Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: August 2010 (Page 2 of 3)

between you & me

Tara Louise Notcutt is the second recipient of the Emerging Director’s Bursary, given out by The Theatre Arts Admin Collective, The Baxter Theatre and GIPCA (yow that’s a lot to get right!). It’s a great initiative, giving resources, space, salaries and budgets to a young director and cast to mount a production. So, last night was the first performance of a short run of her play between you & me at the Methodist Church in Obz.

I am a huge Tara fan after …miskien became one of my favourite plays of last year and maybe even ever. Tara won her Fleur du Cap award because of it. So I was very excited to see between you & me.

It is the simple story of girl meets boy, pretty young love, getting comfortable, losing each other, and splitting up, performed by Jaco Nothnagel and Tarn de Villiers. It is told in bits and pieces of conversation, dance, movement and monologue.

My first teeny problem is a personal one. The audience was split, with half on one side of the hall and the other facing them. It is really hard for me not to watch the faces on the other side and I find it the most distracting way to watch stuff. The set is lovely, with its centrepiece of a huge old church table around, under and on top of which all the action takes place. I loved the weird upsidedown lino with dictionary pages stuck to it, and the strange canopy from which errant petals escaped.

The play, and performances, left me with constantly mixed, constantly up and down feelings. The story itself is very much one we have seen before. In fact Amy Jeftha, the first recipient of the award, directed a play she had written called Interiors at the beginning of the year which felt very, very similar. But that’s ok, it means we all have something to relate to; the ups and downs of the journey of a relationship. It’s just here the characters are just not specific enough. They are so average I guess, which makes it hard for me to care much for them. They don’t really seem to have ‘characters’. There are beautifully crafted moments of dialogue, beautiful moments of extended movement, beautiful positions created across the huge space of the table and even beautiful silences; it’s just that they aren’t all strung together and  there is not beautiful stuff in between. Mainly the dancing, which I just don’t get. For me, singing and dancing must be done by singers and dancers, and I could get myself into big trouble here by saying that these two aren’t like professional dancers.

Both Jaco and Tarn have stuff that they do brilliantly. Jaco is particularly connected when he is looking for his English translations, and then his naturalism is spot on. Tarn has a super-intense gaze, and her little moments of irritation, hurt and sarcasm are excellent. My sense is that they need to bring more to the table (‘scuse the pathetic pun-like reference) from a character point of view. And here is another hard thing; sexual tension and magic. I saw them try. Really hard. But there isn’t much of that going on between these two and the audience is so close. I don’t know how to solve that one; it really requires a special kind of magic to believe in the relationship.

Other things I had mixed feelings about. I loved the soundtrack but not the sound system. I found Tarn’s costume the costume from hell; totally cute and sexy, and constantly terrifying because it looked like it was going to reveal her, or break.

There is no doubt that Tara is a going places young director and that this is a wonderful opportunity for her to explore her craft. Now Tara, you need to take it a step further and work on somebody else’s script or concept. You need the freedom to make bold, unselfconscious choices with other people’s ideas and words. I really look forward to more of your stuff, even though I didn’t absolutely love this one.

Long Street Delight

I have just finished reading Banquet at Brabazan by Patricia Schonstein and it has left me feeling really strange, and delighted and uncomfortable and sad and oddly uplifted.

Banquet at Brabazan could not be more Cape Town. It is set in and around Long Street and the City Bowl, but also touches on the suburbs and townships of Cape Town. It is another weird mix of fantasy and reality, images and characters from her previous book A Time of Angels.

Obvious references to existing people like Graham Weir and Not The Midnight Mass, or Pieter Toerien and Pretty Yende, to name a few, as well as actual buildings, streets and places, are interweaved with imagined characters, places and spaces and it’s strange and confusing and delicious and unsettling. It is also underscored with a weird nostalgia, abundance, and Italian decadence too odd to explain properly.

The characters are beautiful, and strange and awkwardly special. There is an angel who lives at the YMCA. There is the real dwarf who often stands at the robot in front of the Engen in Orange Street, only here he has an imagined wife and life. There is a cross dressing Jewish business man who has the most beautiful affair with his secretary. There is the Long Street we know, and the one we kind of know, or at least suspect, and the magical Long Street we wish we got more glimpses of, and the Long Street we fantasise about.

There is the disturbing reality of child trafficking and muti murders, of drugs and xenophobia, of the Angolan war, of Mozambican horrors. There is politics, and poverty and nasty human stuff. There are beautiful costumes, romantic paintings, beautiful light and music.

It is a really, really strange and totally haunting read. I want to be in the movie.

Super Trouper

What an absolute treat. Last night Big Friendly, my boet and I went to the huge opening of Mamma Mia! at Artscape. Now, I secretly watched (and loved) the movie on DVD, in spite of the fact that I a) hate musical movies b) don’t love ABBA, and c) think it’s all terribly silly.

With this live, local production though, there has been huge anticipation because my sister-in-law Gina Shmukler (boast boast boast boast) is the lead, Donna Sheridan. It was a bit of a problem for me actually, because every time Donna appeared on stage I started to cry, Big Friendly would squeeze my hand (normally in time to the music because he was just loving it), then Donna would start to sing and the tears would stream down my face, and then, in the second half, when Donna gets all emotional I wept my heart out, having to let go of Big Friendly’s hand to smear my face with my sleeve. Now I wasn’t crying because I know Gina, I was crying because she is so totally brilliant. Her performance is amazing. She gives the character of Donna amazing depth, she has a huge emotional range, and mostly, I have rarely seen anyone else radiate their performance out to a huge audience so strongly. And then there is her unbelievable voice. What a powerhouse of a voice.

The show is worth watching just for Gina’s performance, and she is definitely the anchor here, but almost everybody else is totally brilliant. Firstly, Carmen Pretorius, who plays Sophie Sheridan, Donna’s daughter, has the really tough job of playing the young female straight lead. These are the parts where you have to be pretty. Yet she adds so much more to the role by being sexy, feisty, and also very present. She grows on you. And the girl can sing her heart out.

Next up are the dream team of Kate Normington and Ilse Klink as Donna’s old friends, Tanya and Rosie. Who could ask for anything more? They are so, so, so good. They are delicious, outrageous, funny, super sexy and warm. And they too have kick ass voices. In fact, it must be said that I can’t believe how brilliantly everybody sings, because ABBA is so hard to do, and the audience know every single word.

I loved the possible dads, Harry, played by Neels Claasen who was warm and funny, Bill, by Murray Todd who, let’s face it, is an absolute scene stealer, he is that good, and Sam, by Anrich Herbst whose earnestness was too cute. Actually, I can’t write about them without making special mention of Murray Todd’s dancing, which is one of my fave moments in the show.

I loved everybody in the ensemble, who I thought were focused, fabbalous, great dancers, and a great team. I want to make a special mention of Stephen Jubber, who plays Sky, the young boyfriend. What a transformation. He has grown into a relaxed and natural performer (if you ever get past his six-pack). It feels like he has taken every moment of stage time to learn and get experience, and he is lovely. Bravo.

So, the performers absolutely make the show, but they are supported by an unbelievable team. Everything about this production meets the highest standards. The band is excellent. The sound and lights are amazing, the set is brilliant, and the costumes are just my best. This is the exact kind of show that everyone will love, and feel like they are getting their money’s worth.

One of the hard things about an international production with a local cast is that there is a blueprint of how everything must be done, to the last stitch of costuming. What is so fab about this production is that it allows the cast to make it their own, with natural South African accents and small references that make it local. It is a production that brings out the best in local talent, and proves beyond any doubt that South Africans are up there with the best in the world!

Now I have to see if I can shmugel to get tickets to see it again!

PS. I must warn you about the earworm. I cannot get Supe pipper troup pipper out of my head. Eish!

The Sitting Man, even better twice

I very rarely see anyone else’s work other than my own more than once, but I really wanted to take my brother to see James Cairns’ The Sitting Man, and so Big Friendly and I took him last night. I was so happy that the Kalk Bay Theatre was almost full. It was great to see folk at the theatre on a Saturday night.

Seeing The Sitting Man again, ten days after the first time, was a treat. James was obviously much more relaxed than he had been on opening night. I picked up a few things he had added, and one or two that he had left out. I was also sitting in a different place, which gives a whole different sense. The show was as engaging, as rewarding and, in places, more funny and moving this time. My brother was transfixed. He sees a lot of theatre and is very perceptive and insightful. He also lives and loves in Jozi, so those Jhb characters were deeply resonant and accurate for him. He was propelled to his feet at the end, and spoke about how brilliant James was all the way home.

There is a week of The Sitting Man left and then James’s new show Dirt opens. I can’t wait.


I have been writing other stuff so my poor blog has been a bit neglected. It’s funny how inspiration in one area can mean that there is a lack in another.

Doing lots of writing makes me very, very grammar sensitive. Now, I am the first one to enjoy Peter de Villiers and his hilarious manglings of the English language. I particularly loved the statement about the player who was “playing outside of his boots”. I find most English second language speakers come up with absolutely magnificent direct translation gems, and I love Chinese writing translations into English. Last night we ate rice noodles that needed to ‘return to fresh noodle in tab water’.

It’s when English journalists and presenters manage to mafferate English to within an inch of its life that I get a bit hysterical. Yesterday, while I was ‘returning the noodles in tab water’, the TV was on and Chantal Rutter from Carte Blanche medical spoke glibly about something that would “wreck havoc” with something else, that I thought I would have a small near fatal brain embolism. Wreck havoc? Please explain to me what that means? As far as I understand it, it means that havoc itself would be destroyed, which is a good thing, is it not? But Chantal was confident. Surely the programme editors or producers would have picked it up? It’s not even English! It’s a whole new one to add to the list of misused sayings or words that make me ‘gek’.

Another favourite embolism inducing mistake is chomping at the bit instead of champing at the bit. Because of its ubiquitous misuse, “chomping” has actually become less wrong, and more acceptable. How do you like dem eggs? Damp squid instead of damp squib is another one. Irregardless is another. And quite unique. And I haven’t even done commas and apostrophes!

Confession of a CDWM addict

Come Dine With Me on BBC Lifestyle. I am completely hooked. It is hilarious, embarrassing, fly-on-the-wall reality TV that has captured me. In every show four strangers hold dinner parties for each other and score each other’s attempts in a competition for a money prize. It’s often the most unlikely combinations of people who get bitchy, lovey dovey, rude, pompous, sycophantic, and completely ridiculous, particularly in their own kitchens. I love seeing their menus and what they try to prepare. I love seeing their houses. I love noticing their class, manners, and how drunk they get; by the time they have to score they are often beyond able to speak! The best part is the guy who does the voice overs; he is ridiculous and brilliant. So, don’t phone me on weekdays at 1830, I’ll be watching Come Dine With Me.

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