Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Ugli Bob

New Benchmarks

It was not a great theatre day for me. The Butcher Brothers had no electricity and was cancelled. Then I saw the worst thing ever. But. oh joy and delight. I went to Benchmarks tonight.

I loved Benchmarks a lot. It’s quite typical FTHK work; masks, wordless, visual, obscure. But for me, the work has arrived. It’s the story of a refugee, a home affairs official and a reclusive ex actress, in Cape Town, and how their little lives get drawn together and how they influence each other to change and grow.

It started with the creepiest bird puppet things. They became death, street child/gangster Munch scream creatures. Creepy. Then there was a home affairs Single Ladies extravaganza. Hilarious. Then everything unfolded, and the story started happening and I was absorbed and completely shattered by the end.

Here is a list of the things I loved. The performers; who were completely unbelievable. The masks; especially the policemen and the home affairs chicks, and the refugee, and the aging actress and the home affairs man, and the gangsters. But especially the policemen. The set. Two cupboards that open up; one into an office and one into an old lady’s flat. The lighting. The story.

I really think that Ugli Bob and co are in the zone here. Beautiful. Benchmarks comes most highly recommended.

Womb Tide – Best stage pomp ever

On the way home in the car, and the journey from The Baxter to Woodstock is very short I admit, I struggled but couldn’t explain to Big Friendly how I felt about FTH:K‘s new production Womb Tide, which opened at the studio last night.

I was very excited for this show. I am a believer in FTH:K. I love what they do, what they stand for, their passion, commitment, creativity and brilliant work ethic. I love the amazing Womb Tide mobile hanging in The Baxter foyer. I really, really wanted to like this production.

And for the first fifteen minutes I was absolutely charmed. Liezl de Kok is so cute, engaging, magnetic and delicious (not to mention entirely beautiful) and Daniel Buckland is delicious and equally engaging. I loved being introduced to the characters and set and relationship between them. This culminated in the best SOS (sex on set) moment I have ever seen on stage. That is how it must be done. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

Unfortunately, that was the, excuse the pun, climax of the play for me, and from then on it became quite hard going. Here’s what I think happens. Everything feels the same. Because of the minimal use of words, and almost clowning technique of physicalisation it all comes out on the same emotional level. When things are cool and dandy (love, sex, marriage) there is enough energy and action to keep things sparking and alive. The minute the thing turns serious it starts feeling long and uncomfortable and repetitive.

I know that Ugli Bob (the amazing director Rob Murray) is strongly moving in the direction of creating a physical theatre vocabulary. The danger here is that the piece, the subject matter and storyline, seem to need a shift of treatment when things change emotionally. The actions are just not enough, and the few words are just moments of deep frustration for the characters, and I suspect for some of us in the audience too. Which also brings me to my next point. I definitely got the few words, or even part words, in their seventies flavoured Seff Effrican accents, but I didn’t really understand why some stuff was in gibberish.

Unfortunately, for me, there was a disconnect between the set-up and the story.I felt like I could see what was happening; I understood it all fine, but I was somehow disengaged. While the piece has so many things that work in its favour; a great cast, brilliant set, gorgeous and committed puppeteers, lovely costumes and props, clear intention and style, it didn’t reach the finishing line for me. I felt like I wanted to be crying at the end, but instead I was pissed off with the person sitting next to me who had been fiddling with her very bright phone for twenty minutes.

I also felt that the sound was a combination of FTH:K’s last two productions, Pictures of You and Quack! There was another problem, and that was the space. I missed all the stuff that happened on the floor, when the actors and puppet and puppeteers were not standing up. In fact I am pretty sure that I missed quite important stuff in the story, that I just never saw happen. This is a problem with the studio, but it was horrible feeling like there was stuff going on that we couldn’t see at all.

Look, it could just be me. In fact, I’m half hoping that it is, and that others will find this work brilliant. Please leave comments. Let’s have a debate.

Sunday in G’town

Yesterday was seriously long; we had a 10am and 10pm TheatreSports show and I needed to keep myself as busy as I could in between. Hectic.

At 12 I went to see Phillippa Yaa de Villiers in her one woman show, which is mostly autobiographical, called Original Skin. It was during this performance that I was again reminded of the difficulties of festival performing, especially when your piece is small and trying to be poignant and you have what sounded like loud community/protest/drumming theatre in the room behind you. Phillippa’s story is touching, warm and heartfelt, and there were moments when I had more than just a lump in my throat. I just struggled with the direction, which was, dare I say it, boring. The feel of the play is old fashioned, and while there are many moments of genuine loveliness in the text and writing, the show climbs gently onto and sits on an unmoving bus for the most part. I left feeling a little disappointed that my friend’s amazing story wasn’t very well presented.

I wanted to see something at 2pm but I honestly could not find a thing to see. I read the daily schedule about 11 times and went to have some lunch instead. Then, at 4.30pm I went to see The Magnet Theatre’s Every Year Every Day I am Walking, directed by Mark Fleishman and performed by Jennie Reznek and Faniswa Yisa. I am probably one of the last people in SA to have seen the show; it has been everywhere, and all overseas too. I am so happy I finally saw it and it is definitely my Best of the Fest. Of course it bothers me that it is a show that has had to travel and perform everywhere to gather a big G’town audience, and Ugli Bob, you are much on my mind as I formulate new ideas and thoughts around the whole festival shebang. Nonetheless, Every Year Every Day I am Walking was great. A beautiful story, consummately told, with its own original style, flavour and signature. It was absolutely moving, beautiful theatre. This was what I was looking for at the fest. I loved it and I wished I had seen it earlier because I despised this particular (big) festival audience with a passion. The young man next to me had one of those noisy windbreaker jackets on, which wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t kept falling asleep and dropping his head either forward, back or even sideways towards me. Every time he did this his jacket made those loud shifting sounds. Then, five minutes before the end of the show I heard a noise behind me and a voice I recognised as Simon saying, “Sit down!” These two idiots were trying to leave! They were obviously going to be late for something else they had booked for and were trying to sneak out of the theatre from way at the back, on hectic scaffolding that booms and clangs with every step you take! I wish that was all, but no, the woman in front of me’s cellphone went off, and instead of diving into her bag and switching the thing off she just put her bag down and ignored it. I kid you not. I finally had to tap her on the shoulder and tell her to turn it off. It’s not like there wasn’t the pre-recorded message before the show, virtually pleading with people to find their phones and switch them off! So poor Jennie and Faniswa competed with these two lumps and a cellphone retard in their final, resolution moments and both they and I wanted to kill.

The recession has not affected how people spend money on food and drink here at the fest. I popped into the Long Table at about 6.15pm, (Dulce’s, with Wi-fi was full) and in ten minutes flat, after I had gotten my micro-waved food and sat down, the place had become a zoo, with a queue to the door and tons of people smoking inside. Unbearable. I left, with still some few hours to go before our last show at 10.

Then I hit on a brainwave. I decided to go and see Sleight of Mind, Stuart Lightbody and Bryan Miles doing their special brand of magic. They perform in the same venue as us, so I would just be there, ready for our show afterwards. The venue was filled to the brim with schoolboys. I felt a bit sorry for them because they were desperate to be volunteers at every moment but older, bigger ones were always chosen. This hour long magic show was a delight. Both magicians are slick, cute and charming, and they work fantastically well together, supporting each other and moving seamlessly from one thing to the next. A very cool show, with an amazing newspaper trick at the end.

TheatreSports had had a great show in the morning, but 10pm proved to be a bit of a struggle. We got through it ok, but it wasn’t our best, that’s for sure. And that sums up the festival for me, with a day to go. Not my best, but I got through it ok.

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