Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: Jozi (Page 1 of 3)

SA life #snapshot

I had such a beautiful uplifting and heartwarming night last night at the second opening of From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach at the Auto & General Theatre on The Square. Honestly, I could not be prouder of this work that has evolved and grown into something I am so aligned with; magical theatre and storytelling with a human message.

It was with a bittersweet heartache that I woke up, ready to get back to my home, partner, animals, other pressing work and Cape winter storms, knowing I was leaving this show, and Chantal, in Jozi, as well as my hometown and city that I long for, love and hate in equal measure. The only way to describe my feelings for both of these cities is in the SASL sign for ‘it’s complicated – a frowning face with wormlike fingers moving from out to in front of the signer’s face.

Lucky, my Uber driver, was chatty and we spoke about how ridiculous the SA banking system is. He needs a loan to buy his own car, but the bank won’t give him one because his previous loan is paid up; something he did way before the time, even paying penalties for early payment. How will someone like him get ahead, he asked.

I had a tiny epiphany. We have to take a risk. Individuals, groups, corporates, banks, governments, friends, neighbours. We have to help each other. Build trust. Have something to lose and risk anyway. Help someone with their education. Help someone take out a loan instead of saying no. I don’t know how, but I know it is so, so necessary. Let’s do this thing. Let’s help each other.

I was going to write more, but I boarded my flight, felt sad about the homeless and vulnerable in stormy Cape Town, and lost my gees a little bit. Still, one thing I know is that I am going to try and help more, do more, be more.

Edit: I bought a bed for 5 nights for a homeless person from The Haven. It cost R60. It is the easiest thing to do. Go to The Haven and buy one. If you do, let me know.


From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach and beyond

Let’s hear it for learning from each other, building bridges, understanding tolerance, respecting differences, trying out funny food, celebrating culture, singing each others’ songs, enjoying a turn of phrase.

Auto & General Theatre on the Square. Chantal Stanfield. Megan Furniss. Jew-ish. Coloured.

In a little side note observation navel gaze: I am often quite hostile about my own Jewishness. This play allows me to access it in the warmest and most non-judgemental way. It gives me the space to be kind and critical. I am able to see the funny side and enjoy my Jew-ishness without getting caught up in the fraught and political. I have watched this play evolve, and honestly, it only gets better. I am still moved and delighted by it.

Jozi Musings

I am up in Jozi to put From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach into the Auto & General Theatre on the Square and I am working very gently so I have a bit of time. Here are some random musings about Jozi; my hometown.

I get off the plane just before 9am and it’s cold. I can feel the cold through the soles of my takkies. The sky is crystal blue. It is one colour. The whole sky is that blue. Everything else is still golden. But the air. Where is it? It is so thin. I take big breaths but they feel shallow. The inside of my nose dries out.

My Uber driver Lwezi is chatty. He lives in Berea. I tell him I used to live on the border of Berea, just up from Abel Road. We discuss housing. He tells me there are some flats in Hilbrow where 12 people are paying R2 500 a person to live in one flat. I say I am sure you could rent a flat in Sandton for that amount of money. He says black people would never think about that. And besides, nobody would rent their flat in Sandton to 12 people. He tells me that he has been taking and fetching travellers from the airport for four years now but he has never been on a plane. That’s his goal this year.

I decide to walk to the Spar. There are no pavements in the suburbs. People have spread their house property right up to the street here. The people who walk are invisible to the people who live here. People who live here drive. A woman is blocking the road in her 4×4. She is hooting like a lunatic and she is talking on the phone. Her electric garage door is half open. Brown arms grab the underside of the door from the inside. Worn slippers, a faded housecoat, bare legs. The arms start pushing the garage door up. The car woman hoots. I glare. She is unconscious.

I stop to watch a gardening/tree felling team. A man on a rope is at the top of a long palm tree with a chain saw. I watch him with bated breath.

I stand at the till at the Spar. There are a range of chocolates with messages on them. Happy Birthday. Get Well Soon. I love you. Wishing you a good Shabbos.

We go to a restaurant at Sandton Square before going to the theatre. It is a Thursday night and the restaurants are heaving. The whole of old rich, emerging rich and wannabe rich is dining out. Even though I come from most expensive Cape Town I am taken aback by the prices. It is seriously expensive.

The play is Visiting Mr Green. It is an old play, with timeless relevance. An old Jewish man is visited by a young man doing community service in New York City. It is a beautiful, poignant play about love, loss and prejudice. The audience were 90% Jewish.

The sun starts going down from 5pm. The light is golden. Mossies, Starlings, Mousebirds and Hadedas perch on bare branched trees. The air is still. The sun goes. It gets cold in an instant.


Joburg Nights

The window is open and the cricket is so loud its like a one cricket band on steroids. I love Jozi at this time of year when everything is lush and green and the summer heat is tempered with rain on most days.

I am up here directing Chantal Stanfield in her one woman show From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, opening at the Auto & General Theatre on The Square. It previews on 28 Feb and opens on 2 March, and even though we have just started rehearsing this week, I can already tell that it is going to be so lovely. When I suddenly have a waterfall of ideas (most of which will never manifest and be in the final result) I know I am operating in my creative space and it is delicious. It’s also that time when I find things on the rehearsal floor achingly (and repetitively) funny, and my cheeks are sore after every session.

It is interesting working in a space that isn’t my home, and I seem to have lost any small ability to multitask (let’s face it, I don’t have much ability to start with). Everything feels different. Space and travel and timing and food and even the air is different from home. Here I am loving other dogs (missing my dogs), walking the aisles of unfamiliar supermarkets, driving a different car. It’s like I have swopped my life for someone else’s.

This is the second Jew-ish themed piece of work I have done in the last while (I performed Mother in The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner; a show I am dying to do in Joburg, hopefully still this year). For someone who is reluctantly Jewish as I am this is hilarious. And we are rehearsing in a pretty Jewish neighbourhood too. All my Jewish radar is on high alert. When you are looking for it, Joburg can be pretty Jewish. I keep having the urge to tap into my ancient Jewish network, to insist they come and see the show.

Whenever I come up to Joburg (my hometown) I am split between wanting to live here and in Cape Town. The urges for both are so strong. This is definitely second prize though; if I can’t live here and in Cape Town at the same time at least I can come up here for a couple of weeks at a time for work.

And, if you are in Jozi you can come and see what I’m doing. Let’s hook up.



37 Million Light Years

imagesThe distance between desire and swallow

The space between frightened heartbeats

The wait for the unwanted answer

The way to describe an inconceivable

I sat on the plane, waiting for the usual ritual of things before we would take off and head home. The flight had been delayed, so the whole trip would happen in darkness. The air hostess went through the emergency exit rules with us in her sing song, ‘this will never happen in 37 million light years’ voice. I imagined the feeling of the red rubber handle, and how heavy 20 kilos would be as I pulled the door out and turned it on its side. I also thought how glad I was that people with compulsions don’t sit in the exit rows.

The air outside, through the double plastic windows, was frosty, and so crystal clear that the lights on the runway were bold and had no halos. The engines started up and the plane crawled to the runway. The notion of flight for this giant metal tube with wings, and all the passengers, with their bags and suitcases, and telephones and laptops, and 300 jackets, and toiletry bags filled with more stuff, seemed as unlikely as another earth 37 million light years away. I knew that this was nothing short of a science miracle, and yet, I was irritated that we would be 45 minutes later than expected; our dogs were waiting. People are funny and strange. We had stood in the boarding queue and tapped our heels and checked our phones and glared at the people in their winter airport coats behind their little ticket desks, urging them to hurry it all up. Like hurrying up a cake that is baking. Nobody says, “We are going to be flying in the air. Let’s make sure this is all safe, and can happen.”

The lights dimmed in the cabin, for take-off. It was magical and beautiful and very sad. We had gone up country to say final goodbyes to one family member and to spend time with others, especially our freshly growing little niece. Now we were going in the opposite direction. I know Cape Town is only 1 264km away from Johannesburg, but when there is a niece that distance away it feels like 37 million light years.

The giant bird tilted in the low sky and started to climb. The lights. 37 million light years of lights below us, like a mirror to the unseen sky above. The two hour stretch of time pulled out in front of us; a rubbery string of endlessness made worse by cramped seats and totally taken for granted expectation. The pilot announced that he would take short cuts, and get us there 20 minutes early, only a half an hour later than scheduled. The distance between irritation and relief. I imagined a mouth, just a mouth on its own, chewing patiently at the rubber string, bite by bite, bringing us home.

Then, like a quantum leap, black hole warp drive, an eternity was suddenly reduced and the plane was readying for descent. Tray tables were put away and the last few bits were thrown into the moving trash bin. Humans are experts at creating waste. Physical, emotional, spiritual. Then, 10 minutes to landing. Then landing.

My heart was split into 37 million light years of pieces. A joyous reunion with home – 10 million. A pulsing longing for what we had left – 10 million, a what if 7 million, and another lost 10 million, lost to how easily we take things for granted.

We’re doing this post as part of a weekly tandem blog post. There are three of us this time, writing on the same topic, 37 Million Light Years. Please check out Dave and Brett’s take by following their links.



My Heart of longing, place and being

Every time I come to Jozi I have a small internal tug-o-war. I love this city of my birth and growth, almost as much as I am deeply rattled by it. I have written about this before.

I love my family and friends here, and it is a different love from my close and loved ones in Cape Town. I can’t explain why, but it is.

I love the winter here; the clear, dry, frosty mornings and the ridiculously warm and sunny days, where the sun sets (and rises) too early. Don’t get me wrong; I love Cape Town winters equally, where I worship the wet and green, and light fires and make sure my windscreen wipers work.

I love the energy that people talk about here in Jozi, and the suburban relaxing that happens on the weekends. I love driving past my own haunts, and saying the names of the streets in Yeoville out loud. Kenmere, Dunbar, Fortesque, Cavendish.

It is also true that I wish there were more street lights; Orange Grove is scary and dark at night, and the Uber driver who took us to visit our friend seemed nervous about stopping outside his house. I am left deeply uncomfortable by a new style of begging here, where street beggars kneel or lie in the road in between cars at robots, taking it to a whole new extreme. I am shocked by how flippant the response to crime here can be, with friends being carjacked, and aquaintances having their phones stolen off them in mid-conversation.

I hate seeing buildings that I remember in complete shambles or ruins. I miss an accessible Hilbrow even though downtown is unrecognisably regenerating. I sometimes feel like Joburg is Cape Town in reverse.

I am drawn to and repelled by this place for totally different reasons from being drawn to and repelled by Cape Town. Every time I come up here I want to live here again but can’t wait to get back home, I want to do things here, and then remember that I do them at home, I am tugged.

And now it is our magnificent little niece who draws us here with the most powerful heart magnet. Sometimes the love for the small people of our family, who are all away from us, and not in Cape Town, pull our hearts out of our chests and drag us up country, away from our first loves, our furry animal babies, who we pine for and panic about every time we are away from them.

Like I said. Tug-o-war.

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