Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

The Girl in the Yellow Dress

Simon saw this in G’town and absolutely loved it. I went last night, remembering that I will probably get a chance to see most of what was on at the festival right here in Cape Town, if I haven’t seen it already! It is on at The Baxter, @The Flipside, where the main stage is turned around, with the audience on stage too, creating another small (and freezing) venue. The Girl in the Yellow Dress is written by Craig Higginson, directed by Malcolm Purkey, and is a collaboration between the Market Theatre in Johannesburg and two UK theatres. It is a two-hander performed by British actress Marianne Oldham and South African Nat Ramabulana.

Seeing this play was the first in a bit of a theatre drought for me and I was really desperate to enjoy it. My first impressions of the set were, ok, we’re going to watch a proper play now, and that’s exactly what it was; a five scene play, with blackouts denoting the passing of time chronologically, in a very realistic style. The story is about a young, beautiful girl in Paris who develops a relationship with a young black man to whom she is teaching English. It’s got a bit of sex, psychology, identity, racial issues, and it’s all tied up with the bits and pieces of English grammar; all that ‘past participle’ stuff.

There is no doubt that the two performers are super talented and gorgeous. The story is very clear as the two get to know each other better; with not much left to the imagination. I guess the whole point is that we know that they are lying from the outset but this makes the revealing of the information less of a surprise and more of a ‘get on with it’. I found it all rather pedestrian.

I loved the blackout music and slides. I loved some of the witty lines although most of the “English’ stuff was too dense and sailed over this audience’s head.

I was irritated with the costume and set changes, particularly the last one, where in the dark the plastic to cover the furniture was so loud! I found the flowers trite and predictable. I hated that Pierre had to perform his dramatic stuff standing on bits of torn paper as if it wasn’t there. Truth is, I was bored; my worst thing to be in a play.

When it was done I tried to remember a play that I had liked and I thought immediately of …miskien. Also about a relationship, lies, revealing the truth and the complications it brings, I found the execution of it so much more satisfying. Style, lights, set, direction, music, performances, nuances, the extended moments, all worked better for me to create a heightened sense of theatre. The Girl in the Yellow Dress had moments of drama school cheese about it; that feeling of a director/lecturer getting his students to ‘reveal’, to ‘open up’, to ‘go to that place’.

It comes with massive credentials. It was a hit of G’town and it is off to the Edinburgh fest, England and then Stockholm. But if this is one of the best of the fest, I guess I wouldn’t have had too fantastic a time.

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2 Comments

  1. Simon Cooper

    “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it ” – Voltaire.
    This writer has more respect for Megan and Megan’s views than she knows [and I love her as well] but I despair for the theatre desert she is going through, seemingly, right now, and no more is this illustrated in my respectful view than by her reaction to “The Girl in the Yellow Dress”. For this piece to evoke a reaction such as is set out above, eina eina eina !!!!

    This is what a reviewer in Cue wrote –
    “The opening moments of The Girl in the Yellow Dress reveal a stage that is simple and stark, save for a bowl of yellow flowers. By the time the lights dim at the end of the show the flowers have been replaced by the yellow dress the title of the piece promises, but everything else has changed.

    In contrast to the starkness of the space, the audience has witnessed a piece of theatre with the delicacy and power of a single violin string holding a sustained, and yet deeply resonant note. A simple story, it has you holding your breath to avoid missing the next moment.

    The story is set in an apartment in Paris, where French-Congolese student Pierre arrives to request private English lessons with Englishwoman Celia. Their relationship becomes increasingly entangled, with twists and turns of truth and untruth in which each reveals more than they had intended.

    The increasing intimacy and complexity of the relationship acts as catalyst for ebbs and flows of desire, passion, conflict and loathing that are exquisitely written, performed and directed.

    Following the dialogue becomes a little like listening to the interplay of notes in a piece of music. Each moment is crafted to hold the listener in a state of heightened awareness of the significance of the present, while simultaneously recognising the dense weaving of what has gone before and what is to come. Celia’s pedantic use of grammatical logic in teaching language provides a delightful and sometimes funny sense of this dense musicality and structure, something Pierre gradually appropriates and uses at Celia’s expense as their relationship unfolds.

    Marianne Oldham (Celia) and Nat Ramabulana’s (Pierre) performances are a joy to watch. The layers and overtones of meaning in their verbal sparring are beautifully realised, without being overbearing. Both actors bring a sense of their dialogue being something of a duet, in which the balance and counterpoint of the writing is beautifully realised. It is a brave duet, during which muted and playful repartee translates into a brutal sparring about victimhood and suffering that goes to places most of us would rather avoid.

    Pierre describes at one point in the play how an axe might only strike one tree but the echo of that act touches us all. This is a production that will satisfy and stay with audience members long after the lights have dimmed as the echoes of wisdom, humour and insight carry far into the night.”

    Be all that as it may, Megan has an absolute right to hold whatever views she does and I, for one, do not doubt her sincerity – it just frightens me a litlle. With love, light and respect, Simon

  2. megan

    I guess if we are going to do points of view here it’s worthwhile looking at Marianne Thamm’s too, from the Sunday Times. http://www.timeslive.co.za/sundaytimes/article543469.ece/Swept-away-by-a-torrent-of-words

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