Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: The Intimate Theatre

Die Rebellie van Lafras Verwey

photo by Jesse Kramer

When we got home and Big Friendly walked back up the stairs last night he stated quite firmly,”Now that’s theatre. That wasn’t the usual kak we go and see.” When we got inside he was still excited and his brain was full and he couldn’t go straight to bed.

We had gone to the second opening night of The Mechanical’s offering of Die Rebellie of Lafras Verwey at The Intimate Theatre. (On Monday, at TheatreSports class I had cursed their bits of set hanging from the ceiling!) This is The Mechanicals first foray into Afrikaans and it is a total, out and out success.

I don’t know the play, written by Chris Barnard in the 1960s. I understand that it was written as a radio play.This incarnation is deftly and creatively directed by Albert Maritz. He has done an awesome and convincing job. Only afterwards, when I was talking and listening to some of the audience conversation did I realise how bold he had been in his interpretation (not having seen the play meant I didn’t know the difference).

It’s all about this mild mannered civil servant, Lafras Verwey, who has a deep, complicated, violent inner life, which plays itself out in a dangerous and tragic way when it gets confused with reality. Afrikaans Kafka! Carel Nel is Lafras Verwey and he gives the performance of a lifetime. I could not take my eyes off him for a single moment. From the very first word and movement he created a complicated, fraught, neurotic, charming and hysterical man and he did not falter in this for even an eyelash twitch.

Nandi Horak and the rest of the cast (Stian Bam, Wilhelm van der Walt, Roxanne Blaise, De Klerk Oelofse and Tinarie van Wyk Loots) offer intense and creative support for Carel through this mammoth journey. This is ensemble work at its strongest and most effective.

The set is a magical masterpiece of found stuff, creating a 1960’s Brazil (the movie) influenced soundstage, with bits of South Africa’s weird civil servant past, like those funny metal filing cabinets and a teeny typewriter and those stamps and ink pads, and fantastic bicycle junk, and sad shelves with sad home stuff. It’s a busy, complicated mix of fantasy and reality. The lighting, by Guy De Lancey, is phenomenal. Outside light shines in through the side window and door. Little lights in interesting places are eerie. Sound and light cues are timed and mixed and juxtaposed to create a weirdly unsettled feeling.

What I missed (bits and pieces and words here and there) was made up for in feeling. This is an exciting, riveting and beautiful production. Don’t be scared if your Afrikaans is not totally up to par; you will get it. And the reward of a beautifully directed, deliciously performed piece of theatre is so satisfying.

Improv Love Story

I am deeply in love with improv at the moment. I am loving shooting my little improvised monologues, and I am re-thrilled at being part of the amazing TheatreSports company, and playing most Monday and Tuesday nights. The last two nights have been particularly special, with two farewell performances for Brett, one of our TheatreSports stalwarts. Brett and TBV (his wife) are off to live and work and minister in Philadelphia for some time. So, the last two shows have been his last two for a while and it just so happens that they have been total winners; brilliantly energetic, creative, generous, hilarious, warm and infectious.

You should come and check us out one of these days; Mondays at The Intimate and Tuesdays at The Kalk Bay Theatre. Call Ryan on 0729393351 to book.

Shattering Blackbird

My reaction to this play proves the power of theatre to move one, climb into your head, shake out your stuff and freak you out completely. And it’s a reminder that that’s what theatre should do. This production has left me shattered and confused, and I know I am going to struggle to get it out of my mind.

It’s Blackbird, written by the aptly named David Harrower, directed by Bo Petersen and performed by Warrick Grier and Deborah Vieyra, with teeny cameo by Rebekah Nathan (or Lucy Giffard on other nights). Blackbird is on at The Intimate Theatre until the 2nd of October.

I think it’s the kind of play where the less you know about it, the more powerful it is, so I’m not going to say anything about the story. I am going to say that Warrick Grier is totally, rivetingly, creepily, heartbreakingly amazing. His performance is a tour de force. Deborah Vieyra is also really, really good in a difficult, complicated and many layered part, and Bo’s direction is so subtle and detailed it leaves not a moment unattended.

The subject matter of this play is what makes it controversial. Here it is thrown on its head, turned inside out and it reappears for what it is, sexual abuse. I am still trying to get my brain around it. The Intimate Theatre being exactly that, intimate, makes it feel like you are in the room with these two; you can even smell what they smell. It’s a hideous, hard, tender, radical, and riveting piece.

I was not myself at the end of the play. I wanted to give it a standing ovation but I couldn’t stand up. I really was shattered.

Done London

I think it’s weird that there are two little independent plays with London in their title in the Cape Town ether at the same time. Last night I went to see Done London at The Intimate, and the writer of London Road, Nicholas Spagnoletti, was there too. His play opens tomorrow at the Kalk Bay Theatre.

I have read two very good crits about Done London which are out there, and really, I don’t have much to add. It’s a very sweet and totally watchable production with some lovely performances, particularly by Julia Anastasopoulos, Deborah Vieyra and Mark Elderkin. Francesco Nassimbeni directs.

Yes, the script is a bit thin. Yes, there are the usual Saffer stereotypes, and yes, the play has managed to date itself that quickly, since Saffers are no longer eligible for a two year working visa to the UK. Still. I thought it was delightful. And I think it rang quite true.

It’s great to see a big cast in a tiny, independent production. It’s great to do absolutely no work as an audience but to sit back and enjoy the experience. Mark Elderkin and Deborah Vieyra are hilarious, and Julia Anastasopoulos (spell that after a dop!) delivers a bitter sweet and very real heartsick, homesick, wannabe actress doing a kak job in London. Been there. Done that. So horrible.

Done London is worth the R70 ticket for the enjoyment of a totally ‘unboring’ theatre experience. I think people keep comparing it to a TV sitcom because it is fun to watch. Off you go then. It’s on until this Saturday.

Definitely Miskien

miskien The opening night of Miskien at The Intimate Theatre tonight was a great way for me to break what has been a bit of a theatre drought. I loved the show and was very moved by it. Directed by Tara Louise Notcutt and performed by Albert Pretorius and Gideon Lombard, Miskien is the sometimes very funny, sometimes totally recognisable, sometimes almost stereotypical, and mostly very poignant story of friendship and love between two guys.

The characters are beautifully drawn and incredibly well performed, neither man losing a moment, making it engaging all the time. I loved them. I loved their charm, their drunk scene, their rugby watching. I loved how they slipped from English to Afrikaans and from hardcore to naff with such ease.

But it was the direction of the piece that I thought was really masterful. Tara’s attention to detail was so cool. The sound and lights were amazing. The use of the space and the different doors were inspirational and the balance and tension of the final scene was beautiful. I really loved this play.

One of the best things about it is that although homosexuality is a theme, it isn’t a message. Nobody is driving anything home, or being sexually gratuitous, or slam dunking an issue down our throats. This is a story, of how two best friends live, and feel about each other. It is brave, original, sexy, South African theatre.

I must confess that there were times that I worried about the fact that I had dragged a 17 year old schoolboy, who is job shadowing me, with. The hardcore language and sex descriptions had me staring at Big Friendly with eyes the size of saucers, but the schoolboy promised me he was cool with the play, and on our way home he said how much he had enjoyed it. I’m getting old hey? I think this play must do the Afrikaans theatre festival circuit.

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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