Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Alfred Rietmann (Page 1 of 2)


undonemainA lovely thing about the Artscape Season of New Writing is the energy, time, money and commitment given to brand new work. Thank you Artscape for these many years of actively growing local theatre.

Last night was my turn to see Wessel Pretorius’ Undone (previously ONT in Afrikaans). And it was very, very, very good. Here is a tiny rambling, stream of conscious ream in praise of this masterful solo performance.

That tub, that case, a musing face a naked form, emotion storm, both tense intense, can we un-sense, a mother father jacket un-packet. You learned to drive, a muscle taut, un-dead alive.

Alfred Rietmann has also made total magic with lighting.

Although this work is entirely different from Sue MacLaine’s Still Life, there are many similarities; even just the obvious ones. Solo performance, nudity, poetry, form. If you can, go see it. The only challenge is the mystery of when it is on. The scheduling is a huge, jumbled Artscape secret.

Special Special Thanks to Guests from Afar

The drought has been broken. Last week I saw three not good things in a row. I was feeling like theatre was the emperor and it was wearing no clothes and the people were praising because they were too scared to say what they thought. But last night definitely restored my faith.

I went to see the first preview of Nicholas Spagnoletti’s new play Special Thanks to Guests from Afar (I have been kicked off the opening night invite list after years of attending everything at Artscape’s New Writing Programme – probably for writing about  a production I didn’t like) and it was like drinking from a fresh new glass.

Special Thanks is about old South African friends attending a wedding in a weird little spot in Germany. Two good friends and the brother of the groom hook up for some interesting discovery stuff about themselves and each other and it is a really funny, touching, wacky and lovely script.

The best part about the production (especially since it is the first outing of the play) is that it feels like such a successful collaboration. Visible is the crazy funny sensitive hand of the director, Matthew Wild (Matthew I have got to get my hands on some of that weird German folk music! Ehrmagherd!) , the gorgeous cast of Nicholas Dallas, Gideon Lombard and Chi Mhende, fab designers Angela Nemov and Alfred Rietmann, and of course Nicholas.

I love how Nicholas has chosen three really strange and interesting characters to bring to life. They are not the marriage couple, or even the best friends. They are the strange “what do we do with them?” bunch. “Adults who will sit at the children’s table.” The brother of the groom (Lombard) is even weirder. Go and see why.

These delicious actors are going to have a ball, the minute they realise that this production works. They are already busy with such lovely nuance and it’s going to be fabulous to watch them grow. I think this one is a winner. Bravo.

Unconquered by Mary and The Conqueror

My date (a theatre loving actress) and I popped off to Artscape‘s Arena last night for the opening of The New Writing Season’s 2011 first offering, Juliet Jenkin’s Mary and The Conqueror. I am feeling particularly indebted to those involved in this programme because of the support, belief and opportunity they gave my play The Tent, so I really wanted to love this production but I really didn’t.

The premise is; on a beach in some weird waiting afterlife, Mary Renault the author meets one of her historical characters that she was obsessed with, Alexander the Great. This is how they both end up reflecting on the loves of their lives, both same sex relationships. After analysing their lives and accepting some stuff Mary is able to ‘get into the water’ with Alexander and leave.

The cast is Diane Wilson, Adrienne Pearce, Armand Aucamp and Francis Chouler and they are directed by Roy Sargeant.

The big question about this production, and the play itself, is why? What’s the point? No doubt there are answers somewhere but they don’t end up on stage. The interactions between Mary and Alexander drag on repetitively, with her responding in the same way to his questions (and in the same tone) and he refusing to give a straight answer in a weird coughing up of trying to find the words. While both boys are terribly pretty in their little white Speedos (why little white Speedos, I have no idea) we have no real sense of the lives that they lead, and the ups and downs of the relationship between the conqueror and his general ends up feeling a little trite and immature, and mostly, quite boring. It’s hard to follow all the talking about stuff that happened or will happen, but never happens on stage. It’s odd hearing them speak in a funny pseudo Italian accent. It’s awkward watching them pose and swagger, caress and fight. It’s a bit like chaaf chaaf acting, even though they are both very pretty in their little white Speedos (or have I already said that?).

The women fare a little better with a more genuine and earnest exploration of their relationship, but it’s also repetitive, and predictable. Their secret love affair, played out against the background of a conservative Camps Bay community never quite sparks to life after the promise of the first scene, although I really enjoyed Adrienne Pearce’s character and performance.

The moment of the piece for me was Adrienne Pearce in her monologue; slightly different from the style of the rest of the play, where she is shatteringly revealing about becoming ill, and it is deeply moving. We needed many more of these.

Part edutainment/reenactment historical, part secret same gender relationships in a tough time, part how to live with a difficult and ambitious figure, nothing really gets going here. While Alfred Rietmann does a great job of making it look beautiful, it’s all a little pointless and rather dreary. Sorry.

The Tent revisited

While I have always quietly held onto the fact that The Tent was a good play, I had to contend with the usual hard knocks of rejection when it came to staging it again, after the initial commitment and funding that Artscape and the New Writing Programme gave it in 2009.

It being chosen as one of the finalists in the Projecto 34 degrees South Theatre in Translation project was fantastic. Last night though, I received an email from The National Theatre Studio in London letting me know that The Tent had been chosen (from hundreds of submissions) as one of the finalists in their call for African plays. I have been invited to London for a week, to spend time with the other playwrights and to attend a dramaturgy (I am better at spelling that than saying it!) workshop. I am so excited, and deeply proud. Oh dear, this is starting to sound like an award speech. Honestly though, I have a lot of people to thank for believing in this play and getting it out there. Mostly, there is Alfred Rietmann. Alfred, thank you.


CA 12-6, Cape Town Revisited

The bar at Artscape’s Arena theatre does not help this show. Last night I came through the main venue where hordes of sparkly, well dressed and lit Afrikaans people dripped over railings waiting to get in to Mannetjies Rue, and The Arena around the corner felt like theatre hell. The door was closed on account of the weather! The miserable barman showed me the two kinds of red wine they had, from horrible labels with screw-top bottles. I passed. (It’s a theatre bar without sherry). There was no music. It smelled of toilets. When I think of The Arena’s heyday, it was the kind of place you could even go to after a show somewhere else in Cape Town, to hang out with the cast of some production or other. You could even dance to the loud music until after midnight in that seedy little black bar. It was a great place to start your own CA 12-6.

Up the stairs I went, too early, because I didn’t want to stay in the foyer. And I’m so glad I did. It gave me a chance to absorb and tweet about Alfred Rietmann’s delicious set. Scaffolding and railings threaded with neon strip lights, still off and dull for the pre-show. A bar, threaded with fairy lights. Dead man body outlines painted in white on an otherwise black, black  set. I got shivers of theatre anticipation. Yes, I thought. Then the house lights went down, the strip lights came on, and it was beautiful.

CA 12-6 is a devised production, directed by Heinrich Reisenhofer with the Siyasanga Company for Artscape. There is something old fashioned about this style of devised production, reminding me of work I did at drama school all those years ago, reminding me of productions with Mark Fleishman, reminding me of one he devised and directed about the prostitutes of Cape Town…but. Back to the here and now.

In a series of partly interconnected monologues, six actors share their Cape Town night lives with the audience. I was literally taken to the streets of my Cape Town jauling past by them, and I could smell the streets, smoke, clubs, bars, hangouts long gone. I heard the music, shared the conversations shouted at The Lounge, now Zula Bar, the drinks at clubs, the drives, the parking, the pool, the whores, the late night snacks. This production is totally evocative and true, true true.

I loved Anele Sithulweni. Ok, I am biased because I think he is one shit hot young actor. I loved his story, his take, his angle, his action; young black boy from ekasi who has made good and has ‘access’. I loved the honest way his character bridged the city and the township and the painful identity issues it evoked. I loved the questions he asked, and how he answered them. I loved his vision of a night on the town, from Camps Bay to The Bronx, from Long Street to the taxi rank. Mostly, I loved his moves.

I loved Zondwa Njokweni’s prostitute Honey. I heard from Anele after the show that she had ‘a source’ who she researched and it paid off in buckets. She is amazing. She picked two duds from the audience last night (one who wouldn’t come up, and one who tried to ‘act’) and she still pulled it all off. Loved her.

I enjoyed Lee Roodt’s stand-up comic, although I wasn’t sure he felt like he was in the same play sometimes. Stylistically it jarred. Michael Inglis’s character, the accidental photographer and night time voyeur felt like he had to carry the weight of the play (and I’m not sure that he did, or had to, it just felt like that). His character was from Joburg, and I think he needed to be more from Joburg. Both him and Melissa Haiden were ok in their parts but they were slightly shown up by Anele and Zondwa who were so truly connected. Frans Hamman played puppeteer to a street child puppet and he was the least successful of all, which was a little disappointing because of the amazing visual promise his appearance set up. All the way through he slinks and crawls around the edges of vision, an image of the ever present homeless on Cape Town’s street, with what looks like a miserable baby in his arms. Scary and sad. Unfortunately his puppet skills weren’t great and his monologue was a bit disjointed.

That’s the detail of it, which only gives half a picture. The lovely thing about this show is that I was immersed. I enjoyed watching it. I was irritated that some audience members left, until I realised that for them the subject matter might be a bit rough, and I hadn’t even schemed of it! It is an evocative, gritty, intelligent, connected piece of home grown, totally Cape Town piece of shivery live theatre. Fight against the difficult title, the horrible bar and the fact that things are quiet on a Cape Town winter’s night. Go. See. It. Let’s relive CA 12-6.

Fleur du Cap, fun, feast, faux pas

I’m supposed to be asleep; it’s a public holiday after all, but the Distell red has woken me I think. And my feet are a bit swollen from those damn shoes.

Last night was the Fleur du Cap awards and this year I was a proper nominee, which basically meant preparing an outfit in advance. Big Friendly chose my shoes, which looked great, gave me the extra height, but were impossible to actually live in.

As usual it was a pretty glam affair, with lots of air kissing on arrival. All the nominees I spoke to beforehand gave away their insecurities by saying how much they hated these kinds of things, but I could see their eyes sparkling.

Off we went for the ceremony and show. This year’s offering was directed by Hennie van Greunen, the director of Die Naaimasjien (winner of best new SA script and Best Actress Sandra Prinsloo), and on the whole I think he did a really nice job; it was quite short with a great opening number. I have to say though, I felt like he didn’t really know his Cape Town audience. I got the feeling that the whole thing had been put together and rehearsed up country and then shipped down for the night. Luckily, most of the presenters of the awards (actors and others) made up for it. My favourites were kept for last; Soli Philander and Helen Zille! They were brilliant, hilarious and totally entertaining. I had no idea she had it in her! (The same can’t be said for old Fiona Coyne, who did not exactly embrace the generous spirit of handing over awards!)

There were two awards that I was absolutely delighted about. Tara Louise Nottcutt’s award for Best New Director, and Angels on Horseback’s award for Best Performance in a Cabaret. And Rob Murray for Best Lighting. Naturally, I was disappointed that none of the ones I was associated with won; especially for Dicky Longhurst and Alfred Rietmann, both nominated in the same category, Best Set Design, for Noah of Cape Town and The Tent.

The big mess of the evening for me was the damn voice over announcing Noah of Cape Town in the category of Best New South African Script. It was a hellova voice over, that went on for ever, pronounced my name wrong (twice!) and then announced Jacqui Singer as the director of the show. What a disgrace! Surely not! Surely every singe piece of material had the right Jaci de Villiers down as the director! Surely. I’m still a bit bitter actually.

Soli and Helen put me back in the mood though. They rocked. Then it was back into the fray to chow and drink. I was very well behaved and didn’t overdo it for once in my life. Big Friendly was so excited by the dessert tables he got stage fright! At a totally respectable 10.30pm we (I) hobbled up those endless stairs, thinking of everything I need to do this year to make sure I get to go to next year’s one!

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