Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: October 2010 (Page 2 of 3)

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?

Inspiration and admiration

A chance meeting with a talented Cape Town actor at my fave Gardens Centre has filled me with inspiration, admiration and maximum respect. I don’t know if he would want me to name him here (I’ll wait to see if he gives me that permission) so we’ll call him Actor. He was looking gorgeous; sparkling, clean shaven, and full of beans and I asked him what he was up to. He told me that tomorrow he would be graduating from Butler school. He has been in intensive training for eight weeks. I found this totally extraordinary.

Most actors are totally ego driven and pre-occupied; it goes with the territory. Puppeteers experience things very differently because they have to forget about themselves and invest everything in their inanimate creation, giving it life. Improvisers also have to let go of their ego and agendas because they have to work with each other. But being a butler is the ultimate in service and ego free work. Everything you do is for someone else. And I can’t imagine what an unbelievable experience it must be to do that.

I think Actor has made a brave, humbling, interesting choice. But more importantly, he has gotten off his bum, put big money where other normal out-of-work actor moaning would be, and he has embarked on another really interesting work-creating journey. Of course, the director in me is already thinking of the one-man play this experience could spawn. And I can’t wait.

A christmas surprise

I am bursting with excitement. Listen to this. I am even going to write it as a story.

Four weeks ago five actors and a director got together to start rehearsals for an industrial theatre roadshow. From the first moment everybody realised that it was a magical combination of people whose collective energy was greater than the individual parts. Everybody really enjoyed each other and delighted in each other’s performances. Rehearsals were fun and easy. Characters and moments sparked and developed. And the director had one of those totally crazy ideas! She thought, “What if this group of people were available and interested in working together more? What if all of them wanted to put on a show at the end of the year, and, once the industrial theatre show was up and running, would be willing to rehearse this show?” She exploded these ideas onto the cast who couldn’t believe what a fantastic idea it was. And her brain started working overtime. Where? How? What? Who? She had a ‘do I dare try this?’ moment, before phoning her favourite theatre owner and one of her bfs to bounce the idea off and on him. And then, the universe played with. In a schedule of shows, a gap opened up, starting on the 4th of December and ending on New Year’s Eve. Could you believe it?

So, on Monday morning this group of theatricals will get together again and start making a show. Loudly. And with energy. And everybody who is in Cape Town will be able to come and see it. At The Kalk Bay Theatre. A dream coming true!

Edit: It gets better! The fabulous choreographer Fiona du Plooy has offered to whip the dance moves in and out of the cast. Just like the Castle lite ad. How sexy and hip?

Super Talented friends

It goes with working in the industry; I have amazing and talented friends. Trevor du Buisson happens to be one of them. He is a superb musician who I have had the privilege of working and playing with for over 15 years. He is a brilliant composer, fabulous performer, amazing accompanist, backing track maker, in fact, he can do most things musical. Most recently he made a brilliant and hilarious backing track for my latest industrial theatre show.

He has also entered a submission into a competition on indaba music where he remixed a track. I have listened to it and voted, because I think he has done a great job. And now, here is my experiment. I want meganshead readers to check it out and vote for him. It isn’t complicated. Go to the link.  Vote for Trev. Make me happy.

Adverse tising

I love a cheeky ad campaign. I love Nando’s advertising because it’s hilarious, even though I am very opposed to the eating of chicken. I love the ad for HIV treatment that goes in reverse. I still snigger at the Savanna ads. And then, there are the ads and campaigns that are real bombs. Cell C’s latest with Trevor Noah is one of my pet hates; dof, patronising and negative. Ads that try and sell lifestyle are also a no no, as well as ads that are prophecies of doom, like life insurance and hospital plans.

Today I had to go to Kanala Walk to get a spare set of chairs for my industrial theatre job and I was disgusted by an American Swiss billboard alongside the highway. It read, The recession is so last year. Please can somebody explain how that is going to induce people to spend money on jewellery? How thoughtless. How totally inappropriate and off the mark for their target market. I seriously hope that this trend towards negative, put down, bitchy adverts backfires and they go back to the feel good, funny and positive.

Delight

Today we have our last rehearsal in the rehearsal space. Our little industrial theatre piece is looking good. Some friends and family have been invited to our final dress rehearsal at 2pm so they can see what we’ve been up to for the past few weeks. This cast of five (Ntombi Makhutshi, Anele Situlweni, Larissa Hughes, Keeno-Lee Hector and Daneel van der Walt) has been such a delight to work with that I am all inspired to keep them together, and we are chatting about doing a local, lekker pantomime for the end of the year!

Industrial theatre provides me with some amazing opportunities and insights. Here are some of them off the top of my head. A ready made audience for our work. There is nothing quite like performing to a huge crowd of 700 without having to beg, publicize, cajole and nag people to come. A budget for costumes, props and set. Being able to pay actors pretty decent salaries for them to get on with doing their jobs. The chance to work with really amazing performers. A window into the world of business, and its special circumstances.

Obviously there are a few downsides. The theatre snob in me wishes I was making pure art, and not message driven, service oriented stuff, helping a company sell more. The activist in me has ethical issues about the big business clients. The artist in me wants better stages, and lights and dressing rooms for the performers.

But on the whole it’s a pretty good deal!

Energina and Extravaganza

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