Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Weekend Special

What Audiences Want

I know this has been a recurring theme in my work and writing. I asked the question more boldly when I was young. The Return of the Rhino Woman asked it directly, with me as performer refusing to come out of the dressing room until the audience declared their interest and commitment to the performance. I have been posing it differently since then, and more subtly, but I really do want to know this more, and better.

A result of wanting to know this has been me switching from writing about theatre I see, here, in my deeply personal and uncensored way, to writing about theatre in a more official review style for Weekend Special. My writing there has a much broader audience, especially since it isn’t only people who know me and my blog. I believe the WS readers are mostly Capetonians who want to find out about good theatre in the city, and productions who can use positive words and phrases for publicity. But is it? Are they?

I went to see The Cenotaph of Dan Wa Moriri on Monday night and wrote about it immediately when I got home. It was a most beautiful piece of theatre by an incredible performer. I loved everything about it. All I wanted was to do the piece justice and to make people want to see it. My review went live on Wednesday morning and I can see it has been read a fair number of times. But has it made a difference? Have people read my review and gone to see the show?

If you are reading this, and you read my review, did you go? Have you made a plan to see it? Please let me know.

Bianca does Lola

I don’t think I have ever written about a show twice before. Since starting to write for Weekend Special I have let my review style pieces live there officially and I have used meganshead to mouth off on other things. But, last night I went to see An Evening with Lola, a cabaret created and performed by my NBF, ninja and heroine, Bianca Flanders, and I felt inspired to write about it twice.

This isn’t going to be a ‘review’, but it is going to be an indulgence in the talents of my friend. And it is going to be an encouragement for Capetonians who read my blog to get their shit together to book and go this week, because that’s all there is (this time around). It’s at my favourite, The Alexander.

So Bianca and her director Iman Isaacs birthed the show because of their situation at the time – two talented but out of work actresses waiting for their next gig. To be fair, I think that neither of them had any idea how busy they would end up being. They have both squeezed this run between all their other amazing projects.

This show is such a delight because Bianca is absolutely everything a cabaret performer needs to be. She is a bombshell in her red catsuit and big hair (think Donna Summer), she is a true comic with exceptional timing, her voice is utterly amazing from kick ass belting it out, to sultry crooning, and she has the most delicious and intimate rapport with her audience, including the sap she warned she would pick on for the rest of the night. She reminded me of a young Eartha Kitt, and this made me very, very happy. I love Eartha Kitt.

But there is a subtle thing going on here with Lola, that had me thinking again this morning, and it is a real achievement. Bianca and Iman have been able to be subtly, slitheringly political, in a ‘it creeps up on you’ kind of way. It is the best kind of political. No slap in the face, no toy-toy’ing and flames. But a gentle, consistent reminder that certain things are certain ways and that it isn’t altogether kosher.

There are tons of in-house actor jokes, but the audience of non actors were collapsed in their seats from laughing, so I don’t think the jokes are exclusive. And Bianca’s throw-away lines get some of the biggest laughs.

Go and see the range of what this young dynamo is capable of.

 

NT Live, and theatrical thoughts

I hope you have noticed that I have been writing reviews for Weekend Special, Cape Town’s newest and most comprehensive online arts and lifestyle magazine, started and curated by Karen Rutter and Jane Mayne, two vital and veteran arts journos, contributors, editors and theatre and music lovers. It has been an honour writing for the website that has made an enormous impression on the arts in Cape Town since it started up in December.

I have written about plays, movies, series and even a restaurant, and it has been such fun. One of the best parts has been that I have gone to preview screenings of the NT Live productions. I was absolutely transformed by St Joan, and Hedda Gabler, was awe struck by Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, and have a few on my list that I am so excited about (tomorrow I will see Emelda Staunton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?).

What has been such an eye opener has been that even the famous, experienced and visionary theatre makers in the UK don’t always get it right. Last week I saw Obsession, directed by the amazing Ivo van Hove, with Jude Law, and it was truly horrible. It was agonisingly horrible. And without sounding like I am gloating, there is something so comforting in knowing that even the masters get it wrong.

Of course, the lesson is that we can all fail when trying to make theatre (or any art actually), but it is the trying that is so important. Here, at home the rules of engagement are so different, and so much of the theatre (and film) we make is terribly, boringly safe. Safety can be in what is expected of us, or it can be in having a proper, paying job, or it can be doing the same thing over and over again. Safety is low risk, low challenge, low stakes theatre, to get by. Low risk theatre is easy to make, needs short rehearsal times, and short cuts on everything including the massive commitment needed to make a show. And then, add meek critics to this; those that would rather not say if something is bad because they don’t want what tiny audience there is to stay away, and theatre is dead in the water. Nobody wants to see stuff that hardly blows air up your skirt.

Now, before everyone gets hysterical, I am totally generalising, because it is a miracle that so much great theatre IS made here, in spite of how ball achingly hard it is, and how we have none of the support, money, sponsorship, subsidy, history and culture of theatre attendance and theatre vocabulary that the UK has. I know. But there is something so extraordinary about a spectacular failure, as opposed to a whimper. And I just don’t see that here.

 

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