Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Broken, but not just Glass

A few people saw me at the opening of Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass at The Fugard on Thursday night, and a couple of them have asked me what I thought. I guess there has been a bit of a surprise that I haven’t written anything. So here’s why.

I wasn’t sure I was going to write anything; I wasn’t sure it was fair, since my date and I left at interval, and unless I am in a rage of offense about the terribleness of a show, I don’t think it is fair to write. But we didn’t really leave because of the show. We left because of our seats.

Again, it doesn’t really seem fair to complain; I was invited to the opening night after all, but actually, it was more like a punishment than an honour. It was my first time at The Fugard. I used to work in the building, when it housed AMAC, and I would climb up the stairs to teach a motley crew improv. So I was suitably impressed when we walked through the grand doors and into the gorgeous foyer/bar/bookshop area. I felt like I had entered a portal from the grimy streets of Cape Town directly into West End. What a transformation! Then I saw my date’s face when she saw our tickets and I had a feeling we were in trouble. Up the stairs we went, stopping briefly to salivate at the most magnificent rehearsal space I have ever seen in my entire life. Up even further we went. To our barstools in the ceiling; SSL22 and 23 to be exact.

It was then that I realised the extent of my punishment. We were deeply along the left hand side of the venue, with only the right hand side of the stage visible. We were on bar stools. We were in the sky, with a perfect view only of the cellist who played the in between music between scenes. We negotiated awkwardly with the other fellow Siberian outcasts next to us, too afraid to lean too far forward in case they couldn’t see. It was awful.

I stood for the second half of the first act. When my date whispered about whether I had a policy of leaving at interval I didn’t give it a second thought. My back couldn’t take another session of standing. And I didn’t feel like doing that for what was ostensibly a radio play for me. I know that all my quibbles with the performances of the actors would have lessened if I could have seen their eyes, or faces!

We left. So, here’s what I think, dear Fugard Theatre. Thanks for the comps, but no thanks. Do not invite people and then make people sit there, in the Siberian Steppe equivalent of theatre seats; especially for traditional, old-fashioned theatre, more suited to a proscenium arch space. Maybe, if really poor, desperate students of theatre are prepared to pay R15 to sit there, on the understanding that they have been given a special chance, then use them. But, I felt like I was being sent a message. You can come to opening night, but only just. The problem is that you can’t watch theatre from there and not hate every last second of it. I know that the production really wasn’t that bad, but from where I was the accents were inconsistent, the relationships unconvincing, the Jewishness stereotypical, the play dated; Sir Antony Sher notwithstanding.


Not the Cricket World Cup


Rhymes with wit, smells really bad


  1. gilli

    By the way, it’s Antony without the ‘h’. Just to say your experience sounds dreadful and glad you didn’t pretend to be unsuffering and stay for the second half.
    Surprised you haven’t been to the Fugard before. Can assure you that if you sit near the front, it’s fab. Heard great things about Broken Glass so intrigued about your views………pity I am not going to be able to see it to decide for myself. But clearly, patrons to the Fugard beware – don’t buy the cheap seats!

  2. megan

    Thanks Gilli. Will edit.

  3. I was ambivalent about attending this show after reading your review, but my mom had bought tickets several weeks ago and arranged babysitting etc etc, so along I went.

    We sat in the first-level balcony – so neither great seats nor awful ones – and I found myself struggling at first with the datedness and the heavy sense of the actors “working at” those big NY accents. My overriding sense was one of cynicism at the choice of play: why does a theatre choose to stage this play in Cape Town in 2011? Why? Is it perhaps because there’s a captive audience in the form of Cape Town’s Jewish just-theatre-going-enough audience that they’ll refuse to attend anything remotely challenging or new, but will undoubtedly be lured by a big overseas name and some Judaic-related themes? It was a depressingly cynical thought, but it was borne out speaking to people there. They were there because their friends were all going, and their friends were all going because their friends were all going. Most of them were not looking forward to it. All of them raved about it after.
    And to be fair, the well-craftedness of the script held it together: the pace picks up in the second half. But my highlight of the evening was when my uncle spotted Ben Kingsley in the audience and went over to greet and compliment him. I went home more starstruck by Mr Kingsley than anyone I’d seen onstage, even notwithstanding some reasonably strong performances.

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