Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: The Baxter (Page 1 of 4)

Back in Action

My sleep patterns are completely out again. The dogs have no idea what I am up to. For three days this week we went for our morning walk at 6am. I have spent the week on set for the sequel to a lovely local series, soon to be on a streaming service near you.

And I feel like I have been brought back to life. Yes, we absolutely have been doing things differently. Yes, we wear masks and sanitise and use mouth spray. Yes the spectre of this dreaded disease hangs over us all. Our food packs are prepared for minimum contamination. Door handles are cleaned. Temperatures are taken. And then we go in front of camera and magic happens.

Not going to lie. Like everyone else, only more (my personal circumstances have been dealt a hideous and painful blow this year), we have all been held in a state of suffering suspended animation.

A couple of small and almost miraculous things have saved me from totally bleak darkness – the making of a fiercely independent movie in the deepest winter, the bits of improv we have managed to do on line, the revival of improv teaching in a course that was suddenly halted in lockdown, the release of The Big Bird Battle, and shooting this series have kept me alive.

Now I will be turning to the beautiful and original work of live performance. From the 2-5 December Louise Westerhout and I will be presenting/facilitating/holding our new ‘show’ Murmurations at Theatre Arts in Observatory. I think we will still only present to 15 people a night. Still, what a time to be allowed to create new ways of theatrical communion.

And then, the following week, I go into rehearsal with the gorgeous and talented Chantal Stanfield, for another sequel – this time From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach with Kids, which opens at The Baxter Studio on 22 December and runs through to January. Of course, COVID restrictions apply, but we are slowly creeping towards some kind of liveness in our theatres again, and I feel like I am coming back to life.

Listening to Eve Ensler

I felt special at the talk Eve Ensler gave at the Baxter yesterday. I felt special that I was part of an invited audience. I felt special that I am very close to the SA producer, my sister-in-law, Gina Shmukler. I felt special because I knew so many of the gorgeous women of every description who were there. (I felt special because many, many industry people were so kind to me and whispered sweet words of solidarity with me in my ear, after my turgid time on the interwebs over the last two weeks.)

I loved sitting in the theatre and listening to the conversation flow between Eve, a most crazily lovable creative activist, playwright, performer and human female person, and Kgomotso Matsuyane, an articulate, charming, funny, warm, intelligent and generous host, who had clearly done great homework and met Eve with love and respect. Cape Town is the perfect place for this type of conversation to happen, with its collection of spirits quite comfortable with tapping into the personal political energetic. (It’s not for everyone, I know, and I have heard that Jozi was a tougher crowd).

It was quite clear during the Q&A afterwards that people had responded to Eve in that deeply personal way, and related to the bits of her story (she was there to promote her book about her cancer and recovery) that had resonance and relevance to them. And it was the same for me, on a completely personal and specific level. I was intrigued and moved by a lot of her story but the thing I hooked onto (and right now I accidentally typed thin instead of thing!) was coming back into my body. She spoke about being disconnected from our bodies and that for her, getting sick brought her back into her body. For me, I have returned to my body after losing 17kgs. I have rediscovered my body after ignoring it and its/my needs. I have fallen in love with my body in a profound and deep way. I have reconnected with my physical self and it has changed my relationship with myself, others, and how I am in the world. I cried a lot during Eve’s chat. Crying is also me being in my body.

So, I had the experience that everyone looks for in a theatre yesterday. Communion with the audience, and with the ‘performers’. Catharsis. Connection with the self. Change. Understanding. Enlightenment. Looking back at all of those gigantic things it seems unrealistic. But it isn’t. Thanks Eve, and all who worked to bring that magical conversation to us.

Eve’s extraordinary play Emotional Creature is on next week. I am urging you to find a young person and take them. It will transform you and them.

Hayani – going home, in so many ways

Two in a row, on two consecutive nights. Once again I am back here on meganshead, writing about a show I absolutely loved. This decision to only write about the stuff I love seems to have paid off in buckets.

Hayani means ‘home’ in Venda. It is also the name of a totally beautiful production that opened at The Baxter last night. Directed by Warren Nebe, Atandwa Kani and Nat Ramabulana tell the stories of their growing up; their two very different, yet at times converging stories. The two move from telling how they would travel, as children, from Joburg back to the Eastern Cape and Venda during the holidays, to how their respective parents met, to playing those parents and each other, and each other’s friends in the most delightful and absorbing hour and a half in a theatre shared with them.

It also had a deeply personal ring for me, particularly the scenes that took place in Jozi, because that was where I grew up. References to times and dates as well as landmarks brought back my own memories too, and the most powerful one was listening to the beautiful, round and lilting sounds of Venda being spoken, reminding me without me understanding, but hearing with such familiarity.

The content means story telling, and the pieces are beautifully written and directed, but it is the performers who take it to a whole new level. They are gorgeous. Tight, energetic, passionate, emotional, sensitive, powerful, gentle, funny, cheeky, and deeply committed performance make Hayani the easy peasy standing ovation piece it is. Again, I am writing this to urge you to see theatre that can change your heart from the inside.

Klezmer in Cape Town

It was a week of much and diverse live performance last week. I emceed TheatreSports on Monday, played on Tuesday, went to The Rocky Horror Picture Show (amazeballs) on Wednesday, did a double feature of Vigil and The Year of the Bicycle on Saturday and last night I went to clarinetist David Krakauer playing with SA klezmer band Play With Fire.

So, there was a lot to digest. But last night blew me away. A full house in the Baxter’s main theatre for klezmer music? Yes! And it was a totally transcendent, magical, crazy experience. I don’t see enough live music anymore but this has given me inspiration. It was extraordinary and I am so glad I went.

Bloody #Rooiland

Rooiland was a couple of shows away from being one of the ones I didn’t get to, so I am really pleased I made it to The Baxter last night to see it. I had been warned about how hectic it was, seen the publicity pics and I know the content; based on the numbers gangs of Pollsmoor Prison.

Even so. Even so I wasn’t quite prepared to see it played out quite like that. Played out right until the end. Played out with not a single diversion. It is totally, gruesomely bleak. Four men, in a cell. Four men in hell.

Charleton George delivers a performance like very few I have ever seen on stage before. I shudder remembering the ‘granny knitting’ and what he is hiding. The thing about him is his extraordinary ability to switch from the mundane to high Afrikaans poetry in a heartbeat, transcending the actual and going to the theatrical string of pain and beauty. Eina.

Brendon Daniels is riveting and hideous. He embodies his character and doesn’t miss a beat; from his sleepy, slit eyed slouch, to his  brutal madness. He is who I will have nightmares about. Wilhelm van der Walt and Leon Kruger are agonising and seriously good too.

Rooiland is the exact opposite of a fun night out at the theatre. It did my head in. Jaco Bouwer directed this piece brilliantly, to its most horrible conclusion. Bravo to all involved.

The Line

I thought I would only get to this in the morning, after taking a bit of time to compose myself, but I can’t help it. It needs to be written now. Truth is, I am waiting for my face to get back to normal, from an hour long cry.

Tonight was the opening of my sister-in-law Gina Shmukler’s play The Line at The Baxter Studio. It is only on this week, as part of the Rolex something or another (not exactly sure), but this means that you need to make a very special effort to get to one of the very few performances. It is absolutely required viewing.

This play has arrived in CT with a lot of hype because of how well it did in Joburg at The Market. I was nervous about how it would translate for a Cape Town audience, particularly an invited, opening night one. I didn’t need to worry. It delivered on every level and I was in trouble after the first five minutes and didn’t ever pull myself back.

Some of you will know how the subject of xenophobia gets me going and so it is no surprise that from this point of view I was invested. Two actresses play characters and tell stories taken directly from interviews with perpetrators, victims and witnesses of the out of control xenophobic attacks that rocked South Africa in 2008. And it is devastating.

The Line is a radical, complex, powerful, shattering, horrific, personal, critical, and ultimately human look at these xenophobic attacks, and how it affected those involved. I knew that this was what it was about, and yet, revisiting it in this way was like opening the emotional floodgates. That’s because the piece is so contained and clear and it is able to cut to the real dark heart of this horror without ever getting sentimental, preachy or message mad.

The two actresses, Khutjo Green and Gabi Harris are nothing short of extraordinary. I marveled at their performances. The set (Niall Griffin) and sound (Charl-Johan Lingenfelder) were perfect, as was the lighting, but I say this as an afterthought. I was totally undone by this piece in its totality, and I cannot urge you strongly enough to go and see it. Go.

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