Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Theatre questions

It’s entirely possible that this post is going to be a bit of a pointless ramble, but I want to try and put down the feelings that the last two plays I have seen have generated in me. At the outset I think that it is important that I say that both plays did not generate enough of a reaction from me to write about them individually. I just didn’t want to. I didn’t have the enthusiasm. And that’s precisely what these plays lacked too.

Both plays are new works written by very young, talented women writers. Both plays were incredibly well presented; care, time, thought, money even were spent on putting them together. The casts of both were really talented; the best that Cape Town has to offer. In the last one there was a brilliant set, lighting, backdrop and even miked up table. So everything was there for them to be really good, but they were just so … random.

Both plays had characters you cared little or nothing about. Both plays had scenarios that were mundane, average, and largely uneventful. Both of them left their characters and audience totally unchanged and unmoved. Both of them had nothing to say.

Now, I accept that I come from a totally different generation of theatre makers where issues were everything, and messages were vital. Theatre was the best (and sometimes the only) way you could communicate thoughts, feelings, points of view. Theatre challenged. Theatre tried to change minds and hearts. Theatre was the magical place of transformation.

Of course these plays are a reflection of the times. No doubt young people are putting their apathy, lack of direction, frustration and dysfunction on stage. It’s obvious that this is what they are feeling. These are their pre-occupations. Relationships are messy and uncomfortable but unresolved. Love is boring. Politics are dreary and irrelevant. Families are irritating, insular and uninspired. There is the sense that individuals are powerless and useless against the tide of arbitrary violence, law breaking, corruption and lack of effective governance. The response to all this is a mild throwing up of hands. A muted ‘I don’t know’. And the biggest problem with all of this is that it is (for me) agonising to watch on stage.

I overheard somebody say how excited they were to be at the theatre on the opening night of the first play. I also love that feeling, when I’m sitting in my seat and the lights go down, before anything happens, and the infinite possibility of magic exists. I love being taken somewhere, I love the feeling of being changed by what happens on stage. I love being drawn in by real, live performance. It moves me.

But here these stories, these preoccupations, these characters…. It feels so pointless. And it makes me unenthusiastic, uninspired and disillusioned. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s exactly how I should feel. But, what would be the point of that?

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4 Comments

  1. The soup was great though!

  2. Simon Cooper

    Yes, I sometimes feel like this too but is any of this born out of the fact that Megan and I both lived vibrantly thru the great protest theatre time when stages hummed with thinly disguised or not disguised at all digs at the National Party Govt and life was exciting because collectively we stuck 2 fingers in the air ? And perhaps now the issues that, at least, a section of theatre deals with [HIV/Aids, child rape, violence, spousal abuse, abuse of children and the like] are things that we prefer not to deal with while for some sections of the greater SAfrican community they are real life issues. How would we feel if playwrights started to deal profusely with the waste of tax money and other corruptions, on the failure of local authorities to deliver service [try Ndlambe Municipality in the ECape if you want a taste !!!], the inability to feel safe on some parts of the public transport system and other things that clap us directly. John Kani [I think] wrote a play called “Nothing but the Truth” which documented, amongst other things, the feelings of betrayal that a black, formally unqualified but very effcient librarian has when, having been trained and “promoted” unofficially by a whitre lady in the apartheid years is passed over by the new ANC Govt in favour if a cadre from the struggle – ignoring the fact that the librarian had been a loyal supporter of the ANC all along. The play also dealt with other aspects of the life of the main character but this theme was, I thought, the central one. This seemed to strike a note amongst a lot of theatre goers but I did wonder whether it did so for no reason other than a well known black playwright said “fuck you” to an ANC Govt ? I don’t know – I’m confused.

  3. Leftfield

    While I can understand wanting a visceral engagement with political issues on stage, Simon, I think Megan is yearning for something broader than that. Going by her reactions to various plays in the past what she is wanting (correct me if I’m wrong) is a story that wrestles with ideas – whether these are political, moral or existential. The kind of theatre we’re seeing coming out (from across the board of Cape Town writers – young and old) isn’t very interesting right now, political or not. There are exceptions, rare pieces that fully explore a theme, so I must be careful of speaking too generally.

  4. megan

    Hey Leftfield, I think you are mostly right, but, there is something else, and I’m not sure it isn’t totally generation related. I need to see what the point is. I, Claudia is a great example of what can be completely satisfying. It is a tiny story; an unveiling of the bits and pieces in a young person’s life, but it has some kind of meaning. It has resonance. It has resolution. Not of the happy, jolly, ever after kind, but it has some kind of purpose, some kind of point. And Leftfield, I miss your blog btw.

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