Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Jay Pather

Post GIPCA thinking

I will steal Juliet’s numbering system (stealing was a theme too) and put down some random post GIPCA Directors and Directing Playwrights thoughts here. You are welcome to add your own in the comments section. One of the best parts of the GIPCA forum is that it engages such lively debate; both on and off the floor.

1. It is totally different being a participant. Different, exiting, good, complicated.

2. I love the talking, but still, ultimately, I love watching performance more.

3. I love the range of work on offer and the many voices that make them.

4. I am amazed that there  is a genuine market for this sort of symposium. Who would have thought?

5. Jay Pather is amazing.

6. Malcolm Purkey, Mark Fleishman, Penny Youngelson, Mandla Mbothwe, Myer Taub, Brett Bailey, to name a few off the top of my head, are very clever.

7. I love that Tracey Saunders and Marina Griebenouw attend the whole thing.

8. I am surprised how frustrated I get when people’s questions are inarticulate or rambling, and then mine end up being that too.

9. I am shocked at how uncomfortable arrogance makes me.

10. I am shocked at how badly I need feedback.

12. I am intrigued about how different the male and female voices in theatre are.

13. I am amazed that the struggle, war, debate is the same.

14. I like GIPCA’s catering.

15. The event has an amazing organisational team, and Adrienne and Themba in particular rock.

16. The theatre world is not generous enough.

17. Actors, directors, writers and academics are very complicated.

18. I have a group of magnificent and supportive friends.

19. It is easier to perform if you know the words.

20. Improv is a huge love.

21. I admire Amy Jephta. She is always so clear.

22. Sunday mornings are not an easy time to perform.

23. Brett Bailey is king of design.

24. You can watch good theatre in any language and understand or be moved. Thando Doni’s Eutopia was fabulous.

25. Our world is different now that there is a GIPCA symposium accepted as a yearly reality.

26. Nicholas Spagnoletti is hilarious.

27. We all know each other, mostly.

28. I am torn between continuing writing this blog, and not writing it. Is it helpful, damaging, bullshit, useful? Let me know.

29. I made new friends and I am a fan of more.

30. I conclude that theatre is not for sissies. (I have no idea who it is actually for)


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.


A weekend of Theatre

A cat stomping on my head is what forced me awake this morning when I should still be sleeping. I got home late (for me) last night and today is the final day of Directors and Directing. Yesterday was long, intense and crazy, with that heightened reality of Grahamstown festival about it. First was the panel discussion of directors about their ‘signature’. Then it was ‘From the Trenches’, a panel discussion by actors about directors. What was very interesting for me is that, in general, I’d rather see the work directors and actors make than listen to them talk about it. Directors are mostly convoluted and obscure when trying to explain what it is that they do, and actors are mostly inarticulate without a character and direction.

The rest of the day was dedicated to the watching of plays. Three of them. We watched The Mechanicals Lie of the Mind first. Then, we went on huge Jammie Shuttle busses to The Theatre Arts Admin Collective for Capturing Sanity, which is the emerging director’s bursary production directed by Pusetso Thibedi, and then it was back on the bus to The Fugard for Fred Abrahamse’s R & J.

The most interesting part of yesterday happened in the conversations I had in the corridors, foyers, parking lots and stairwells. I spoke to playwrights, critics, directors, actors, teachers and friends. Everybody had a passionate point of view. Everybody was excited or exploding about one thing or another. And that’s the whole point.

I am grateful that today has a bit of a later start. My head is crashingly full, and I need to walk the dog with Big Friendly. I need a moment of real life perspective before the world of theatre takes me in.

Jay Pather has managed to turn a monster three day theatre event into a delicious, well oiled learning machine.

As I Liked It

Off to a perfect evening for opening night at Maynardville I went last night for As You Like It, directed by Geoffrey Hyland. It’s a jolly good production and I had a jolly good time. This is a great way to do Shakespeare; picnic on the lawns, have a glass or two of Distell’s finest, cover yourself in mozzie repellant and take in a bit of the old bard.

As You Like It is a bit of a nothing play, but what made this production work was that it was so easy to follow and that the funny bits were really quite funny, which is actually the hardest thing to do in Shakespeare as far as I’m concerned.

I have lots and lots of good things to say about this production, and only a few complaints, and they are small in comparison, I have to say.

Firstly, I know Geoff is really good at visuals and visual design of a show but here it really goes further and his concept for the show is very strong. The heavy, restricted and rather gloomy and oppressive court is Gothic and boldly visual with blacks and reds. Then, to the forest of Arden where everyone floats about in hippy floral in the pastoral Ashram in the woods. Delicious. And very funny.

I loved the opening dance sequence, choreographed by magician Jay Pather. I was a bit sad when it ended and we had to go through the opening introduction scenes which are always a pain; lots of explaining to get the story going. And it was a bit heavy going until the crowd scenes which lifted the whole thing up. Claire Watling stole the show as Madame Le Beau, with her perfect comic timing, outrageous costume and madly restoration voice and accent. It was good that she did steal the show because, the first half is not nearly as much fun as the second, and she was the comic relief. In fact, at half-time I was not loving the play as much as I did at the end.

The second half was great and it gave my favourite performers and characters time to bloom and flourish, They were the absolutely surprising and delightful Mark Elderkin as Touchstone, who was properly funny, spoke the Shakespeare like it was his native tongue and was magnetic, charming, camp and huge, the consummately talented Guy de Lancy as Jaques the melancholy traveller, who is by far the guy who speaks Shakespeare the best, and his famous ‘all the world’s a stage’ speech was impeccable, Gys de Villiers who played the bad guy Duke Frederick in the first half and totally contrasted him with the love machine, guru leader with the voice, Duke Ferdinand in the forest. The smaller parts were also too delicious. Nicola Hanekom‘s Phoebe and Pakamisa Zwedala‘s Silvius were delightful and funny, as was enormous Adrian Galley as the no-frills shepherd Corin. I have to mention Paul Savage’s second character ‘Sir Oliver Martext, a free spirited but questionable priest’ as one of the funniest teeniest cameos I have ever seen.

The hardest parts to play are the romantic leads. It’s hard to take them seriously. They recover unbelievably quickly from the terrible things that happen to them, make decisions in the blink of an eye and fall in love at first glimpse. It’s just so hard to care about them, and they aren’t really funny either. Having said that, I thought that Lika Berning as Rosalind was terrific. She was clear, comfortable and totally present, especially in her boy disguise. Matching her, as her cousin and side kick Celia, was the delicious, clear and so beautiful Astara Mwakalumbwa. The only thing I thought that really could have helped these two a lot was a bit more cutting of their scenes which were long and repetitive. They do go on about not much for quite a bit. It was Andrew Laubscher as Orlando who suffered the most though. He had the terrible job of starting the show off and he just didn’t manage it for me. Granted, his character is the poor, love-lorn dweeb! (I know this is rude, but when I saw Scott Sparrow in the bar afterwards I thought about how good he would have been in that part.)

The ensemble worked like a dream, and even those who had little or nothing to say were fab. I smaaked the hippy folky songs and was amazed at how well everybody danced! Wow guys. The zulu wedding ending was very lekker.

I found the guy-with-the-stick a bit irritating though, even though we ‘got’ what he was doing. Also, although the set looked good and I loved the fiery crosses in the court, the funny poles in the forest were not terribly successful and the one did look like it was going to tip over.

There were two other things I loved about the production that made it for me: Dicky Longhurst‘s costume design (I can’t believe he had the girls in beautiful red ball gowns and sparkly red stilettos in the first half!) was amazing, and William Baker‘s original music was fabulous.

I can’t wait to see and hear what everyone else thought of this one. Go and see it and let me know.

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