Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Travis Snyders

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.

 

Wrestling with Wrestlers

Wrestlers FDR 05 Last night was the opening night of the second play in Artscape’s New Writing Programme; Wrestlers written and directed by Milton Schorr. And obviously, I’m writing this because I went (although more than one person jokingly asked if I wasn’t a persona-non-grata).

I’m sitting here with many thoughts racing through my mind, mainly whether I should be writing about this at all. To be honest, what’s definitely given me the confidence to sit down and do it is the support that I’ve been shown by many, many individuals involved in the theatre, way exceeding those who left comments here on meganshead. I also remain convinced that even if I am negative about a show my whole point is to give a show publicity, and create awareness about theatre in Cape Town.

I am going to start by repeating myself a bit. Artscape and Roy Sargeant must be celebrated and supported because of this amazing, pro-active, successful campaign that is the New Writing Programme. It gives writers a real chance to get their work out there (including me! I have benefited enormously from it). Where else can you see a whole season of brand new South African plays? Brilliant.

Now to Wrestlers. Milton Schorr has written a weighty, contemporary South African drama about a wheelchair bound man, his wife, drug addict son, imaginary friend and their addictions and dysfunctional relationships. It’s pretty grim stuff. It’s also pretty universal stuff, dealing with the staggeringly devastating effects of drug addiction and alcohol abuse and dependency. The thing that it isn’t is fun.

What is great about this production are the performances. John (or Pa) is captured extremely convincingly and powerfully by Deon Lotz. Even though he is mostly wheelchair bound his performance is enormous, layered and detailed, creating a complicated and human character. He was mindblowingly good. Jason Potgieter, who plays David his son, is definitely a young, up and coming star of the stage. I really enjoy watching him and every time I see him he grows into a stronger, more focused actor. Travis Snyders plays Buddy, the imaginary friend, superbly. It’s a really difficult role; the character is very young, innocent and, because he is a figment of the imagination, completely two dimensional, yet Travis gives him a heart and lightness that is very moving. Deidre Wolhuter has the difficult task of bringing Lily to life. It’s a bitch of a role and she manages really well. I just found her accent a bit inconsistent.

The problems with this play were ones that I am about to face myself. It’s a tough one, but I think that Milton would have done his text more justice if he had given it to somebody else to direct. He was obviously so close to the material and to the details of the performances that the overall rhythm of the piece was lost, making it feel long and relentless. Now (before I get a letter in my Outlook Express) I must make it clear that I thought aspects of Milton’s direction were excellent. His attention to detail and to the ‘needs’ of his characters were amazing. It’s just that the play struggled to find pace and flow.

A thing that bugged me a bit (aside from the technical horror of the ‘not able to ring’ phone! I know that piece-of-shit-phone from past productions) was the timing of stuff. Because the performances and style were realistic it bugged me that people came and went so quickly without a sense that time had passed.

Wrestlers is a perfect example of what needs to be showcased at the Artscape New Writing Programme. It’s a brand new South African text that needs to be worked on, spoken about, explored, debated. It’s a great place for this text to start its life. I am deeply worried about whether there is an audience for this kind of work though. Go on. Go and see it. Talk about it. Prove my theory wrong that SA audiences can only handle bloody Beauty and the Beast.

*above pic taken by Alfred Rietmann during the final dress rehearsal.

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