biggest planet; but that’s what it is. Scott Sparrow in a dress and playing Dame Grosslady is weird and hilarious in turns. I had no idea what he was talking about for most of the time, but even that was very, very funny. Jaco Nothnagel and James MacGregor were also delightful in their small parts.

But, let’s face it, it’s the Robyn Scott show. And she is mind blowing. I don’t know where it comes from, but every nuance, movement, sound, tic, step, gesture, pause, cry, every moment is theatrical magic. She is riveting, hilarious, moving and huge. It is no small feat to pull off a monster of a part like this, and she is totally brilliant.

Chris Weare is in his directorial element here. You can see the fun he had with this one. And Daniel Galloway’s lighting, in the difficult Little Theatre, was really, really good. I also have to mention the costumes by Penny Simpson from Artscape, which were absolutely fabulous.

So, I imagine the long and obscure title is not going to make people run off to book tickets, therefore I am taking on the role of urging, nagging, cajoling and threatening people. Guys, if you miss this one you really will miss out. This is what theatre is all about.

Decadence – Sold Out!

This amazing thing happened to me last night. I went to go and see a performance of Stephen Berkoff’s Decadence, with Scott Sparrow and Emily Child and directed by Chris Weare, at The Intimate Theatre and when I got there the door person asked if I had booked. When I said no he told me, “So sorry, but we are totally sold out!” I had been invited to opening night last week but I was sick, and decided to go off last night to catch up.

So here’s the deal. Word has got around really quickly that this is a fabulous production of a really excellent play. And guess what? People want to see it. Yay. Yes there is a recession. Yes people are going out less and spending less on entertainment and yes theatre in general is suffering. But. If there is something really good out there that sparks the imagination, people will go. And I have learned my lesson. I will book in future.

Zoo Story

It was a choc-a-bloc night at The Intimate Theatre for the opening of Edward Albee’s Zoo Story directed by Chris Weir and performed by Scott Sparrow and Nicholas Pauling.

I don’t know the play, but I was looking forward to it; I think Scott and Nicholas are super talented. This is the third The Mechanicals production and these guys are developing a relationship with each other and Chris Weare.

The play is a two hander (obviously!) set on a park bench in Central Park, and it’s about the interaction between two strangers that takes a dramatic turn. Albee manages to pose a deeply philosophical issue in the text, but the characters and the action keep the idea alive and prevent the play from becoming boring or talking heads, even though the whole thing is a (pretty one-sided) conversation.

both This is a very good production. Nicholas as the weedy, passive and anal publishing guy was brilliant. He spent long periods silent but he didn’t fall out of being totally present and engaged. He was really convincing and moving. Scott was explosive. OK, so the character lends itself to explosions, but he blew up really well. His performance was dynamic, physical and razor-sharp; and it’s a really difficult part. Chris‘s direction was tight and simple, letting the actors live and breathe their characters, but holding a tight rein on the rhythm of the piece.

There were a few niggly things, the biggest of which was Scott’s flawed American accent, which Big Friendly and I discussed at length after the show. He was like, “If it’s such a big deal then put yourself out there to help with accents.” My whole thing is that there are plenty of actors, voice coaches and even dialogue coaches out there who can help. If you are doing an accent piece, go get big, proper help. I mean, it should be part of your preparation. But I digress. And it wasn’t that bad. Just niggly.

The second thing drove director Chris mad as well as me and Big Friendly (and probably everybody). It was an opening night gremlin that set the park bench in the exact position of it making the most terrible squeak/grunt/shriek every time either actor moved. Big Friendly was like, “It was like a three hander with that bench!” Which I thought was hilarious, but only afterwards.

My favourite part of the evening, however, was when the lights came up on the bench and I was looking at the carvings scratched into the wood and thinking, “How cool it would be if the some of the carving looked older than the rest….” when all of a sudden I noticed, carved deeply into the wood on the right hand side of the bench in a bold but unmistakable upper case, MEG 4 FRED. I loved it. I don’t know whose idea it was (which one of the actors), but it was brilliant. Thanks guys.

PS. How’s this for an interesting titbit? I found it on Wikipedia this morning.

“According to a report on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” on Jan. 19, 2008[2], Albee has expanded his play “Zoo” from one act to two. The first act was first read publicly at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference. The move has raised controversy within the theater community because Albee is no longer allowing professional theater companies to mount the original play without the new first act. Non-professional and college theaters are, however, not bound by Albee’s stipulation.

In the NPR interview Albee defended the change and the addition of a female character who is Peter’s wife. Albee also noted the play was his to do as he wanted.”

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