Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Magnet Theatre

Voices made Night

Walking across the stage area of The Flipside to get to the seats was like walking through a zombie graveyard. The occasional movement of one of the scattered bodies lying in the dirt or propped up next to a wall or draped over a piece of set was creepy. Once we had negotiated the journey to our seats I giggled as I watched girls hold their dresses to stop the one body from being able to look up their skirts. And those two feelings, giggling and creepy, set the tone for the piece.

Voices Made Night (directed by Mark Fleishman and with Jennie Reznek, Faniswa Yisa, Mfundo Tshazibane, Dann-Jaques Mouton, Thando Doni, Chiminae Ball, Richard September) is a revisit of The Magnet Theatre’s staging of Mia Couto’s strange and wonderful short stories. I remember how I felt after watching the original production in 2001 even though I couldn’t remember an actual specific thing. And once this one started I had a similar sensation. It washed over me, and I sat there letting each image, message, character and story take me on a teeny journey, before letting it go, and experiencing the next one.

The ensemble cast are really strong where it matters. They work absolutely brilliantly together. The set is fantastic and the music is wonderful and evocative. The costumes and make-up are totally fabulous. My only teeny nigggle was the pace; which is either deadly slow or hysterical, and I think there could be much more in between.

This production is either your kinda cuppa, or not. It was mine.



Song and Dance – A charmed beginning

Last night Ntombi Makhutshi won Best Director for Song and Dance, my play that was a finalist (and runner up) in the PANSA staged play reading competition for new South African plays. Once I had (irrationally, you know what happens when you suddenly find yourself being all competitive and ‘competition brained’) gotten over my disappointment of not winning, I was able to get back to the real stuff, and I want to pay tribute and give thanks here to that; the real stuff.

First of all, thank you PANSA. This competition is an amazing platform for us writers. What a brilliant way for the scripts to get a first outing. It is a long-waited for, very valued part of the theatre calendar. What is also so important here is that the staged readings feel safe, creative and fun as well as competitive. It is a fantastic thing to be part of. Thank you Brian, Angela, Nono and Max (the PANSA people I harassed on an almost daily basis) for your support, problem solving, enthusiasm and encouragement. And Paul, thanks for the butternut soup. Also, thank you Magnet Theatre; I loved being in your space.

The director and cast of Song and Dance were a dream come true. Ntombi Makhutshi understood what I wanted to say with this play right from the start, and then she set about making it happen with confidence and a deliberate intention. I thought that it was extraordinary that she was able to get so much of the physical comedy and timing into the piece with only a few days’ rehearsal. This was helped by our brilliant casting of Deon Nebulane, Anele Situlweni and Zondwa Njokweni, who rose to the challenge and made my script look brilliant. To be honest, my biggest sadness that Song and Dance didn’t win Best Play is that the cast is not going to go to Durban for the final. I would have loved them to have gone.

I was so happy that so many of my friends made the effort to come and see it. And I was delighted to receive such positive, constructive and helpful feedback from the judges Lara Bye, Tess Fairweather and Mzi Vavi, as well as from the audience. This steers me in the direction of how to make the script better for when it happens for real in a full-scale production.

I was delighted and humbled by the standard of the company I kept, with winning writer Peter Hayes (for his play Suburbanalia), Karen Jeynes (previous winner for Everybody Else Is F***ing Perfect) and Fred Benbow-Hebbert (whose plays have been in every PANSA finals). I was beyond excited that Ntombi not only held her own but took the honours in  company with the brilliant and experienced Tara Louise Notcutt, Pieter Bosch Botha and Jaqueline Domisse.

There will be very little resting. We may not be off to Durban, but the plans will start soon. Thank you team. This is just the beginning of Song and Dance.

Krag Box

In an effort to catch up on theatre in Cape Town, and to try and see stuff before it finishes, I went to The Magnet Theatre to see Krag Box last night. It is a piece created and directed by Frances Marek and created and performed by Dann-Jaques Mouton and Ephraim Gordon.

This two-hander is a small, local story, set in Lavender Hill, about two boys and their “for life” friendship, and what happens to them and why they become who they become. I won’t spoil it for you, because even though tonight is the last night of this run it’s a piece that has a life; this is how Magnet works, and you will be able to see it another time.

The story is great, the performers are fantastic (I love watching them both), the language (totally local Afrikaans) is delicious and the piece is fresh, new and exciting. This is its first outing and I have no doubt that it will grow and grow.

My response to this piece is very different from my response to Out of Order. Here, the Magnet have created an environment where work can build and grow; where young directors and actors can do stuff, and be mentored and nurtured and guided. Ok, I am talking about one director and two actors, but still. The creative process of this work is so different. And how it reflects in the work is that this piece is ready for an audience. It will change and swell and grow, but what it is is ready.

Yes I was sad that there was such a tiny audience. Yes I was irritated that I have no idea how to access the kind of audience that would love this play the most. Yes the quietness of a play that isn’t well attended is so depressing. Still. This play is allowed to have few people now. It will breathe and grow and so will its audiences. So, watch all spaces. And if you can’t go tonight make sure you get to see it next time around.

Brand new Magnet’s Die Vreemdeling

Last night’s was a double opening; a new theatre and a new play (for Cape Town). That’s quite an undertaking. And it was great. Bravo Magnet Theatre (Mark Fleishman and Jennie Reznek) and everyone else involved in both the theatre and the play. My hugest hope is that people from all over Cape Town will come and see work in this space.

Die Vreemdeling was a great choice to initiate the space. The simple story is about what happens when a stranger is let into a paranoid and defensive small town by a young girl. She opens her gate and her heart and that’s where the ‘strond’ begins. The simple set spread out over the big floor space and was even dwarfed by the high, high ceilings.

The style of Die Vreemdeling is physical theatre; a story told by actors who play lots of characters (and things) and switch from song narration to scene, from actor character to story character and even switch which actor plays which character. It is also created quite specifically from and for a particular West Coast coloured audience (there are obvious bits of Joe Barber and that Jan Spies style of Wes Kus character and humour).

It was especially exciting last night when the play started and the audience sat back to watch. The three man cast; Ephraim Gordon, Rudi Malcolm and Dann-Jaques Mouton are the the most charming performers who connect with the audience from the first moment. Ephraim Gordon switches from a shaky old guy, Lippe, to a young girl just like that. I adored his character Ella. I think he was my favourite. Dann-Jaques Mouton is amazing. He is so tall and skinny and he looks like a palm tree with his dreads; yet he is unbelievably versatile as a physical performer. His windpomp and chicken were an absolute highlight. I think he was my favourite. And Rudi Malcolm, the guy with the guitar; the vreemdeling, and the policeman! He played the baddie and the goodie! He was my favourite.

I really, really enjoyed this play. Accessible, moving, delicious Afrikaans, great performances, touching story, lovely set and lighting. But here are my two tiny niggles. Frances Marek, the talented and gorgeous, is credited as assistant director, and she was on stage moving furniture. I don’t know why, but this upset me. And the other thing is less of a niggle and more of a ‘big sigh’ moment. From the beginning of the play I felt like I was watching a different version of my own The Tent; what happens when a stranger comes to town. I know all of our stories are part of a collective consciousness but I often have the feeling that some theatre makers need to make a bigger effort to see each others’ work.

Onward, forward, upward. The snacks after the show looked delicious. But I’m on a bit of a regime (I’ll write about it closer to the time). Let’s get the word out there. A new show in a new space is hard to publicise. I must just say that it is so easy to find The Magnet Theatre. Drive down Lower Main Road, Obz, from Station Road, say, towards town. See the sign on the right hand side, go park and you are there. Get there early for proper safe and totally controlled off street parking!

Sunday in G’town

Yesterday was seriously long; we had a 10am and 10pm TheatreSports show and I needed to keep myself as busy as I could in between. Hectic.

At 12 I went to see Phillippa Yaa de Villiers in her one woman show, which is mostly autobiographical, called Original Skin. It was during this performance that I was again reminded of the difficulties of festival performing, especially when your piece is small and trying to be poignant and you have what sounded like loud community/protest/drumming theatre in the room behind you. Phillippa’s story is touching, warm and heartfelt, and there were moments when I had more than just a lump in my throat. I just struggled with the direction, which was, dare I say it, boring. The feel of the play is old fashioned, and while there are many moments of genuine loveliness in the text and writing, the show climbs gently onto and sits on an unmoving bus for the most part. I left feeling a little disappointed that my friend’s amazing story wasn’t very well presented.

I wanted to see something at 2pm but I honestly could not find a thing to see. I read the daily schedule about 11 times and went to have some lunch instead. Then, at 4.30pm I went to see The Magnet Theatre’s Every Year Every Day I am Walking, directed by Mark Fleishman and performed by Jennie Reznek and Faniswa Yisa. I am probably one of the last people in SA to have seen the show; it has been everywhere, and all overseas too. I am so happy I finally saw it and it is definitely my Best of the Fest. Of course it bothers me that it is a show that has had to travel and perform everywhere to gather a big G’town audience, and Ugli Bob, you are much on my mind as I formulate new ideas and thoughts around the whole festival shebang. Nonetheless, Every Year Every Day I am Walking was great. A beautiful story, consummately told, with its own original style, flavour and signature. It was absolutely moving, beautiful theatre. This was what I was looking for at the fest. I loved it and I wished I had seen it earlier because I despised this particular (big) festival audience with a passion. The young man next to me had one of those noisy windbreaker jackets on, which wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t kept falling asleep and dropping his head either forward, back or even sideways towards me. Every time he did this his jacket made those loud shifting sounds. Then, five minutes before the end of the show I heard a noise behind me and a voice I recognised as Simon saying, “Sit down!” These two idiots were trying to leave! They were obviously going to be late for something else they had booked for and were trying to sneak out of the theatre from way at the back, on hectic scaffolding that booms and clangs with every step you take! I wish that was all, but no, the woman in front of me’s cellphone went off, and instead of diving into her bag and switching the thing off she just put her bag down and ignored it. I kid you not. I finally had to tap her on the shoulder and tell her to turn it off. It’s not like there wasn’t the pre-recorded message before the show, virtually pleading with people to find their phones and switch them off! So poor Jennie and Faniswa competed with these two lumps and a cellphone retard in their final, resolution moments and both they and I wanted to kill.

The recession has not affected how people spend money on food and drink here at the fest. I popped into the Long Table at about 6.15pm, (Dulce’s, with Wi-fi was full) and in ten minutes flat, after I had gotten my micro-waved food and sat down, the place had become a zoo, with a queue to the door and tons of people smoking inside. Unbearable. I left, with still some few hours to go before our last show at 10.

Then I hit on a brainwave. I decided to go and see Sleight of Mind, Stuart Lightbody and Bryan Miles doing their special brand of magic. They perform in the same venue as us, so I would just be there, ready for our show afterwards. The venue was filled to the brim with schoolboys. I felt a bit sorry for them because they were desperate to be volunteers at every moment but older, bigger ones were always chosen. This hour long magic show was a delight. Both magicians are slick, cute and charming, and they work fantastically well together, supporting each other and moving seamlessly from one thing to the next. A very cool show, with an amazing newspaper trick at the end.

TheatreSports had had a great show in the morning, but 10pm proved to be a bit of a struggle. We got through it ok, but it wasn’t our best, that’s for sure. And that sums up the festival for me, with a day to go. Not my best, but I got through it ok.

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