Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: The Mechanicals (Page 2 of 2)

A weekend of Theatre

A cat stomping on my head is what forced me awake this morning when I should still be sleeping. I got home late (for me) last night and today is the final day of Directors and Directing. Yesterday was long, intense and crazy, with that heightened reality of Grahamstown festival about it. First was the panel discussion of directors about their ‘signature’. Then it was ‘From the Trenches’, a panel discussion by actors about directors. What was very interesting for me is that, in general, I’d rather see the work directors and actors make than listen to them talk about it. Directors are mostly convoluted and obscure when trying to explain what it is that they do, and actors are mostly inarticulate without a character and direction.

The rest of the day was dedicated to the watching of plays. Three of them. We watched The Mechanicals Lie of the Mind first. Then, we went on huge Jammie Shuttle busses to The Theatre Arts Admin Collective for Capturing Sanity, which is the emerging director’s bursary production directed by Pusetso Thibedi, and then it was back on the bus to The Fugard for Fred Abrahamse’s R & J.

The most interesting part of yesterday happened in the conversations I had in the corridors, foyers, parking lots and stairwells. I spoke to playwrights, critics, directors, actors, teachers and friends. Everybody had a passionate point of view. Everybody was excited or exploding about one thing or another. And that’s the whole point.

I am grateful that today has a bit of a later start. My head is crashingly full, and I need to walk the dog with Big Friendly. I need a moment of real life perspective before the world of theatre takes me in.

Jay Pather has managed to turn a monster three day theatre event into a delicious, well oiled learning machine.

Cutie Cosi

It looks like I am starting to get able to go and see theatre without breaking into hives. This is a good sign, people! I went with friends to The Little Theatre last night to watch The Mechanicals‘ (the only rep company in Cape Town) offering of Cosi. I didn’t read the programme very well, and I also forgot to bring one home so there might be horrible gaps in what I am about to write.

Cosi the play is the same story as Cosi the movie, where a young graduate gets his first job directing a ‘play’ as therapy for the inmates of a lunatic asylum. I adored the movie; a real feel good, silly, quirky Australian offering with both Rachel Griffiths and Toni Collette in it.

This version is also very cute and totally watchable, and funny and moving at times too. The action takes place in a dusty old theatre, and the story follows the rehearsal process of the totally unrealistic choice of the opera Cosi Van Tutte that one of the inmates is obsessed with. All the while we, the audience, find out more about the motley crew of inmates, and we watch the shift and growth of the young director Lewis, played rather sweetly by Andrew Laubscher. Scott Sparrow directs. I love watching Scott on stage and I missed him out front, but he did a bold, good job of directing this massive cast and all the traffic of this thing.

It is a huge cast, and therein lies its success and downfall. Guy de Lancey is brilliant. Deborah Vieyra, Emily Child, Tinarie van Wyk Loots and Kate Liquorish are fabulous. Everyone else varies from okay to hideous. The really good moments outshine the bad ones, but the bad ones make the production uneven and long. The thing that I love the most about the play though is how totally accessible it is. Yes, accents move in and out, styles clash and smash, pace is up and down, but this is the kind of play non-theatre goers would really love. The story is easy to follow, the characters are fun and quirky, and the dialogue moves mostly at a good pace. There are some really funny and delightfully rude moments too. So, on a Saturday night it should have been full. And there were about forty of us. Damn. I am coming out in hives again. This theatre business sucks!

The Birthday Party

On my way to The Little Theatre last night, for The Mechanicals opening of Harold Pinter‘s The Birthday Party, I flashed back to a most amazing memory. I remember it being a Saturday night; I was still at high school, and SABC 1, 2 and 3 were called something else (anyone remember what?), when Yvonne Banning, the continuity announcer, introduced one of her favourite plays and playwrights, Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party. I remember being absolutely blown away. It was my first introduction to the play and his work and it was like watching a completely absurd horror movie that I hardly understood but loved.

That set up quite an expectation for me last night, which is a bit unfair since I am twenty five years older and have been through all the Pinter pieces that we did for our end of year auditions at drama school. Still, there was that feeling. And Chris Weare directing! (who probably taught me all I know about Pinter anyway).

The minute I saw the set I got it. That Pinter feeling. And certainly, when it started, with the wordless (and super talented and versatile) Scott Sparrow in the light, I shivered. Unfortunately, that menace, tension and confusion was quickly dissipated and never really came back. Oh the cast were good(ish), but they never really cracked it, and as I left the theatre I was trying to work out why.

So here are some of my thoughts. I think with Pinter you need a very long and focused rehearsal process and I think it’s possible the piece was under rehearsed. This means that the moments, the famous Pinter pauses, the bleakness and most importantly the savage menace were lost. I love the idea of a repertory company, and I’m even very jealous that I’m not part of one. I love the idea of the different seasons of work that a rep company can put on, but I do think that with a Pinter you need to give the piece proper, long rehearsal time. In a rep company actors are forgiven for being a bit too young, or not exactly 100% natural choices for the part, but then they have to work doubly hard to get it right.

Here, accents were dodgy, characters didn’t sit and stay, and the whole piece didn’t behave itself. Except for Nicholas Pauling, who stood out for me as absolutely brilliant. He is Pinter weird, darkly powerful and really, really good.

I think this piece will get better later in the run. But I would like to see it with about a month’s more detailed rehearsal time.

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