Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: The Baxter (Page 2 of 4)

Siv’s Race Card

photo by J. Le Cordeur

Siv Ngesi’s stand-up comedy show Race Card, now on at The Baxter  is loudly going where nobody else is managing to go. Yes, his show takes big, fat pot shots at every race in South Africa, and he is very, very funny. His stuff is well observed; combining stereotype with quirky and unusual but very, randomly true. Blacks love chicken. Whites have personal space issues. Afrikaaners complain. Siv is also warm, sexy and totally loveable. So loveable that nothing he says offends. This is a great recipe for successful stand-up.

But none of this stuff is why I had an epiphany during his delicious show last night. I had an epiphany when I looked at the audience and it was a properly, totally, completely mixed one, race wise. Black, coloured, white, local, foreign, even a late ou in a wheel chair for good measure. Now, we spent a lot of time at the GIPCA Directors and Directing Playwrights symposium talking about, complaining about and bemoaning the lack of transformation in theatre, the lack of authentic black theatre for black audiences, the lack of cross over theatre for all to enjoy blah blah blah blah. We did a shit load of talking and blaming and calling on this hot and hectic issue. And here was Siv (who was not at the GIPCA thing), gamely and unselfconsciously  breaking down these hectic barriers. Yes, his delivery is (mostly) in English, but it is a language and style that everybody understands. Yes he calls himself a coconut, in an “ag, what can you do?” kind of way, and this just makes it ok to be a coconut. He trampled heavily over all sorts of sensitivities that other performers are so goddamn sensitive about and we all laughed our heads off. We laughed at, about and with each other. What a relief. What a relief to be in a guilt free space, with the entire demographic of SA (bar a Chinese) laughing, laughing, laughing. Because, I wanna tell you, I left The Baxter (who charged me R2 for a paper cup for my damn wine) full of love for everybody in this crazy, messed up country of ours. I left with a sense that we were going to make it after all, in spite of our differences, the opinions, the politics and the separationists. Guys like Siv bring us together.

Doodsnikke – Buried Child

Big Friendly and I went to last night’s preview and taste and tweet of Doodsnikke at The Baxter. Most times I have to drag Big Friendly along, but when he heard that it was with Anna-Mart and Gys, I couldn’t keep up with his big steps. He loves them and for good reason; they can make a production, especially when they are in the same one. They have got that special thing an acting partnership has. They bring out the sticky stuff in each other. This is exactly what is needed for a Sam Shepard; tons of sticky stuff.

So, Buried Child, translated and transmogrified to a farm outside Kimberly, in Afrikaans and smatterings of English, with sur-titles (of the original play) has the potential to be quite demanding on the suspension of disbelief of an audience, especially someone like me, who knows Buried Child very well. (In fact we recently saw the Mechanicals version at The Little Theatre). And yet, from the moment we walked across the sandy set to sit in seats arranged on three sides of the playing space I ‘had that feeling’. Everyone who lives theatre will know it. It is a creepy, magical, otherworld feeling that introduces the possibility. That’s what good (and great) theatre is all about.

I loved this production. I loved Gys de Villiers, who was shocking to me as an old person. He was in turns powerful, weak, moaning, wheedling, hideous, pathetic, cruel, disgusting and hilarious as Dodge. I adored Anna-Mart van der Merwe as Hannie. She was exquisite, layered, complicated and so powerful. I loved Oscar Petersen as Tilden and Albert Pretorius as Bradley and I thoroughly enjoyed Ivan Abrahams as Pastoor Dewis. I thought that Sartjie Botha’s translation was layered and interesting and she managed to pull off quite an awkward relocation. I loved Patrick Curtis’s set and Birrie le Roux’s costumes and Mannie Manim’s lighting. I think that director Janice Honeyman has given the production the wonderful cohesiveness of an internal world spiraling in on itself.

The only thing that bothered me slightly was the kind of performances the two young actors Travis Snyders (as Vincent) and Thenjiwe Stemela (as Shelley) gave. As Big Friendly cleverly put it, on stage with these other masters they just didn’t seem to have the technique to match. For me it resulted in relaxed bodies and shouting voices.

The thing I loved the most about this production was how compelling it was to watch. There are still images, feelings and thoughts racing through my brain this morning.I was moved and provoked.  And, as a Sam Shepard loyalist, my feeling is that he would have approved.

When we were driving home last night Big Friendly and I shared some dark secrets of our own. We all have a buried child somewhere in our families.


Masterful Money’s Too Tight to Mention

I must confess that I have been disparaging about stand-up comedy. Not that I am a theatre purist; how could I be when my first love is improv in front of a live audience? It’s mainly because I find stand-up often resorts to the lowest common denominator when it comes to subject matter. Also, stand-up can be quite negative. I don’t enjoy it when audience members are picked on and made fun of. And because I love drama, and characters and story I have found stand-up lacking in those departments.

So when I cheekily asked Stuart for tickets to his one-man stand-up show, with the promise of reviewing it, I did have an internal moment of “what have you done? You might hate it and then what?” I didn’t need to worry. We piled into the main theatre at The Baxter (we were in the balcony) and it felt just like an overseas comedy act, like you see on BBC.

The lights and music came on and Stuart arrived, Ray McCauley style, to preach to us about our spending ways. This was just the intro to what ended up being an hour and a half of wall to wall stand up comedy of the highest order.

Stuart’s subject matter was refreshingly original, beginning with the aspirations that start getting us into financial dwang, through to living the high life beyond our means and then the harsh realities of being in a big, fat tight spot. It was material that absolutely everyone could relate to, on almost every level, and it was hilarious. My most favourite part was that there were so few cheap laughs and tricks; and it was clean and so well observed. Also, there was hardly any race or political stuff, at all, at a time when that has become a national comic obsession.

Stuart’s stage performance has so developed since I last saw him. He is filled with positive energy; vocally and physically. He has such a charming and engaging stage presence, and he is completely watchable. I loved him. He and his director Heinrich Reisenhofer have worked hard to deliver the full package, and they do. I laughed out loud often, but also found myself nodding away, relating to what he was saying, and going through. The hour and a half flew by.

Stuart, my favourite, favourite parts were the squirrels. I loved the first one, and then I loved how they came back later on in the story. My second favourite part was the loose nappies. I don’t have children so I have no idea, but the notion of them is beyond hilarious. And then my other favourite was the heavy breather in the Shoprite. Oh,and I also really loved the pervasive condition baby Dave has. Actually, looking back there was quite a lot that I really loved, and that is good.

When I left the theatre I felt good. Stuart’s show is honest and sincere, original and even a little moving. And it is kak funny. Go check it. The Baxter. Three week run. Befok.

Crazy, funny Puppet Asylum

I must be honest, I was a bit dof and didn’t connect the dots that Conrad Koch’s Puppet Asylum was basically the same show My Pro Doll and Neuro Friends, but with a totally different title, and I saw it in Jozi when I was there in August. It is hard for me to see a show twice (unless it’s improv of course) and I had quite a few misgivings when I arrived at The Baxter for opening night last night.

I had nothing to worry about. Yes the set, structure and theme is the same, but this show has been nipped, tucked, shaped, and it has tidied up really, really well. (I can’t say cleaned up because it is absolutely, totally filthy actually). Set in a ‘puppet asylum’, three of the puppets are there, working with Conrad and a doctor on the phone, to help get over their puppet issues. The famous Chester Missing is there. Hilary the aging cabaret star ostrich (who looks exactly like Sybil Sands) is in rehab, and Ronnie, the green monster kid is in a box. They all have outings where Conrad tries to help them with their problem puppet stuff.

Conrad is an amazing ventriloquist, who has honed his skill really well over the years. His craft is slick, and he really pulls it off by being not only fast with doing all the different voices, sometimes in the same sentence, but also by being a good puppeteer. His puppets really come to life.

I love Chester Missing because I love Conrad’s political take, and because Chester is a great vehicle for that voice. Conrad understands perfectly how far a ‘coloured’ puppet can go (very) in dissing the current political status quo on all sides, while Conrad himself remains the voice of reason and moderation. I find Hilary hilarious, especially in her interaction with the audience (which I won’t spoiler here), and Ronnie is a complete crowd pleaser. These characters allow Conrad to showcase his skill, wit and stagecraft brilliantly.

Director Heinrich Reisenhofer has worked hard and well to develop this show and it has come such a long way since I last saw it. I have two little niggles. I think Conrad was nervous last night (being opening who could blame him) so the first intro felt a little forced and childish. Also, I wish the dialogue and repartee with each character was more markedly different; they all get into the same style of “yes I can”, “no, please” conversations. But, niggles they are.

I like that this show straddles stand-up, puppetry, ventriloquism and theatre. I like Conrad. I like Ronnie. I love Chester. Pretty good going. In my 2012 “call to action” campaign, this is a show I feel absolutely comfortable about saying “GO”.


I Like It Vrot

Jinne ek was bly gewies that I managed to wikkel me and Big Friendly tickets to last night’s “media night” of David Kramer’s new musical comedy @The Baxter. That either almost makes me media, or just very forward; just saying. There is such a lekker vibe when The Baxter foyer is full and pumping, and it’s a David Kramer, Mark Lottering, Christo Davids combo that pulls the crowd.

David’s musical is centred around one of Mark Lottering’s characters, Shmiley the ghaatjie, who has now found himself a full cast of players to play with, a Cape Town crime story of massive proportions to be caught up in, delicious opportunities to be in drag, and special new Kramer songs to sing.

The result is fresh, funny, cute and delicious. The cast are amazing. Larissa Hughes, who plays detective Mercia Meintjies is by far my favourite. Ok, ok I’m biased, but honestly, that girl is a brilliant actress, a powerful presence, hilarious at comedy, and yo, can she sing. But, to be fair, I loved almost everybody just as much. I loved Mark Lottering. And Christo Davids. Oh, and Abduragman Adams. And the rest.

The story is very local, set in Cape Town, the Cape Flats and Wynberg (by the magistrate’s court ne), and perlemoen poaching, gangster action, night clubs and a hotel at The Waterfront are the background for a farcical romp while Mercia does her detective work to catch the bad guy. There is hilarious drag, the best Al Jay Zee gangsta hip hop, a touching solo or two, and kick ass performances from everybody.

Nothing about Some Like It Vrot is earth shatteringly original; but it has the perfect formula for hilarious local entertainment, brilliantly done. Even if full on traditional musicals are not your cup of whatever, you will love this laid back jaul, that delivers entertainment on every level.

Oh ja, and the set (Saul Radomsky) and costumes (Craig Leo) are amazing! Lekka. I did not find it baaring, ever.

(This awesome photo is by Jesse Kramer)

Roz van der Vyver

I have only today become aware of the terrible and hideous ordeal that Roz van der Vyver endured. She was gang raped and beaten up after responding to a gumtree ad for work. She then suffered seizures and is in critical condition in hospital.

Many of you will remember Roz as Mannie’s right hand somebody at The Baxter. I remember her mainly from when we did Noah of Cape Town there, but I also had many, many interactions with her in and out of her office, and a few hilarious and fraught theatre conversations and emergency chats that went on way into the night on our cellphones as we sorted out contract disasters, mad agents and other theatre stuff. I do not know the how, why or even the exact when of her fallout with The Baxter and I can only imagine how hard it must have been for her if she was trying to find work.

I am devastated by what happened to her. I am also concerned that the blame game has already started: Gumtree, those at The Baxter who ‘skopped’ her out, those who didn’t come to her defense at the time. I propose something different. Let’s all use our energies to do something positive. Roz was the Cape Town rep for The Theatre Benevolent Fund. Let’s sign up, help our own, be kind and loving, and a real community. Let’s help each other make and find work. It’s damn hard out there.

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