Marcus Canning witnessed South African play Miskien at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival in 2011 and as director of Fringe World, he programmed the work to appear in this year’s festival, Perth. Playing from 14 -19 February, he believes Perth is in for a treat.
“It gave me a lump in the throat and my eyes leaked a bit, which is an extreme rarity,” Canning said. “It was presented in Amsterdam after winning the top prize at the Grahamstown Fringe. The acting is bloody marvellous. … Miskien will move you.”
The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights and The Pink Couch with assistance from the Australian High Commission in South Africa, in association with PICA present this show for Fringe World. AussieTheatre’s Perth correspondent Craig Dalglish caught up with Director/Producer Tara Notcott to talk about the work.
AT: Miskien. An interesting title. What does this mean?
It’s Afrikaans for “maybe” or “perhaps”.
AT: Can you give us a brief history of the play?
It started as my final directing piece, and after that we got invited to perform it professionally. From there, we started touring within South Africa, won a Standard Bank Silver Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown in 2010, got invited to the Amsterdam Fringe in 2011, won Best Production at Aardklop Festival in South Africa, and now we’re here, in Perth!
AT: What can audiences expect from Miskien?
A story that feels familiar, and hopefully leaves them thinking. Or in need of a drink at the bar.
AT: What excites you about Miskien?
For me, it’s The Little Show That Could. It allows me to work and travel with my best friends, and tell a story that is both personal and universal.
AT: What do you hope audiences take away from the performance?
It’s about connection, and how we are constantly trying to keep connected to the things and people that are important to us. So if someone leaves the show wanting to phone that friend or family member they haven’t seen in a while, we’ve done our job.
AT: Miskien has played internationally. Have you noticed any differences in the way audiences respond to the play?
The amazing thing is how similarly people experience it. We thought that being from South Africa and having some bits in Afrikaans would alter the experience in other countries, but everyone has commented on how understandable and familiar it is.
AT: In producing/directing the show what has been the hardest thing?
Wow.. hmm, probably managing everyone’s time. Between traveling and rehearsals, everyone does different plays, so to find the time when we’re all in the same city can be tricky. Oh, and the time our lights got confiscated at Dubai airport.
AT: The easiest?
Working with people who understand you and have similar artistic views. Priceless.
AT: Can you tell us about your cast? What drew you to cast the leading players?
Like I said, it was for my final university production, so we were friends who had worked together on different projects. When I look at it now, I never would have been able to do it with anyone else.
AT: What is the best thing about working with the cast?
The fact that it’s just so much fun. Really, it’s quite surreal to be doing the same show for four years and enjoy it so much.
AT: As you mentioned, part of the performance is in Africaans. Will audience members find this easy to follow?
Very easy. The Afrikaans is quite colloquial, and even if one doesn’t understand the words, the intention behind them is always clear.
AT: How did you get into directing?
True story: I wanted to be a farmer’s wife, then a lawyer, and then I won a one act play competition at school and I thought “why not try out directing?”. I then studied Theatre Making at the University of Cape Town.
AT: Who/ what has been your greatest influence in pursuing a career in the theatre?
My dad was a drama teacher and my mom a dance teacher for a long time, so I grew up around theatres and rehearsals. Because they’re smart parents, they tried to talk me out of it, but I just had to; it’s in my blood.
AT: What do you do in your spare time?
Read, watch art house movies in this old cinema called The Labia, and spend most of my money on a jukebox in this great bar on a Friday night.
AT: What excites you about the theatre?
How it can connect people, speak across languages and barriers. Most of all though, it’s the thrill of watching something live, in person, happening right in front of you. To be able to tell stories through theatre is both terrifying and thrilling, and that’s the most exciting.
14 – 19 February 2012 (No show 17 Feb) 8:00pm
Performance Space, Perth Cultural Centre Northbridge