Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Grahamstown (Page 1 of 3)

Knots in my Stomach

I can’t help it. I have knots in my stomach. Anxiety cramps, and occasional waves of nausea. I am not in Grahamstown and have sworn off ever going again, and still, I read reviews and recommendations, mainly on social media, and the panic spreads through my body like PTSD.

I can’t believe it was only three years ago that I was there. It feels like a lifetime since I made the decision never to go again, because I came so close to really dark thoughts then. But it wasn’t only the last time; there were others that were almost as bleak, dangerous and troubling for me. It is not my happy place and it is ok for me to know my own boundaries and limitations. It is ok for me to swear off going, and not to do it to myself. So, what’s my current problem, you are probably wondering? My brain and body haven’t forgotten. I have phantom festival syndrome.

Every review I read that speaks about the 15 audience members a brilliant cast and director played for makes me hysterical. Every show that talks proudly about full houses without a decent word of recommendation in a review gives me cramps. Every bit of painfully carefully worded self-promotion (to which I am no stranger, even this year, with a show I have directed at the festival) makes me read between the lines about how hard it is to get people to see your show. I am almost in tears just thinking about how unfair and horrible it is. Every well deserved Ovation Award that will come too late for those shows to capitalise on, every 1030pm slot, every freezing morning, every ill equipped venue, every heartbreaking brave face, every desperate flyer hand out, every dream deferred, every belief strung out to its furthest, every ache.

Of course, there are those that do brilliantly, and have the best time, and have enough money to eat every meal at the Long Table, and whose pre-sales are brilliant, and who don’t have to worry. And I am so glad for them. I was never one of them. And I can’t wait for this week to be over. I don’t want to feel this.

Drive With Me again

DrivewithMeWebJKK-002I am picking up the script for Drive With Me again. I have a proper two week run at Alexander Bar from 30 June to 12 July, the exact time of the Grahamstown festival. It is intentional irony. The show is set in Grahamstown, at the festival. Anyone who knows me knows the metaphorical death I suffered at the festival with this piece last year. In spite of great reviews, standing ovations from audiences of 3, and a very late awarding of an Ovation award, I came away from the experience in more than just a few pieces.

Luckily I was able to put those terrors and ghosts to bed during a 3 show sold out slot at Alexander Bar in November last year. (It was so strange wearing that winter costume and describing the July conditions in the heat of summer.) This time I am really excited. I feel as if the blossom and bloom time for the piece is now. I am proud of the writing even though I am still challenged by the performance of it, and I surprise myself, even when just learning lines, with new thoughts and ideas. Writing and then performing a piece has different stages of gestation I guess. I remember the late Peter Hayes saying that a show needs to be performed at least 70 times before it becomes what it should be. As an improviser that seems terribly long, but I am starting to understand what it means. The more you do it the smaller the gap between intention and execution.

I am excited by the possibility of reaching a (slightly) bigger and wider audience. The Alexander Bar is tiny and intimate enough, but more than just friends will get to see it this time with 9 performances. So, if you’re even just a little curious, please take the chance and book here.

PS. It is the weirdest thing being 17kgs lighter than when I last performed this. I wonder how the character of Marion Taylor will be affected?

Festival Post Mortem

I always knew I would write this post, but even now I find it difficult. I have been home 3 nights and there is nothing more comforting than fast ADSL, animals, my things and my solid pillar of Big Friendly. Still, for those of you who weren’t there or didn’t hear me say so, the festival was one long, tough, exhausting, often painful, occasionally inspiring, frighteningly empty affair.

I had very few people coming through the door to see Drive With Me, even though those that did seemed to love it, a lot. The combination of a great review on day 1 and then nothing until an Ovation award on day 10 didn’t help (although I am deeply grateful for both). Song And Dance got better and better, without a word or pic in CUE (to be honest I have no idea how people knew about it), and even though Pieter Bosch Botha and Richard Antrobus did a sterling publicity job on Fully Committed and people raved about it I had visions of sold-outs and extra shows because of how perfect it was for the festival. Truth is, it was a very quiet affair, with tons of parking in the streets, food and furniture always available at the Long Table, nobody at the Village Green, and people handing out comps left, right and centre. The only full show I attended was jammed full of school kids. That’s not to say there weren’t full ones. It seems shows that were there for the 2nd and 3rd time did better.

The worst part about all of this is that I am already thinking about how to do it differently next year. Please, theatre gods, if I decide to jump, look after me harder.

And now for some other news. I have decided, after much hearty discussion with friends, family and some colleagues, to stop writing review style posts here on meganshead. I am very sad about it, but I feel like it typecasts me in the industry and people then find it difficult to see me or receive me when I do theatre work of my own. Obviously, that is still more important to me, and so I think I will serve myself better if I am not seen as a theatre critic. I’ll still write, and share my opinions about everything else, including industry related stuff, but I will leave the ‘reviewing’ to those less involved, even though I am confident I did a bladdy good job. So, I will still see almost everything, and I will facebook and tweet about whether I liked it or not, but I’ll reserve this space for writing about other, varied stuff. How do you feel about that? Please send me comments to let me know.

Drive With Me gets totally real

For those of you who don’t know, Drive With Me is (mostly) about driving to Grahamstown, to the festival. And that is exactly what I’ll be doing tomorrow morning. There is no weirder way of getting into character and mood than doing all the things I have written down and been rehearsing for four weeks.

This drive will be the beginning of the culmination of almost two years of work. In 2011 I was driving home from the festival when I was flooded with the images, sights, sounds and sensations of Drive With Me. It was the music I listened to, the things I ate, the people and animals I saw.

After the massive disappointment of not performing it at last year”s festival, I decided to give it a trial run (a reading actually) at GIPCA’s conference and it was met with a really positive response. And then Simon Cooper from Kalk Bay Theatre said he would produce it for this year’s festival.

It has been a magical four weeks, working with my director Liz Mills, sound artist James Webb and media man Sanjin Muftic. It has been a joyous rehearsal in a lovely space, where slowly, the production has pulled together with invisible threads, and become ready for an audience.

I have become preoccupied and single minded. I say word runs while I do everything else. I picture the drive, the venue, the performances. I am ready for Drive With Me.

If you are coming to the festival, and you do end up seeing it, please drop me a line to let me know what you think.

First Bodies for Drive With Me

I had 3 besties at my rehearsal today; my first “audience” for Drive With Me. I got through the piece, hurdled the lumps and bumps of what happens when there are actual people to talk to and discovered in real time that you can’t go back and fix anything. But, on the whole, and in general, it was pretty good. And I am really rather proud, and excited to have an audience experience it.

So, here are the details for my performances in Grahamstown. Drive With Me is at the NG Kerk Hall. And you can go here to book.

  • Thu 27 June 2013, 14:30 
  • Sat 29 June 2013, 13:00
  • Sun 30 June 2013, 14:00 
  • Mon 1 July 2013, 10:00 
  • Tue 2 July 2013, 14:00
  • Wed 3 July 2013, 14:00
  • Thu 4 July 2013, 14:00
  • Fri 5 July 2013, 14:00
  • Sat 6 July 2013, 14:00
  • Sun 7 July 2013, 12:00


It’s been two weeks since I started working with my awesome director Liz Mills on Drive With Me. We haven’t worked every day, or every moment of the days we work; I certainly don’t have the focus or stamina to do such intensive work, just me and her, for too long. But I am totally obsessed and pre-occupied. I say lines of text in the car, in the shower, to the dogs. I stomp around the house doing chunks and Big Friendly keeps thinking there is someone else here or that I am on the phone, fighting with someone. I keep trying on bits of costume and standing in front of the mirror, so I can have a clear picture of myself in my mind while I work on the floor.

Yesterday we managed a stumble through. From beginning to end. I almost know all the words and I am remembering what I should be doing where (even if I’m not actually doing it yet). It is an amazing feeling doing a one-person show again after all these years. And it brings up so many other, related and unrelated feelings. “Threads of past memory surface into the present.” That’s a quote from the play.

Here are some random moments and observations from the rehearsal process.

1.Liz and I gossip and reminisce, a lot. We have a lot of catching up to do; it’s been 30 years since I started drama school, with Liz as my voice teacher.

2. Liz talks about the writer (me) as if she was another person, blaming her for writing a challenging script. So do I.

3. Things in the script keep happening in real life. A small Fiat Uno on the side of the road, orange traffic cones down the middle on the white line. Neil Young on the radio. A ghost in a story. Stephen King on twitter. Everything is connected.

4. I am touched, moved by and sensitive to arbitrary moments. I am ready to cry, but not in or during the work.

5. I am excited about building relationships with an audience; that’s always been my big thing.

6. I watch other performers and compare myself to them all the time. “I do that.” “I don’t do that.” “I should do that.” “I’ve never even thought of doing that.” I imagine how they feel, how what they do makes them feel.

7. I am able to jump right into the performance zone when I improvise. Somehow, the focus of rehearsals and repetition bring my readiness to improvise onto my fingertips and everything is so easy to access. What a bonus.

8. I am able to criticise the writer and enjoy her and know it is me. I am starting to do that with the performer too.

9. I am saying my mantra for Grahamstown even as I type this. I don’t want to jinx it, so I’ll keep it private.

Here’s what I want you all to do. If you are coming to G’town, come and see my show. It’s called Drive With Me and it is on at the NG Kerk Hall from 27 June to 7 July every day, bar one (28 June). If you aren’t coming, please recommend it to friends and family who are. I am almost prepared to guarantee that whoever sees it will be a little bit changed (in a good way) forever.

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