Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Siyasanga

Featured Actor 1

I really don’t think the extraordinary cast of Good Will Acting is getting enough attention, and I’m going to try and do my bit to fix that. For the next four days I am going to write a ‘feature’ on each one of them, totally from my point of view, because this is my blog, and I can!

Today we will be featuring the only man in the cast; Anele Situlweni. Anele walked into his audition for the industrial theatre job I was casting for with an earnest intensity that was undercut only by his natural charm and easygoing ‘vibe’. He had a combination of skills and attributes that made him the perfect choice for the job. Young, cute, warm, friendly and super talented. He played a relatively low status character in the industrial theatre job; someone who needed to appeal to the target audience and someone who they could relate to. He managed this with flying colours.

When we decided that Anele would play Ras the Rasta in Good Will Acting he took instantly to the idea, and he had tons to offer. In fact, he wrote reams of stuff that was totally brilliant and really hard to not put in when we were editing; there is probably enough really funny and original Ras stuff to do a one man show about him.

I find it so funny that Anele’s performance of a Rasta is so good that people think he is really like that, and that he is actually a Rasta in real life! The nicest thing about working with Anele is that he is a very generous performer. And he is properly hilarious. Next year he is going to be working with Siyasanga, based at Artscape and I really think everyone needs to ‘keep an eye on this guy’ as Tabatha would say. He is going to be going places and I am delighted that I got a chance to play with him.

The Incredibly Long Quiet Violence of Dreams

Off to Artscape’s Arena theatre I went last night for the opening night of the play adaptation of K. Sello Duiker‘s book The Quiet Violence of Dreams, adapted into a play by Ashraf Johaardien, which was as long as this sentence! The Siyasanga company in association with Artscape presented it, with Fatima Dike directing the sexy, young cast of Fikile Mahola, Richard Lothian, Chiedza Mhende, Pierre Malherbe, Lee Roodt and Chris Gxalaba.

I have such mixed, and even conflicting thoughts and feelings about this production. I suppose that could be good, but I’m not sure. The story is about a young man who struggles with mental illness, all wrapped up with his struggle with his identity, who ends up on the road to a semblance of stability after finding himself working as a rent boy in a Cape Town massage parlour. The play explores the seedy, underbelly (I hate that word) of Cape Town in the shadow of its wealth, glamour and tourist shine. Maybe I’ve been reading too many crime novels set in Cape Town but it seems that everybody is digging around in its seedy underbelly (that word again).

One of the things I loved best about the script were the casual mentions of all things Cape Town. I know the city so well I was able to place the date of the play by the mention of The Piano Lounge. Cape Town was beautifully captured, from a drama student’s flat, to an ex-con’s Sea Point place, to a room in Valkenberg. I always knew I was watching a story that was unfolding right here, in this city, with the comings and goings of a group of young people, and how fraught, complicated and contradictory their lives are.

So what’s the problem? So far so good, it seems. Well, firstly, the play was longer than Mamma Mia! Two very long acts, with a lot of scenes that felt like repeats. There has to be a better way to chop and cut it down. Then there was the very well justified but seriously old-fashioned graphic sex and nudity and sexual violence. I certainly wasn’t the only one in the audience who found this awkward and embarrassing, and that is different from being challenged and finding it uncomfortable. It was clumsy, unsexy and cringe worthy.

Some riveting scenes of drama, like the strange scenes and interesting dialogue between the Falkenberg inmates, the weird scenes with the protagonist Tshepo (Fikile Mahola) and his father (Chris Gxalaba), and the quirky, short but powerful scene where Tshepo loses his waitering job, were interspersed with interminable, repetitive scenes, minute in their detail of naturalism.

Then there was the furniture; the endless, moving around of these big heavy blocks of the set in between scenes. Endless.

I enjoyed watching all the performers. I love Pierre Malherbe, and the characters he played were different, interesting and engaging. I found Lee Roodt strange and magnetic. I thought Chiedza Mhende was gorgeous if a bit one dimensional, but that could have been Mmabatho, the character she played. Fikile Mahola was fantastic as Tshepo the protagonist. He was clear, emotional and convincing. But I remained totally unmoved by the story, and the comings and goings of this little bunch of lives.

It’s entirely possible that this story is a bit dated; it sits in the steam room heydays of Cape Town in the early nineties, so what it needs is a different approach. Perhaps a more consistent stylisation that would bring it onto that big, white open canvass of the set? Perhaps a more descriptive approach to the sex, without us having to watch every last bulge, bum wobble, funny undies and performer having to do it all? It feels like it is just trying too hard to be controversial and dangerous, but we’ve been there. And done that. And it’s been better.

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