Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: June 2010 (Page 1 of 4)

More from Simon’s fest

Of course I’ve read through Simon’s day yesterday and although he is enthusiastic about 2 of the three things he saw, I am like, been there done that about all of it. From Fo to Fugard. How many times can the festival offer A Woman Alone? Every time an actress wants to do a one-woman piece without writing the thing: Bam! Out comes Fo. Eish. Same goes for Hello and Goodbye, my favourite yet over done Fugard. Yes Dorothy and Michael are brilliant; again! And just the word ‘revisit’ to describe “One Man’s Life” makes me yawn, even though I love Eric Nobbs. But hey, that’s why Simon’s there and I’m here; getting ready to go to Jozi and soccer on Friday night (omg!) and Beautiful Creatures on Saturday!

The Official word [extracts from] :  “The National Arts Festival has announced a 7% increase in ticket sales on June 28 – the halfway mark of the 15 Days of Amazing.   ……..  ticket sales for the first half of this year’s event ………. were showing a 7% growth on last year’s figures.   ……..…….. Lankester also said that a strong offering on the Fringe was shifting the focus of audience attention, with theatre and dance productions showing some growth at the expense of some of the comedy offerings. “The Fringe theatre programme this year is incredibly strong – with productions like London Road, Breed, Stilted, Decadence and Karoo Moose all finding their way into the Top 20 grossing productions so far – a list that was previously dominated by stand-up comedy acts,” he said.    On the Main programme, the Festival’s ballet and music offerings have proven to be the most popular. Other productions that have attracted strong audience and critical response include comedian Paul Zerdin, and theatre productions Man to Man, with Antoinette Kellerman, and Neil Coppen’s Tree Boy.

Right, back to the action on stage.   First was the second half of a double header performed by Nina Lucy Wylde.    I saw the first half, “THE HUMAN VOICE”,  last year.   It is an intense, evocative and emotional play about a phone call by a woman to an ex-lover – she is trying to hold it together and to convince her ex-lover that she believes that ending the relationship [by mutual consent it seemed] was the right thing to do when clearly she doesn’t really feel or believe that.  Lucy gave an enthralling performance giving full rein to the emotions of the character.    This year she has added the second half called “A WOMAN ALONE” by Dario Fo and Franca Rame, translated by Gillian Hanna and adapted by James Cairns.    This is what I saw yesterday and I was a little disappointed to be honest.   The play is about a woman trapped in a desperate marriage with an abusive husband, a serious lech for a brother in law and a whining child with a would be groper for a neighbour.   All of this combines to drive her to drastic action that is the play’s climax.   There is certainly meant to be a funny side to the thing but I missed the pent-up desperation that the woman must feel and which eventually wins out.   I don’t think that Lucy has challenged herself, or been challenged, to portray the emotions of the character.   She whizzes through the performance on the surface of the character playing it very lightly and superficially when there is so much more.  Lucy is a talented actress and she can, and should do this.  If she does, the production will grow enormously.

A return visit after a number of years to Eric Nobbs’, “ONE MAN’S LIFE”, written and directed by Deon Opperman.    Relating the story of how the character [unnamed] met and married the love of his life, the play goes off on several tangents in to other aspects of his life and boyhood/adolescence.  Humourous, poignant, gripping and well-performed, this [by now] classic was well worth another look.   The unexpected ending and the emotions that it stirs, gripped and silenced the audience yesterday.    The play underlined for me the gap that Opperman’s absence from a Festival such as Grahamstown leaves and conjured up those days when there were 3, 4 ,5 Opperman plays around.   It seems he doesn’t trust English language Festivals that much anymore – a pity.  But this one is definitely worth seeing.

Lastly 2 hours and 15 minutes [including interval] of Fugard’s “HELLO AND GOODBYE” with Dorothy Ann Gould and Michael Maxwell.    Wow and wow again.   If this production ever comes anywhere near you, go see it – don’t think about it, don’t ponder, go down to Computicket and buy a ticket or 5.   I drove home in a dwaal, blown away by a virtuoso performance.   It’s the best thing I have seen this year simply because of the class acts that are Ms Gould and Mr Maxwell and their pure brilliance on stage.

Today my family and friends are coming to “LONDON ROAD” en masse – I am nervous.   Why ?

Simon is still seeing things!

While I’ve been cooking and football watching Simon has been seeing plays!

Oh my aching head !!!!   My Festival life was invaded yesterday by a returning wife and stepson [from the UK], other family and friends – so naturally, as one does, we had a bit of a skop last night and my head aches this morning.

A quiet day [for me that is] yesterday – the Festival itself seemed just as busy as the weekend.   “LONDON ROAD” has a day off to give the girls a rest and I saw only 2 shows.   The first was “BREED” performed by the Ubom! Eastern Cape Drama Company featuring Andrew Buckland and Nox Donveli, directed by Brink Scholtz and written by Brink Scholtz in collaboration with the Cast. Telling the simple story of a group of squatters who take over an abandoned farmhouse, and the man who owns it who has his own demons and ghosts, it is  a humourous, humane and wonderfully performed play.   That some of the squatters and the farm owner have an intertwined history becomes apparent as the play goes on. For me personally it was great to see Andrew Buckland on the stage after quite a bit and to watch him weave his magic but he was definitely not alone on that stage and the other performers were really good. I suspect that quite a few of them will owe the development of their talent to Janet and Andrew Buckland.   A goodie for sure !!!

From one Buckland to another – fth:k’s “QUACK” with Daniel Buckland, Liezl de Kock, Lysander Barends and others.    Described as an “afro-gothic visual theatre experience”, it is one of the plays developed by fth:k which asks you to “listen with your eyes”. Performed with the whole cast in masks and with no dialogue, “QUACK” is a complex and, to me, difficult piece from the fascinating mind of Rob Murray who wrote it and directs it. I think, and I really mean that I am not sure, the piece traces the life, times and death of a demagogue – whether he is political, religious or other I don’t know. He has a following and he makes speeches which are acclaimed but in secret he inhabits an elevated laboratory / lair where he is attended by an old crone and other acolytes. The old crone is a bearer and keeper of the secrets and she knows where the bodies are buried – literally, she buries them !  He needs to draw blood / life essence / spirit  from his followers using a demonic pump and inject same into to him to survive and this sometimes kills the subject of the withdrawal.   Then he creates a follower in his lab and uses her to draw down what he needs. But she is a rebellious, lively, enquiring spirit and is eventually his downfall.  When she commits suicide and he threatens another follower, the old crone and another who loves that follower conspire to deny him the medical treatment he needs and so he is overthrown. Actually it perhaps even more complex than that but I am going on a bit really to try and re-assure myself that I have got some kind of handle on the plot.   In my view this is probably the least accessible of the 3 current fth:k offerings  – to what I would regard as an average audience that is. It is very well performed by the cast, and the set and the fx [both sound and special] are fantastic.    I hope I have got it right !!!!  [To Zane – this is as far as I have got !!!!]

And so to day 10 of the 2010 Festival – bring it on.

Salmon, beetroot daze

I’m an ok cook; I do some things better than others. I make a great lemon tart (no cooking involved), good biscuits, great soups (just like my dad used to) and the rest is hit or miss. But today I was starving for proper healthy stuff and, even if I say so myself, I cooked up two winners. Here are the recipes.

Salmon Trout on Green Beans

Steam up some green beans, but keep them crunchy. Cut salmon into big, bite size chunks and rub with olive oil on both sides. Then make a sauce with soya sauce, lemon juice, sliced fresh ginger, sliced fresh red chillies, a teeny blob of honey, salt and pepper. Make a non-stick pan very, very hot and sear off the fish, skin side down for 15 seconds and then flip for about 5 secs. Take the pan off the heat and throw the sauce over the fish. Then leave it to bubble while you plate up the beans and then put the chunks of fish on top. Amazing.

Roast Beetroot Salad

Supper was roast beetroot salad and it was delish. Top and tail (and halve and quarter the big ones) a bag of raw beetroot. Smash up some coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dried red chillies, salt and pepper in a pestle and mortar. Toss in with your beetroot and about a tablespoon of olive oil and a squirt of balsamic vinegar. Add a sprig of rosemary and some fresh oregano and throw onto a baking tray. Bung in the oven for about half an hour at 180 degrees. Done. When they’re cool, toss green leaves, I love Woolies Italian salad mix, some feta and left over green beans and the beetroot together. Then drizzle with a teeny drop of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Unbelievable. And healthy.

More Simon Says

I am amazed at how much Afrikaans stuff is on at the fest this year. And of course how many replays there are. Here’s Simon’s yesterday. You go, Simon!

So the weekend is over and it seems that numbers will shrink a little as the weekend festinos return home. Yesterday was cold and wet to start with and cold and clear to finish with – the Poms got thumped by the old enemy and that did penetrate the Festival.    Confirmation from house guests that the craft markets are same old, same old – “even the food stalls are in exactly the same places”.  It will be interesting to see what the traders say at the end regarding turnover figures.

Started the day with Danie Matthee’s “VRY” – not a good start.   It’s been done before and it’s been done better and quite why an Afrikaans boytjie is telling a story in Afrikaans about a Polish Jew caught up in the whole Nazi thing and how a priest [Christian nogal] is his salvation, I don’t quite get.   But it’s not the subject matter or the religious angle / preaching that the piece contains that worries me, but that it is badly performed and too long and oh so overdone.  Nuff said.

Moving on – to Lara Foot’s “KAROO MOOSE”, choreographed by Mdu Kweyama, written by Lara Foot and with music composed Bongile Montsai.     Stunningly strong performances from the 6 strong cast featuring Chuma Sopotela, Mdu Kweyama and Thami Mbongo and visual images on which to feast.       Following the story of happenings in a far away almost forgotten Karoo village and of two families in the village, the performance produced a well earned standing ovation from a very nearly full house.   The music and the movement are brilliantly executed and add to the telling of the story and indeed play an integral part in it.   I know this one has been around for a bit [and no doubt Megan has reviewed it !!!] but if it comes back to a theatre near you and you haven’t seen it, go !!   Oh and Brian Habana liked it as well.

Then to the beautiful Rhodes Chapel and Jeremy Quickfall’s “MY GRAND [SE MA] PIANO”.  For a long time I have been fascinated by a phenomenon in the cricketing world.   You know how a young player who does exceptionally well in first class cricket in South Africa is then promoted to the national side and he just doesn’t make the grade however much the selectors persevere with him.  He just cannot make the step up.   I guess that happens in all areas of sporting endeavour and now I think it happens in the world entertainment as well.   Mr Quickfall’s pedigree and achievements [and oh yes he told about every one of them] suggest that he can take a step up to big time entertainer – sorry, no.  He plays the piano very well and maybe he should stick to that and stop prancing around the stage.   But to say that most of his audience feels the same would be a bare faced lie – my mate did suggest that people got to their feet at the end because they wanted to escape and because the pews in the Rhodes Chapel are excruciatingly uncomfortable, but I think he was being unkind.   Some people, a lot of the audience, clearly enjoyed the show.   Not me though.

Finally “NORMALITY” with Pedro Kruger, directed by Hennie van Greunen – “the 2009 Edinburgh Festival hit!” about the life and times of a crippled man [crippled progressively since he was 3 years old].    Not shying away from any aspect of being crippled the play through its story and its music, looks at what it is like to be seriously physically disabled – some times funny, other times heart breaking but ultimately, through the love of a good woman, a story of hope and redemption and a coming to terms with the disability.   Pedro Kruger, who I knew previously only from “Liriekerrai” on TV, surprised with the depth of his performance  and his understanding of the character.    Well directed and presented on stage, this was a really good ending to the day.   Partial standing ovation.

Simon’s Busy Day

Simon was at it again yesterday. Interesting for me is how many of the  pieces he talks about I have already seen and reviewed. I’m just saying!

Saturday June 26 – day 7 of the Festival.     Nearly halfway there.    Grahamstown is much much fuller – parking is a problem now and the informal parking attendants scurry around squashing potential tips into every conceivable space.    The queues outside shows are longer.  Haven’t been to the markets yet or heard how the traders are doing – in fact the only comment I have heard is the age old complaint that there is nothing much new to be had at the markets – same old, same old.   The soccer World Cup is muted – the bars and cafes have soccer on the screens although one I frequented yesterday remained faithful to the rugby players and was showing the SA v Italy match in East London.   Flags on cars abound but vuvuzelas are not that strident.    But the talk at the venues is about theatre and not sport.

“LONDON ROAD” is flying – the last 2 days have been effectively sold out by the time the doors close and man are people talking about it.   Standing ovations and words like “amazing”, “extraordinary” and “exceptional” are the words used by people coming out of the shows.   Robyn, Ntombi and Lara have done an incredible job with this show – they rock and “LONDON ROAD” rules OK !!!!

5 shows yesterday, starting with an old friend, Gaetan Schmid’s “RUMPSTEAK” – one of our party had never seen it so the rest of us re-visited it.    Gaetan was on top of his game and it was tremendous.   In case there is someone out there who hasn’t seen this show, it depicts the behind the scenes happenings at a French restaurant using something like 800 sound cues and few words from Gaetan.   James Webb, the sound designer, has strung together an incredible array of sounds and it is up to Gaetan, performing on a 1m square area, to time his performance to the cues.    Good audience numbers and a fantastic reception.   Chrissie who had not seen the show was captivated.

I followed this by doing an interview on Algoa FM and then saw “DECADENCE” with Scott Sparrow and Emily Child directed by Chris Weare.    Raunchy, raw, a little shocking but great theatre.   Depicting the lives of 2 couples, one very upper class and rich and corrupt and, well, decadent – not married but having an affair – and the other lower middle class – the woman being married to the upper class gent and wanting to shaft him good and proper for deserting her but at the same time conducting an affair with the “private dick” [innuendo!!] she has hired to get the goods on her husband and well, actually, get rid of him.    They too are not above behaving badly.   Spoken for most of time in rhyming couplets, the pace is “Usain Bolt” fast and never flags.   If you are squeamish about language then stay at home and order a pizza but if not try and see this one.    The after theatre dining scene and the hunting scene are worth looking out for, the latter being laden with sexual tension as Emily rides the horse that is Scott in pursuit of the fox.

Then on to “BOSMAN’S VELD MAIDEN” with Barbie Meyer.   As far as I know, Barbie is the only woman who has taken Herman Charles on.    I saw a show of hers about 2 years ago and that was pure Bosman retold in Barbie’s style.    She had a following then and on the evidence of last evening, she still has.    I felt that this show was not as good as the last one I saw and I fear that at least 2 of the stories told are not stories written by Bosman but maybe based on articles he wrote.    I didn’t enjoy this show as much as the last one but I am in a minority that’s for sure.

Down to the Library Hall to share James Cairns’ latest offering “DIRT” with a packed audience.   Cue wrote the other day something like “Cairns is so good at what he does that it is ridiculous”.    Yes !!!!  Written by Nick Warren and directed Jenine Collocott, “DIRT” on the face of it traces the journey of 3 friends to Cape Town for the funeral of a fourth.   Their aspirations, problems and faults are laid bare by Cairns in what is a tour de force of a performance.    Cairns plays about 7 or 8 characters, the guys who are on the trip, and those they meet on the way.   Oh, and Tom the dog – his is an important part [serious].   Its funny, it’s clever and it allows one of South Africa’s leading exponents of the thespian art to strut his stuff.   James’s lady was at the show last night and she commented to me beforehand “its good” – she was wrong, it’s more than good.   If this one comes anywhere near you, kill to get a tickets [and you might have to].

And so with weary legs and tired feet, we repaired back to the Princess Alice to see “I CLAUDIA” with Susan Danford directed by Lara Bye.    Chronicling a period in the life of pre-teen coping with changes in her and her parent’s divorce and using masks and slick costume changes to great effect, “I CLAUDIA” is another tremendous piece of theatre.    The 4 characters who inhabit the play are all slightly unusual but Danford switches effortlessly between Claudia [a 13 year old girl], a caretaker at her school from Bolgonia [where ??], Claudia’s grandfather and the ghastly step-mother to be, Leslie.   Rightly acclaimed by the audience last night, Susan Danford ranks up there with the best and “I CLAUDIA” reflects that.

So a good day.  We are now at that stage where you shake the rest of your Festival programme and see what falls out and replace that with what the street tells you to see.    That’s the first job today, Sunday.

Not a bad daily pickings Simon!

More from the East

Simon is still seeing things in G’town. Here’s his latest offering. I missed High Diving when I was last at the fest. And I saw Antoinette’s pic in the Booking Book. She looked amazing. Those are two shows I would have loved to see. Also, David Mamet could be one of my ‘gods of theatre’ so it looks like Simon chose really well.

Friday June 25 – back to the Festival after a “day off” on Thursday.   And man oh man, what a day !!!    Lots more people around – good – and “LONDON ROAD” posted sold out signs for the first time plus I saw 3 excellent productions.

Starting with Antoinette Kellerman’s “MAN TO MAN”, directed by Marthinus Basson – dealing with the life of a woman, who to survive in the time of the Weimar Republic takes over her dead husband’s identity [and gender] and who lives the rest of a life as a man, the play is powerful, complex, moving and brilliantly performed – again mention of Braam du Toit’s sound must be made as it complements and highlights the story.   A packed Rhodes Theatre was held enthralled for 90 minutes as Ms Kellerman held them in her considerable thespian grasp – her accent never slipped, her mastery of the text and the set and how she used them both was extraordinary.    Wow.

Then on to PJ’s to meet up with one of my best friends, Mike, and his fiancée, Chrissie, who had just arrived – first up for them and next for me was “BOSTON MARRIAGE” – a David Mamet play featuring Claire Mortimer, Janna Ramos Violante and Belinda Henwood.   So called from a term coined after Henry James’s novel Boston Marriage denoting a relationship between two females that may involve both physical and emotional intimacy”, the play deals with 2 women who in such a relationship and the troubles that come their way when the younger one falls in love with a [never seen] young girl who happens to be the daughter of the older woman’s “sugar daddy”  – as you can see a Boston marriage is not an exclusive relationship, it seems.   “BOSTON MARRIAGE” is very funny [actually witty might be a better word] and moves at a pace that exhausts even the audience.   The one liners are brilliant and all 3 performers are outstanding.

Last on the agenda was “HIGH DIVING” featuring the incomparable James Cairns in about 6 roles, Toni Morkel, Deborah Da Cruz and Roberto Pombo.  Jenine Collocott wrote and directs the play.     Following the lives of two young people making their way in modern day Johannesburg, the play is about hopes and ambitions, sometimes shattered sometimes not, about opportunities lost and taken and about learning lessons.   But lest you think that it all sounds very serious, it is also very funny and James Cairns and Toni Morkel [also in a variety of guises] excel.   Janni Younge’s silhouette puppets and the original music composed by Andrew Ord with lyrics by Nick Warren and performed by Andrew Ord and Roberto Pombo all add considerably to another great Festival show.

I, on the other hand, am enjoying the theatre desert that Cape Town is, while G’town happens.

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