Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Chris Weare (Page 1 of 2)

Sweetest Same Time Next Year

One of the things I loved last night (at the opening of Bernard Slade’s play Same Time Next Year at the Kalk Bay Theatre) was what Simon Cooper said about this guy who saw this play (did he say 30 years ago?) and who loved it, and who has spent the last 10 years trying to get it onto stage. Then he said, “I am that guy and this is that play.”

But that wasn’t the only thing I loved about this completely charming, sweet and very funny play. I loved the (when I think about it it is quite ridiculous) idea of a married (to others) couple meeting for a weekend affair once a year for 25 years. I loved Chris Weare’s totally spot-on and immaculate directing. Because I see his work with students I know what an awesome teacher he is, but here, there is a certain freedom with working with Paul du Toit and Julie Hartley who are such professionals, and Chris’s directorial footprint is delicate but all over the piece. That’s probably because he also designed the production; a challenge because the play spans 25 years in the same space.

Mostly I loved Paul du Toit and Julie Hartley as George and Doris. Really, watching Paul is like watching a handsome Bob Newhart. He is quirky, hilarious and so, so funny and his timing is amazing. He makes us want to hang with George all the time, which is good, because that’s what the play is all about. Julie, as Doris, is totally different but as delicious. She is warm, sexy and lovely. I would also have fallen completely in love with her.

What is great about this production is that it embraces the fact that the play was obviously considered very modern when it was first performed in 1975, and as the audience we can’t help watching it with nostalgic, rose tinted glasses. This goes for its absolute Americanness too, which could have been a pain, but really wasn’t. That is helped by mostly very good accents by Paul and Julie.

To be honest, I can’t imagine anyone not loving, laughing through and enjoying Same Time Next Year. Catch it now at KBT, or in Grahamstown, at the festival.

Creepy, darkly funny Murderer

It’s true I often heard the sound of just me laughing last night at The Mechanicals’ opening of Murderer at The Intimate. I do find weird things funny. Like a huge chainsaw being fetched from the back wall. And the sight of really skinny Norman (the amazing Carel Nel) having to move double his own body weight. But those things are just me.

Murderer by British playwright Anthony Shaffer, directed by Chris Weare, with Carel Nel, Nandi Horak, Dorian Burstein and Emily Child is a seriously odd and off-the-wall piece of ‘straight theatre’ that takes you to a dark place pretty quickly and leaves you there as things get worse.

I think it’s difficult to get a live theatre audience to have the kind of creeps they get in movies. It’s even harder when the characters are such a miserable bunch of unlikeables, but that is the success of Murderer. We might not like any of them but they can freak us out big time. Carel Nel as Norman, and Emily Child as his wife Elizabeth, are my favourites, taking the freaking to a whole new level.

I also loved the use of The Intimate (people are coming up with genius ways to interpret the space), the brilliant mix-n-match real and drawn set and very effective sound and lighting needed to create the atmosphere.

I think this play is going to get better and creepier as it goes along. If you love CSI this is better. If you’re a horror and thriller junkie with murder mystery in your blood, this live theatre version will do it for you. Otherwise you might just find it deeply, darkly funny in a revolting kind of way, which is also good.

The great divide

How do I write about the fabulous Fleur du Cap Awards that happened last night when my beloved dog Gally is sick? How do I talk about the fact that my favourites to win, Nicola Hanekom (Best Performer in a Solo Performance) and Carel Nel (Best Actor) who I hoped would win without believing they would, did, while Gally is at the vet? How do I explain how fabulous Heather Mac, Mark Harris, Amber Parr and Alfred Hinkel’s new dance company Garage were when my heart is aching with the drag of my old friend who is planning to leave us? This is my morning.

Last night’s glamorous affair was one of the loveliest Fleur du Cap Awards I have been to. I loved the show. It was simple, well conceived and heartfelt. Heather Mac and the rest were perfect, giving the whole evening great continuity and flow. Alan Committee is flippen, outrageously, rudely hilarious. I loved him and he is my favourite awards emcee. I was delighted that the Lifetime Achievement Award went to Chris Weare. How absolutely, truly deserving. I loved how emotional he was and I loved his speech about partnerships. I loved that FTH:K were honoured with the Innovation in Theatre award. I loved the additional categories that honour designers more.

I was dismayed by the same old same old ‘this award thing is so white’. We know. If somebody knows how to change this tell me. I will be the first in line to make it different. I was happy to drink gorgeous Distell shampoo. A bit too happy, I think. I loved hanging with friends, air kissing acquaintances and looking at the prettiness.

But, when I got home last night Gally was sick. Here she is, sitting on the stoep with Chassie yesterday morning.


Lovely Lovborg’s Women

Clever Astrid Stark decided to celebrate her birthday with a block booking for the return of The Mechanicals‘ production of Lovborg’s Women at The Intimate last night. What a great idea, I thought.

This incarnation of the play (I saw one years ago with Gaetan Schmidt, Allan Committee, Robyn Scott) also directed by Chris Weare, is up to date, sexy and completely hilarious. Mikkie-Dene LeRoux, Andrew Laubscher, Tinarie van Wyk Loots and Adrian Collins are the four who race us though the different genres and interpretations of Lovberg’s (the fictitious playwright’s) women. It is hilarious, cheeky and delicious.

It’s a bit like watching a brilliantly inspired, well rehearsed TheatreSports show; with all the madness of send up done with amazing commitment, music and costumes. And it is total, great fun. My favourite was the Third World Bunfight send-up. Classic.

This is a re-run, for all of us who missed it the first time around, and it’s a great opportunity to get into a theatre for brilliant performances, and team work, tightly directed and a completely satisfying laugh out loud.

Directors and Directing impressions

When I was driving home last night I thought about the possibility that I would be the only person who would be writing (in this contradiction of a public and private space that is my blog) a deeply personal account of the extraordinary weekend of directors, directing, performance and conversation that Jay Pather and GIPCA made happen. I must confess to feeling a little overwhelmed. So much had happened, so much had been said, so much had been felt. So I have decided to put down my impressions; things I remember thinking and feeling, in the hope that it will capture some of what it was like to have been there.

In Anton Kreuger’s closing comments he spoke a list of things that he liked and connected with; ideas, thoughts, words. I loved his rambling, almost poetic sensibility and I am going to try and steal it here.

Things I loved, in no particular order. I loved Malcolm Purkey’s opening speech. He is a generous, loving theatre guy and that’s how he made me feel. I loved the fact that a two and a half day intensive experience with a relatively niche topic could be so completely well attended. I loved the gentle, ever present hand of organiser, conceptualiser and curator of the event Jay Pather, who followed every single moment. I loved the support people expressed for each other’s work; there is so little opportunity for that in real life. I loved Marianne Thamm; she is so brave, and clever, and clear. I loved our strange and passionate discussion at Kauai over lunch. I loved Nicola Hanekom’s reinterpretation of Boesman en Lena. That chick has balls the size of coconuts. I loved Chuma Sopotela in Aubrey Sekhabi’s version. I loved Zingi Mkefa’s whimsy and voice. I loved Amy Jephta’s well prepared note which was so much about the work and so little about the “I”, and I loved why and how she got pissed off. I loved Chris Weare’s interjections and observations that are all about his passion and clarity and cleverness. I loved how funny Janni Younge was; I had no idea! I loved Pusetso Thibedi’s production Capturing Sanity and his personal ease and charm. I loved hooking up with old friends and sharing in the stuff of theatre making. I loved the catering, the organisation, the team of production people that gave their work such gorgeous value. I especially loved how some of the participants, who were only in the limelight for a very short time, sat through the whole weekend. I loved Liz Mills, Jay Pather, Brent Meersman and Caroline Calburn who were excellent chairs.

Things I did not love; in no particular order. I was bored by how long it took most people to ask a question. I found it almost impossible to go from the beginning of what they were saying to the end with any idea of where they were going or why if you know what I mean and could you respond to that please? I was left unmoved by clever and affected cynicism in both participants and delegates. I just don’t get that choice. I was irritated with the hypocrisy of many directors and actors who never support each other’s work. I was cross with how many director people and actor people and theatre people still chain smoke. I was disgusted by what they did with their stompies. I was irritated by Mwenya Kabwe’s self-appointed watch dog status as external, black, gender specialist critic. I was blown away by Nicholas Ellenbogen’s dof ignorance that in a moment managed to cause such ructions. I was offended by the remark that was made and then repeated that there are no script writers or playwrights in South Africa. There are. I am one of them. We have no idea where to take our scripts once they are written, or what to do with them. I was a little emotional that Zabalaza and Thami Mbongo didn’t really acknowledge that Ikhwezi was started with a desire to do exactly what they are doing now, even though I deeply respect their new vision and energy. I was shocked that many participants came and then left after delivering their input.

There were a few things that I think were overlooked. In the discussion with critics, the much more successful role that the Afrikaans newspapers play in Cape Town in promoting and reviewing theatre was not mentioned. The role of theatre managements and their relationship to directors was not even considered, except by Neil Coppen in a death reference to The Playhouse. The question of patronage was not raised. In all the discussions about colour nobody mentioned that the entire company of The Mechanicals was white.

There was a rumour I picked up that UCT’s Drama department are going to turn the Little Theatre into two black boxes. My heart broke. Obviously, I am utterly convinced that this should not happen. What does everybody else think?

Over and above everything that I thought or continue to think about is what my role as a director is. I was invited to the weekend as that weird thing, ‘media’. I felt like a participant. I identified with directors, performers, writers and teachers. Overwhelmingly I felt like I was there as meganshead. These are interesting labels for me. What am I? I’m not sure there is a simple answer, nor that I even want to go to that analytical place. I work in the role of director. And when I do, I know what kind of director I want to be. I want to have the warmth that we agreed was vital. I want to have brilliant relationships with actors who trust me and who I trust. I want audiences to know how much they are taken into consideration by me when I make work for them. I want to be part of the magical theatre team. I want to feel safe and scared and thrilled and paranoid and hysterical and sleep deprived and concerned and angry. I want to feel.

And that’s what I did this last weekend. I felt. Everything.


Spring Awakening

It was weird for me last night, going to the opening of UCT’s production of Spring Awakening. I was in Chris Weare’s production in 1984! And although I couldn’t even remember my character’s name, I have such clear memories of the little green and pink and white checked dress I wore, and the white bobby socks and little black shoes. Freaky. Seeing the programme up on the pin board was scary too. There were people in that cast that I don’t remember at all, but pictures of Patrick Lilley, Claire Berlein, Ingrid Emslie and Michelle Constant took me straight back 26 years ago, to that time.

Watching the play from this perspective made me understand how difficult a production it is to mount. Spring Awakening, written by Frank Wedekind, is set in Germany at the end of the 19th century, predating what would happen there by fifty or so years, but creating the platform for it in terms of repression, shame, education, parental control and unrealistic expectation. These are huge issues. Because of the sexual and, for the time, explicit nature of the content and scenes, the play was often banned. These days we are all too used to seeing young men masturbating on stage, boy on boy kissing, and nudity and sex have become terribly explicit. So, the real issue of the play, the bursting of puberty and the shame it brings in a repressive society, are a fantasy idea for most of this young cast. Especially in a country with unbelievably high teenage pregnancy and horrific and brutal child abuse stats, child prostitutes, peer sexual violence among children, the sexual innocence of Spring Awakening is very dated and diluted.

One of the other difficulties with this play is, however tempting it is as a drama school production because there are lots of parts for young actors, it is unbelievably difficult for young, inexperienced actors to sustain! I remember Chris Weare’s frustration our time around! The parts are either children, always hideous and difficult to play, parents, who for young actors are not the best fun, or teachers, who at least can be sent up in this play, but are not well developed people and have to remain within their names of Professors Breakneck, Tongue Twister, Total Loss and Strychnine.

Then there is the script itself, which is scenic and cinematic, jumping from one scene to the next, and from location to location. Unfortunately, over the years, we are less able as an audience to manage such long scenes, and for the most part they are very long.

Those are the problems up front. Now to this production. This production is in The Little Theatre. The wooden beamed stage is very, very raked and there is a huge raised walkway through the audience, bringing performers on stage from the back of the auditorium. There is an amazing, repetitive, motion cloud projection on the cyclorama at the back. Gideon Lombard sits in mostly silhouette  in the top right hand corner with a guitar and amp. And that sets the scene. The set, designed by Daniel Galloway and Chris Weare is beautiful. Almost as completely beautiful as Daniel’s lighting, which is breathtaking. Leigh Bishop’s costumes are fabulous; an incredible combination of period and theatrical.

The students, for the most part, have really good moments. Rudi Swart, who plays Melchior, was my favourite. He gave a really tempered, interesting and natural performance, and elicited true sympathy from me. Next was Lethabo-Thabo Royds, who had the difficult task of playing Melchior’s mother. She really grew on me. In her first scene I felt like she was fighting with her dress a little bit, but, after that, I found her still, sincere performance the most moving of all. James MacGregor (who I adored as Romeo) was less successful for me as Moritz Stiefel. There is no doubt that it is a hellishly difficult part, but it was just too childish caricature for me. The young girls all had their moments, but I was left with the overall impression that they didn’t ‘get it’, in terms of the overwhelming unnamable stuff they were feeling, and why it was so big, confusing and bad.

So, in a nutshell, this production is a breathtakingly beautiful study of the past. But it is not exciting, moving or challenging. The horror that we sit with, as an audience today, is, is there anything that can shock us, ever again?

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