Autocannibalism as a form of protest (It’s oh-so provincial)

16 Feb

‘Twas the season of awards, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse… And then a less-than-magnificent river of shit changed course and hit the theatre community, changing crisp new-year clothing into smeared rags that reeked equally of hubris and disappointment. The Naledi Awards (for theatre excellence in Gauteng, or some such bullshit) announced the nominees who performed and created above and beyond the call of duty. Yaysies! The hurumph-hurumphs in Cape Town began immediately. Several Facebook Fuck updates from Twitter Twats and their ilk indicated their dismissal of the Naledis as a celebration of over-produced, artless, non-progressive theatre shows. (Because Cape Town, dear reader, is the main hub for “important” theatre shows… be careful not to roll your eyes too much and cause them to veer out of control and fly out of your head and into someone’s steaming cup of Vida Mucho Americano.) A few people were enraged that not enough Cape Town-originated shows were nominated and claimed inequality because only the shows that could afford a run in Johannesburg were considered for an award. Yes, dickhead, that’s how it works.

How Cape Town hated the Naledis for a few days. How Cape Town unified and proclaimed their support for one another and the importance of their work. How we all loved one another. Jesus H. Christ, there is nothing better than a bad-guy to bring us together and make us forget that we are part of a crumbling, PC, class-based mediocrity-factory.

Then someone took a Fleur Du Crap on the chest and face of that unified community. The Fleur Du Cap Awards (The Cape Town equivalent of the Naledis, but more, y’know, Democratic Alliance-y) announced their 2011 nominees a couple of days after the Naledis “pissed in the mouths of real, hardworking actors” – a tidbit of bitterness I spied on someone’s Facebook wall. The nominations contained a few delightful surprises, but in general they adhered to expectations. As has become habit with the Fleur Du Caps, stars ruled the day (in South African terms. Let’s not get excited), broad appeal work was celebrated, personal work was ignored, and box-office generally seemed to indicate quality. I say this not out of spite or malice, I am merely stating the obvious.

The thing that inspires this author’s surprise is not the disappointment or resentment of the Fleur Du Caps, but the theatre world’s preternatural instinct to turn on itself. The arguments became not about the validity or importance of the awards, but about who didn’t rage enough about the awards; who raged too much; who celebrated (nominees were scorned for feeling flattered); and who refused to comment. Everyone seemed to pick a fight that week, and the Fleur Du Caps stopped being the issue. Grudges surfaced, old wounds opened up and people began to take sides where there were no sides to be had.

Very few of my peers celebrate the Fleur Du Caps. They, and indeed I, feel the awards have absolutely no place within our work. The awards do not hinder us, nor do they promote us. Once again, that is not criticism, just apathy. However, some people who are left out of the Fleur Du Cap (and Naledi) kingdom are enraged by the exclusion. So, every year those feelings fester, they are put on a slow boil and come early February, the steam is released. Unfortunately, as with most things in the theatre world, it’s so unfocused that it serves only to hurt colleagues and friends. It is unclear whether this habit of implosion exists due to a flaw in the cosmogony of the theatre community, or whether the fault lies within the continuing evolution of the art and its practice.

We should not abandon our anger, especially if it kicks up dust and causes new ideas to form and ancient practices to subside. The issue should be the work, not the civilian parades designed to stroke egos and validate what should already be dear to us. If a practitioner measures his/her value by what a panel of free-ticket hogging, network obsessed judges think, then the work is not good enough for an audience anyway. And that is who we serve: the audience. Not in cow-towing terms, or adhering to their whims and certainly not to impress Fluer Du Cappers or Naledi-ites. But in presenting, perhaps, something new, something unforeseen, something uncomfortable, something that an awards panel might not comprehend. Isn’t that what brings about progress?

If one is admired by everyone, it might lead one to think of one’s self as admirable. If one is hated by everyone, one will endeavor to inspire only hate. We give what we get, but that river of shit flows both ways.

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One Response to “Autocannibalism as a form of protest (It’s oh-so provincial)”

  1. Ms Caroline Sheldon March 22, 2012 at 07:46 #

    My, my Uncle Loo! Magnificent! What a tasty brain! Go forth, enrage the lot of them.

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