Tag Archives: awards

A Sad Wank As Career Progression (The Nomination Boogie-Woogie)

4 Mar

It has been two weeks since my play “Champ” was nominated for three Fleur Du Cap Theatre Awards and a masturbating monkey of melancholy (Jesus, with the alliteration) has taken residence on top of my head and its jerky movements and lewd grunts has put me off balance. Not that I was ever in the realm of the well-balanced, but what little I had has been substituted by the shuffling gait of a drunk trying to determine the pattern of desire lines in an open field.

The Fleur Du Cap Theatre Awards have long been a magnet for praise and criticism, including my own rants on the subject, and it is with my knowledge (correct or not) of the way the Cape Town Theatre industry functions that I find myself dizzily standing on the picked-at carcass that is my play. I say my play, but I know full well that my contribution is only as the originator of the script. A play belongs to those who raised it as much as the one (or many) who birthed it. “Champ” is not my first play, nor my most ambitious in terms of what I aim to present. But it has proven to be the most popular and lauded of my works thus far. I have been congratulated by a wide variety of people, ranging from those I respect to those I believe should be shipped off to Siberia and put to work in a gulag for crimes against theatre (a bit dramatic, but I started off with a suggestion of murder by firearm, but Oscar Pistorius has ruined those jokes for the foreseeable future).

The nominations that the esteemed (some not so much) Fleur Du Cappers have thrown at “Champ” have certainly boosted my confidence that the play has a life beyond the confines of Cape Town, however it is not because of the nominations that the play has been offered a life beyond said confines. The play was picked up by The Fugard Theatre for a revival run at the beginning of this year (2013, for those of you reading this in the future… on Mars) and other offers for the play were made soon after that, well before the Fleur Du Cap nominations. Don’t get me wrong, it’s motherfucking aces that we got nominated and the prospect of hobnobbing with the “elite” at the ceremony fills me with joyous trepidation that can only be understood by people who share my love of free wine and food in massive quantities. There will be drinking, eating and all manner of debauchery if last year’s ceremony is anything to go by. The play itself will be spotlighted for a while and the backslapping will surely ruin the suit I’ve picked out for the occasion (I only have one, so it wasn’t much of a choice.)

So, why the melancholy, I hear you ask. It is not the prospect of losing, which we surely will seeing as “Champ” is up against such behemoths as “Mies Julie” (sex, apartheid, guilt, sex, boobs, apartheid, guilt, guilt, sex, sex), “Statements After An Arrest Under The Immorality Act” (Athol Fugard, sex, boobs, guilt, crying audience members, Athol Fugard) and “The View” (non-stop crying from everyone around me, the whole time, for an hour and a half, dead-puppy level crying, sick grandma level crying, crying, crying, crying.) *

*Disclaimer: The above plays are all terrific and worthy of the praise they have received. My lame attempts at humour should not dissuade you from seeing them and supporting the fuck out of them.

Back to me (what a dick, heh?). The problem with success in this town is that very often the praise is underhanded. Instead of agreeing that the work is above what the “critic” expected to experience, one is complimented for finally dropping to the level of the “critic”, as if the work has been compromised to fit in with the “critic’s” low expectations. For example, soon after the initial run of “Champ”, I was approached and congratulated by a reviewer of some esteem. The reviewer told me, in no uncertain terms, that I had finally produced a play worthy of their praise. By some miracle act of artistic compromise I had managed to write a play that spoke to them instead of alienating them like previous efforts had. If this is true, then it is an immense failure on my part as a playwright. One should never pander to the “critics”, but rather strive to elevate their viewpoints to meet or succeed your own. If what the reviewer said was miscalculation or a blatant lie, then what can I make of that? Will I only be praised and revered if I disguise my work enough to fool those who hold sway over the industry? Perhaps. But what then of the honesty that one strives to bring to every piece of writing? Should the mask be created before the face? Should the carefully constructed lie be thought of before the truth is decided on? Can this paragraph contain any more questions?

In a bid to alleviate my melancholy, I think of “Champ” as an aberration; a phantom blip on the radar of my career (Christ, enough with the metaphors). I don’t mean the play itself, but rather the resulting madness around it. I believe, rightly or wrongly, that it doesn’t help the play. At best, it leaves the play as is, without the need for alteration. At worst, it feeds the ego of the creators and their need for acceptance. We are, after all, a community of artists and low self-esteem and the need for over-compensation are perhaps the things we all have in common. To bend to the attention of something like the Fleur Du Cap Awards might lead to a breaking of integrity that will last longer than the warmth of the glow from the brief acceptance. Such moments, whether they are large in scale (awards) or tiny (a kind word from a critic), should be viewed as reminders to stay true to the work and not as inspirations for similar work. Lest we forget, we would be making theatre with or without awards or critics. Wouldn’t we?

Call the Poo-lice! Someone did a racial on my theatre face. (The Fleur Du Cap Boogie-Woogie)

26 Mar

As I sit down to write this, the 2012 Fleur Du Cap Theatre Awards have been over for a week, which makes me as behind the times as your average Fleur Du Cap judge (getting my shots in early. Booya!) In actual fact, the awards were over before any of the nominees were crowned “Worthy of Our Praise” by the esteemed panel of journalists, bureaucrats, high-school teachers and professional non-paying audience members, only no-one wanted to admit it. If one was to view the Fleur DUH Caps with the importance it deserves, then one would merely experience a brief smell of flatulence in the first quarter of the year, followed by frantic waves of the hand in front of the face to rid the atmosphere of methane-heavy arse breath. But never a community to let things go and attempt a progressive surge into the unknown future, the theatre-makers/attendants/participants/commentators (yo, that’s me) of Cape Town are still trying to oust the gaseous whiff left by the Fleur Du Caps by producing our own farts in retaliation. We are not merely farting in the wind; we are farting in a tiny, badly ventilated room in hopes of clearing the air.

The reasons for the multitude of bloated stomachs and their subsequent releases stem from the mundane (the nominees, the list of invited guests) to the… well, mundane (the winners, Lara Foot’s comments on why white people are shitty shit-ass shit mongers.) Allow me to address the latter, if only for the briefest of moments.

Lara “Athlete’s” Foot took the stage to accept the award for best new South African play, “Solomon and Marion”, otherwise known by its original title, “ Dame/Lady/Queen Janet Suzman and some black dude discovered by Lara Foot.” Ms Foot proceeded to give lip service to Distell, the sponsors of the event, pausing only to criticize them for allowing the Fleur Du Caps to be so, utterly, shamefully, disgustingly white. She wasn’t disgusted enough to refuse the award of course, which would’ve been a truly significant, possibly revolutionary move. It was tantamount to performing oral sex on someone, and stopping at various intervals to insult their genitals. “I won’t stop pleasuring you, but my God, do I hate your wang/hoo-ha.” This, like so many other race-related upchucks, caused a flurry of unfocused ravings from both sides of the isle. Some were standing up for Ms Foot, calling her fearless and progressive, while others were insulted and took her comments to be a direct attack on them as… a… liberal… theatre… community… dedicated… to the… democratic… zzzz… zzzz

Anyone with half a brain can see that Lara “My Left” Foot’s comments are not incorrect. The theatre industry, or the parts of the industry represented at the Fleur Du Caps, is too white. But that is what happens when an industry becomes institutionalized. Forward momentum and change are not welcome, because they threaten the old guard (not only in terms of age, but in terms of aged thinking.) What is annoying is that it has to be said by Lara Foot-and-Mouth, one of the most prolific manufacturers of broad, guilt-inducing, bullshit PC theatre. If it was said by anyone else, I believe the news that we’re one step away from re-casting “Woza Albert” with Jeremy Crutchley and Charlie Keegan (I couldn’t think of whiter people, I apologize), would’ve gone over smoother. So, at the risk of sucking the dick while gagging at the sight of it, Lara “Flat” Foot was right. May God strike me down.

I will now, for further comic effect, deconstruct the rest of the evening. I arrived, after hustling a ticket and a date, received a program and was utterly delighted by the first item on the running order. There, written in bold, stood the announcement: 18:00 – 18:30 Pongracz. No lead in, no long sentences, no explanation. Just straight-up-fuck-you Champagne, motherfuckers. That’s when I knew that at the very least, I could get hammer drunk and witness the fiasco that was about to unfold. After giving me half the chance to fill my fat little face with gallons of free champagne and as many snacks as my chubby, greedy hands could carry, I was cattle-driven into the auditorium of the Baxter Theatre (General Manager: Lara “fetishistic obsession with” Foot. Wait a minute…) and seated next to a delightful black couple (Jesus, how did they get in?) What followed was an hour and a half of mostly forgettable self-congratulatory, but furiously intensive masturbation. The overly designed set looked like a Bonnie Tyler music video, but minus the alcoholic, gloriously raspy voice of Bonnie Tyler, populated instead by the recovering-alcoholic, slowly decomposing corpse of the one, the only, Heather Mac (remember her?  Me neither) belting out folksy, ancient, amazingly irrelevant tunes in between the major awards.

A mixture of shock and nervous laughter met the acceptance speech of Saul Radomsky (or was that Mannie Manim? Oh wait, he’s the other old guy.) Never did the audience seem more white than when he dropped two f-bombs during his time on stage. “How rude!” “What gall!” “Snicker, snicker, snicker, he said fuck. Hahaha. Fuck fuck fuck fuck!” The main joke of the evening was regularly doled out by people who took the stage to accept awards for winners who were mysteriously absent. They all said the same goddamn thing: “Well, obviously I’m not so-and-so” and alternate versions of the comment. It didn’t work. Not once. And frankly, I think they should be shot. Well, maybe not shot, but at least smacked in the gums. Relief came in the form of Alan Committee, offering an irreverent alternative to the so-serious-it-makes-your-balls-ache ceremony. In short, he MC’d the fuck out of that show.

The rest of the ceremony went as predicted. The majority of the awards went to people undeserving of recognition, but thankfully there were a couple of welcome surprises when underdogs triumphed and newbies were recognized. This, of course, caused a considerable amount of hurumph-hurumphs. I asked a theatre stalwart/deity what he thought of the evening and he said, “It must be bad time for theatre if a small show like “Die Rebellie van Lafras Verwey” can win a few awards.” There you go. Would you like to know who’s to blame for the state of theatre in this country, dear reader? Dickhead theatre stalwarts/deities like that belligerent motherfucker.

The show closed with a song from Heather Mac and her unwashed band, titled “Eventually” and as soon as my ears met the droning, screeching chorus, I bolted out of my seat and headed for the free wine. That woman’s music really brings the boys to the bar. What followed was a prime example of why people like me shouldn’t be invited to upper-class shindigs like the Fleur du Caps, and should be discouraged to use the black-market to score tickets. (Are black-market tickets as unwelcome as black ticket holders? Could this be a topic for a future blog? How far can I stick my head up my own arse? Is that the same question?) My compadres and I drank and ate everything in sight. And after a good half-hour it was as if the awards never happened. It was just another party with my friends, and that’s the way we wanted to remember it.

And then the farting began…

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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