Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Penny Youngelson

The mind-blowing, moving Sillage

1047_sillagenafsqrI must confess to having been equally intrigued and irritated by the title. Sillage. (Actually, not even spell check likes it, and tried to change it to Village.) I had no idea how to say it. Once I understood what the word meant – the degree to which a perfume’s fragrance lingers in the air when worn – I loved the idea of it, but I did find it pretentiously oblique. This can be dangerous for a title of a theatre piece. If people don’t understand it, they might not want to see it. It is pretty risky. But I am a hardened theatre goer. I put my big theatre pants on and off I went to the Alexander Bar to see this piece written and directed by Penny Youngelson and performed by Rebecca Makin-Taylor and Michelle Belknap.

And I was undone by it. It is the only expression that describes the quiet emotional landslide that this piece took me on. The plot is simple; a daughter comes back to her parents’ home to help her mother pack up and organise the move to downscale. The play is their relationship.

Now, it is no secret that I have a deeply complicated story with my mother, and this play was no reflection of it, but I was so engrossed in this dynamic, and felt so completely for both characters, it was like being the third person in the room; the one that was them both. As personal becomes political becomes personal the emotional ripples are both inward and outward, and I kept on wondering who I was, here in this world, in this country, in this city, in this suburb, in this age, in this house. I was taken.

The writing is superb, the direction is clever and beautiful and the performances are electric, magnetic, truthful and huge. I felt everything. Always. It was an hour of me being there, in it.

I have not loved much theatre this year. I have been the irritation of others because I have remained mostly unmoved by the work that has been raved about. But this. This Sillage, is the kind of theatre that moves me.

As far as I know it is on for three more shows this run, but it is going to the Gtown fest. Do not miss it.


Last night I went to see Expectant at Alexander Bar, created and directed by Penny Youngelson (part of Rust Co-Operative) and performed by Rebecca Makin-Taylor. It was the final performance there, but they have a tiny run at TAAC soon (just so you know).

I was pretty taken up with this quite extraordinary  piece of theatre. This is not a review of Expectant. At this stage of its showing I doubt that it needs that. This is me trying to explain why I liked it so very much, in the best possible way.

I really liked this piece of work because it is entirely itself. What that is, is complex, funny, challenging, self absorbed, self conscious, indulgent, clever, critical, big, slow, crazy, full of promise, washed with disappointment, lots of beauty, and articulation, and sound, and pointlessness, and wacky character and carapace/constriction/period dress, and weird big hair, and glass cups and red tampon-like string things. It is South African, and a clue to what young clever people are thinking and feeling, and it nods to my past, and indulges my whiteness and it made me feel again how I don’t have children (a deeply personal moment of powerful and unintended connection). It is long and complicated and verbose and full, and try as I might, I missed stuff and laughed and missed the next thing and then was taken by surprise by the next thing.

This piece made me excited for another big reason. It is made for itself. It is made to speak its own special stuff, with its own voice. It has not been made with an audience in mind, because if it had been it would have been very different. It is theatre that reminded me that theatre can be made without imagining who will see it, and pandering to them. And there will be people who will get it, or at least enough of it to count. This is brave theatre. It is probably full of its own heartache, but my sense is that the young women who have made it are pretty strong.

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)


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