few days on planet Zim before take off to planet circus

May 11, 2008

So; Wednesday morning. April 23. The news from Zim just gets worse and worse and media reports more and more pessimistic. Embassies are moving people out and advising people not to travel there. As far as reports from people on the ground go it still feels as though we must go. The company works well in getting a version of the show up and running. We had a shakey run yesterday mostly for blocking but with some level of performance. The holes in the script seem more glaring when not carried with confidence by the cast and the new people are struggling a little with the strange nature of the beast, the heightened sense of ensemble and the weird editing that happens in performance; cues coming from unexpected quarters etc. but still.

 

Saw Matthew and Bridget the night before last and Isabel for a short while before bed time. Still irresstable. Very secure and happy and full of spirit. Matt struggling with life and career decisions where to live what job to take etc. It seems every time they get close to finally deciding to leave Joburg he gets a better job offer. Very difficult for them.

 

Daniel sounds good haven’t heard from Luke for a while maybe give him a little Skype action tonight. It’s his birthday tomorrow. 32. wow.

 

Flight times of departure have been changed to Saturday so another day to rehearse and prep the show as well as get shopping and banking done. Had showing today for invited audience including a spokeperson for a pro democracy group in Zimbabwe; Nixon? Has been detained tortured and imprisoned by Zanu PF since beginning his activism as a student at university of Zim. Gave very useful perspective of situation and what we could expect. The festival is renowned for showing politically charged material and so attracts large numbers of state agents who would most certainly observe the play. This would result in one of two possibilities; one they would not find the play offensive or threatening and leave us alone, or they would understand that a TRC is something that the opposition movement is very keen to establish and the Zanu PF might well find very threatening. Particularly since they have been the perpetrators involved in human rights abuses and may well be called to account. If they do this we face no real risk of violence or detention but its possible we would have the performances cancelled and then be deported. But considering the relationship between Bob Mugabe and Thabo Mbeki this may well also not be a likely event. There is a sense of violent times coming up because the opposition are resolved to boycott any re runs and to resist Mugabe’s hold on power. The ruling party have lost face in the African community and are no longer concerned about their image and so feel free to exercise their violent wills without shame or reticence. It all sounds a bit unnerving but this is clearly a very exciting time to be doing this show at that place.

 

Supper with Matt and Bridget at Soi in Melville sees me getting rather drunk and very loud and obnoxious because Matt and I get into a discussion about his Afro-pessimism. I loudly state my understanding of the fact that much of the woes of the continent are caused and have been caused by western imperialism and colonialism. He doesn’t buy that as an excuse. I don’t offer it as excuse but reason and an important precursor to addressing change. And the fact that this same imperialism continues today – the only reason there is a first world with all its advanced technologies and ‘civilised’ living conditions is because there is a third world to provide all the raw materials and cheap labour. Matthew remains calm and mature and steadfast and I grow increasingly loud and obnoxious. I talk to Janet about it after sending humble apologies to Matt and Bridget who had to sit through our, well my, rantings in the restaurant while trying to get a relaxing massage from the waitress. Janet speaks of the fact that we all have the same fears and we choose to deal with them in different ways. Matt seems to allow them to depress him and focus his attention on the difficulties and negative, whereas a possible better way is focus on ways that are within our reach to make positive change ourselves and thus engage with the problem rather than complain about its existence. SA is not a first world country.

 

And I love load shedding. I love it for a number of reasons; firstly it pleases my little liberal heart to know that since 1994 when Escom, this monolithic, badly administered giant, was handed over, the first order of business was to get power to as many people as possible. So the mistake was to not anticipate what this would do to the system but at the same time we have to admit that since 1994 millions more South Africans have access to electricity. And if this means that we in our wealthy privileged homes have to put up with a few inconveniences for a few hours which rile our sense of entitlement then that’s a good thing. Also the fact that the whole world is soon going to be experiencing the same thing kind of prepares us for it. But more than this, the quiet from no TV, the glow of candles or torches is a welcome change to the relentless pace. Things have to slow down or stop so we can see by the natural light. Gives us pause…

 

So the evening of 26th April arrives and we are in Zim and it is also the eve of the anniversary of our own democracy 27th April . Lest we forget. Anyway. The day went like this. Woke up early as usual and felt like shit probably because of the cheap wine I drank from the bottle store on the way home from the sushi meal in Melville which was delicious. And then the night spent packing my suitcase to leaving in Joburg till I depart for Vegas on May 6th. Also pack the small back pack and light bag to take to Zim. Fit the computer and case into the back pack and pull the straps and Pluk! The fucking thing comes off in my hand. That’s after I had gone back to the shop the day before to replace the first one I bought there because the zip broke. Only ourselves to blame for buying cheap bags. ‘Ourselves’ because Michael and I went together to buy back packs each. Much witty banter between us as to the relative quality, price and features of our respective packs.

 

Anyway packing and then watching bits of Waking the Dead on BBC Prime. And then to bed.  Wake up; breakfast seems a little much this morning for some reason. The woman who makes up my room finds it difficult to look me in the eye because she knows that I know she took a hundred dollars American from my brief case. She also knows that I know that she looked again in my briefcase a few days later and found the note I had left her a note telling her that I knew she had taken the money. What is my problem? It’s the same attitude as to the guy in the traffic; ‘Yes mother fucker, I have you. But now I let you go.. ha ha ha. I have the high moral ground and give you amnesty and forgive you and I feel so powerful as a result’…

 

Then depart for the guest house in a taxi and wait for the cast to get together under CJ’s deft personal hand. What a fucking gent. Sifiso is late, which twitches my nose hairs and even plucks one or two. But we get to airport and all is fine and get on the plane and everything is still fine and also actually a bit dandy because I happen to be in business class for the second time in my life. The food is surprisingly good and we soon land in Harare. Flying in and looking down before we land the first thing you notice when you look down at the roads is the scarcity of cars on the roads. Fuel crisis. But then you also realize that it is Saturday as well. Doos. But Harare seems to buzz along fairly happily with people on the streets and a kind of buzz.

 

Then to the rooms to adjust and I go straight to the business centre to find out about the wireless connection ion the rooms which is advertised. I am directed to the reception to buy a credit voucher.

‘No unfortunately sir the wireless connection is not working.’

‘And when will it be on? ‘

‘Unfortunately sir, it is run by and outside company.’

‘Okay can we guess at when it might be fixed ?‘

‘No we don’t know sir. ‘

‘Perhaps tomorrow? ‘

‘We hope so sir. ‘

‘Or perhaps next week? ‘

‘We hope not sir.’

‘Or next month? ‘

‘We hope not sir.’

‘I see and so you have no idea when it will be fixed really hey? ‘

‘No we are hopeful it will be fixed as soon as possible sir. ‘

‘I see and when did it become not working? ‘

‘About two weeks ago sir. ‘

‘Okay so it might not be fixed for another two weeks not so?’

‘We hope not sir. ‘

Okay so no wireless connection in the room. My dream of having Skype action n my hotel room is blown. I try the business centre in the hotel. It costs 90 million per half hour but that’s not bad at all. About 9 rand.

 

Met Manuel Bagorro and the other fest staff some of whom I recognized and others I shamefacedly didn’t, so immediately felt like a bit of a doos when she said ‘Yes we met when you were last here. But anyway. Brett is waiting on the main stage to meet with me and so I get my shit together and go there with Michael and Shane. Before we go Stiv is suddenly there in the foyer brought to me by Michael who instinctively recognised him. We make vague plans to meet eachother the next day, Sunday, after his having said  a few masses. He looks even more like Dad than I remember. I spend a half hour or so with Brett and Paula Kingwell learning the basics of the role I must play in the show. There is a fun backing track and the sequence features me in Idi Amin’s suit from Big Dada playing a character who is essentially Robert Mugabe. An eighty year old tyrant lonely and lost and driven by his greed and also haunted by the fact that his time is over and he has no ability to let go with any dignity. Fun. First time to work with Brett and very happy to be doing so. He finds quick solutions to problems and takes a short time to fix things. Makes immediate fantastic demands from within a quickly evoked relaxed relationship. Such clarity from him as director as to what he needs from one as an actor.  More tomorrow.

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