Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Tara Louise Notcutt (Page 1 of 2)

Jervis Pennington

I hardly ever see anything twice but last night I saw A Town Called Fokol-Lutho again, after seeing it first in Gtown. It is a delightful, quirky, funny, rude and strange little piece, with cute original stories and lovely singing (and delightful direction by Tara Louise Notcutt and design by Juanita Ferreira). And it is very odd. Made odder by the really odd, fantastic and unsettlingly moving Jervis Pennington.

Now everybody seemed to know Jervis and The Soft Shoes except me. Of course I had heard of them, but had no memory of who they were and what they had done. I guess because at the time (1983 and my first year at UCT) I was listening to more alternative SA music; The Malopoets, Ella Mental, Via Afrika, Roger Lucey, and even Happy Ships.

Jervis has written and composed A Town Called Fokol-Lutho, and he appears in it too. He looks every bit older than he did when he was the poster boy for South Africa’s first boy band. He is surrounded by some fine young Cape Town talent and he is definitely the odd one out, but, his presence is vital, and special. I am so moved by him on stage. And heart wrenched. In a good way. There is something infinitely humble and really creative about his presence (I have no idea if it is true), and he brings a totally different edge to this deeply original little show.

Already Reflecting on Song And Dance

I was so proud last night. I couldn’t have been prouder. I experienced the amazing sensation of having my writing, ideas, intentions and humour brought to life by other, incredibly talented people. What an honour.

Dearest Ntombi Makhutshi, thank you for agreeing to direct this piece. Nobody else could have done such an amazing job. Your casting was perfection, your comic sensibility was spot on, and you deeply understood where I was going with the text.

Anele Sithulweni, Deon Nebulane and Zondwa Njokweni you are what I dreamed of and more. You have given life to the characters and made them real, whole, human and totally hilarious. You crack me up.

Tara Louise Notcutt I am humbled that you are our hands behind everything. You remind me what being in theatre is all about. Bless you.

Finally, to Simon Cooperand Helen Cooper; you two have remained such staunch supporters of my work, from the first little thing I directed at KBT, to the biggest things. I am delighted that you ‘see’ what I am doing and then put your backs into it so solidly. It can’t happen without you.

Opening night audience, you were divine, generous and receiving. Now please tell everybody to come, laugh and have a jaul.

What theatre is for

When I go and see a play I really only need one thing to happen for it to be a successful experience. I need to feel something. I need something to happen to me emotionally. It helps to care about one or more of the characters. Usually, if you care about someone on stage you care about what happens to them; the change they go through. Even feeling strong emotions of antipathy can be good. I love being brought to tears by a real life performance on stage; and I cry at the weirdest things.

If I am transported to another world that is a bonus. If the premise, proposition, characters and situation are so completely foreign but the emotions are universal that is even more special. That is how we can watch theatre in another language that we don’t understand the words to and still be moved. Be moved. That’s what I am talking about.

Whenever I am teaching or facilitating improv I always say, “allow what happens in your scene to move you, to change you. Be affected by what happens.” If players do this the scene usually always works, regardless of plot, location or anything else. And the same goes for scripted theatre.

In the last while I have seen a few things where the people/characters on stage are so busy being and doing (often busy being and doing something extremely clever) that the reasons for them doing it aren’t clear. And then that becomes hard to watch, even if the actors doing it are really very good.

Tonight I saw Chickens, the winning play in the Imbewu Scribe competition, written by Gabriella Pinto and directed by Tara Louise Nottcutt. It has one of my favourite actors, Adrian Galley in it. It is an interesting premise. And I just didn’t get it. Not even a little bit. It’s not that I didn’t understand what was going on, I just didn’t understand why. And I was bored and frustrated and completely unmoved. Oh blah.

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.

A trip along, over, into and across Mafeking Road

“Let me tell you,” I said, as I stretched my arm out to grab hold of the triple strength coffee that was going to help me write this at six in the am. “Ja, ja, ja, it makes sense. Four of Herman Charles Bosman‘s stories visited, and revisited by a pink couch, two cheeky, chatty, physical, sexy young men, and a director with a brain the size of the koppie the leopard ran to. Can’t go wrong. Ja.”

Mafikeng Road is Matt Lewis and Andrew Laubscher, directed by Tara Louise Notcutt now on at The Intimate. And it’s four Herman Charles Bosman Groot Marico stories like they’ve never been done before. I have wanted to see this show since early days and I have missed it every other time it was on, including in Grahamstown where it won an ovation award and was sold out by the time I got there. So I wasn’t going to miss it this time. I was there like a bear.

And what a flippen amazing, fast, hilarious, delicious, clean, precise, energetic, charming trip it is. Matt and Andrew are genius and they jump, squirm, crouch, limp, run, freeze, switch from accent to accent, body to body, human to animal, comic contort, flash back, subtitle, soundtrack, sound effect and sometimes, just tell, the stories.

Tara has them on a short leash. Not a moment is indulgent. Not a gesture is too big.  Not a joke milked for more laugh. These are two committed and charming performers who are making the magic without any actor bullshit. “And I could of sat there for hours, listening to them go on and on. Ja, ja, ja. Makes sense. Loved that damn scared horse Bertie. Loved that poor love struck policeman, loved the drunken getting drunker altar wine fetcher. Loved the moms and kids at kerk. Loved every finger chase along arms. Think I must of loved the whole thing man.” I reach over but the koffie is klaar.


Nightmare Dream, Brother

When I started this blog I promised myself that I would be as honest as possible. My position was to send people off to see stuff I thought was good, and also to let people know about the stuff I thought was bad. I wanted people to know that I would say bad things about shows if I thought they weren’t good, but it has become harder and harder to do that. It is especially hard when you really like some of the people involved and you hope that the work is going to be something you love.

After seeing Dream, Brother (written by Duncan Buwalda, directed by Tara Louise Notcutt and performed by Carel Nel, Wilhelm van der Walt and Cintaine Schutte) at The Intimate last night, I had a hot, sweaty, sleepless six hours thinking of all the excuses I could use to not write this post. Because I really didn’t like this production, pretty much from start to finish. (And, do I jump in and say why, or do I just shut up? Well, I’ve decided to jump in. So, for all of you who liked it, or aren’t going to manage particularly hard criticism, stop reading now.)

First of all there is the story; which starts off simply enough. On the one hand, boy meets girl. In separate monologues other guy (psychiatrist) tells how he met, wooed, fell in love with, and married his woman. We follow both the stories, from scene to scene, with confusing dress changes for the girl, and much reciting of The Owl and The Pussycat, before things smash together, converge and degenerate into complete chaos, with a fight, a snakebite, madness and a most “unconventional” psychiatric treatment. Too much story. Too much to have to make sense of.

So that’s the story. But I have issues with the subject matter too. It feels like every play being made is “boy meets girl”, and what happens after, with no effort to portray actual people. It’s not enough to just give your characters jobs; writer, painter, vet, psychiatrist. The characters just aren’t fleshed out enough, so what happens is that the actors are forced to rely on themselves too much, and they end up making terribly obvious choices. This is especially horrible when things get emotional (or mad), and it’s all a bit cringe making. I love Carel Nel as a performer, but not in this piece. It feels like he has little to work with and he spends a lot of time in anxious preparation; lots of panicking and checking that he is ready, tucking in his shirt, straightening his (and other guy’s) tie. Cintaine Schutte is in the same boat (pea green or other), only she comes off slightly worse because the script and the direction is ungenerous to the female character. Unfortunately, her performance verges on trite generalisation. Other guy, Wilhelm van der Walt, is ok in the monologues but when his story converges with the other one nothing can save him from the ridiculous stuff he has to say and do.

Tara is excellent at making things look really good while using very little (again she thanks her parents for the use of their furniture!) and it did look good. But this time it wasn’t nearly enough.

Yes, it was the hottest night ever, in the sauna that is The Intimate, and this doesn’t make for great concentration. Yes, it was opening night, with all that kind of energy. Yes, I am still grumpy about how hard it is to make good theatre and then get people to come. Yes, it is possible that I am no longer part of these theatre makers’ target audience. Still, Dream, Brother entirely doesn’t do it for me.

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