Interview: Cape Town’s Faeron Wheeler talks about staging (extra)ordinary, (un)usual during Covid and embracing the digital stage as a vital platform
❇ October 2020 screening schedule of extra)ordinary, (un)usual ❇
✅ October 2020 streaming via Quicket:
- Quicket booking link: https://qkt.io/ex-un
- Ticket price to watch via Quicket: R80
✅ Sunday October 11, 2020, The Masque Muizenberg at 2pm:
- Masque booking link: https://tickets.computicket.com/event/_extra_ordinary_un_usual/7151677/7151681/6506
- Ticket price to watch at The Masque: R90
Cape Town theatre producer and theatre maker Faeron Wheeler of F Creations – a production company –is excited about (extra)ordinary, (un)usual – which she describes as “a hybrid of film and stage”. This piece – created using monologues by award-winning Australian Peter Malicki has been created as a film and interfaces with stage craft. Wheeler has incorporated physical movement and gesture from live performance and transmutes that into a film medium.
The filmed broadcast of the monologues is available for streaming on demand via Quicket for the whole of October, 2020. The production will also be screened at The Masque, Muizenberg on Sunday –October 11, 2020. No, there will not be actors on stage but watching in a theatre, as part of a masked, socially distanced audience, on a big screen, adds to the experience of being part of a live event. This is the first time that (extra)ordinary, (un)usual has been created as a filmed production. The Masque screening on Sunday October 11 and the season of streamed shows via Quicket, makes up the premiere of this production in South Africa. Core to Malicki’s collection of monologues is that he asks theatre makers to include a surprise piece at the end. This can be something completely different to what he has written. Each version of the show is different as it depends on the selection of monologues and the “surprise” ending.
Faeron Wheeler provides insights into creating (extra)ordinary, (un)usual:
TheCapeRobyn: Can you tell us about Peter Malicki’s (extra)ordinary, (un)usual monologues and your production?
Faeron Wheeler: The play (extra)ordinary, (un)usual was conceived by Pete Malicki. He is a playwright and loves specifically writing long-form monologues. His idea for the production is that the director of the show picks monologues from his collection and puts them together to form one show. Each version of the show also needs to include a surprise piece at the end, which can be something completely different and doesn’t have to be written by Malicki. This means that each version of the show can be completely different to another one – it all depends on which monologues are picked by the director and how they do the surprise piece.
The F Creations version of this production is a selection of six of the monologues, plus the surprise piece at the end. We have filmed the production and it will live as a filmed piece, not a live performance. The notion of a hybrid is that we used a theatre as the setting for filming, but didn’t just film a straight theatre show. We used filmic techniques and the production required editing and tools of the trade to really come to life the way I imagined it.
With Malicki’s permission, we have produced a never-before-seen concept of his show. I was inspired by our experiences with the vNAF and filming shows to create something that was true to what I love – theatre – and also looked at the new world we live – digital, streaming, and video content.
TheCapeRobyn: Will there be live performance component with the Masque screening?
Faeron Wheeler: The screening happening at the Masque will simply be that – a screening of the finished film. The same film is also available on Quicket for streaming from the comfort of your own home.
TheCapeRobyn: Malicki likes actors to be available to mingle with the audience after his shows but this is a screening- filmed version of the monologues- rather than a live staging?
Faeron Wheeler: That’s true, we are changing things up a bit with this filmed version of the play. At the screening event at the Masque, most of the cast will be there though. This will give those audience members a chance to interact with the cast and myself, and talk more about the show and the experience of creating it.
TheCapeRobyn: Malicki has won 22 major awards and he say that the stories have a universal appeal. What led you to this play – made up of monologues? Have you seen it staged overseas?
Faeron Wheeler: I’ve never seen the production done before, no. I discovered it shortly after lockdown though when Malicki started advertising an international, online competition – The World Monologue Games. It was an opportunity for actors all over the world to compete against each other in various categories of monologues. I thought it was a wonderful idea but sadly didn’t have the time to enter myself. However, while I was looking at his website and reading some of the monologues he has written, I came across the Producer Pack for (extra)ordinary, (un)usual.
I loved the idea but in the early stages of lockdown, putting it on was obviously impossible. I shelved the Producer Pack for another time and really felt like it would be a good show to do one day. Then after the vNAF, I had the idea to create a filmed version of it. This would be much safer with COVID-19 regulations and people were reasonably comfortable with the idea of streaming shows now. It just seemed like the right time.
I also really like the notion of getting up close and personal with a camera as the actors perform. Monologues tend to be quite confessional in nature and with a camera, I can bring the audience a lot closer than they would get if the performers were on a stage.
TheCapeRobyn: Malicki sounds like an amazing guy –extending an invite for theatre makers to work with him on “fun projects”. Can you talk about the experience of working with him? Or does he just hand over the monologues and say off you go – over to you mate?
Faeron Wheeler: Pete has been a great connection to make and really supportive of the project. I pitched my concept to him back in August, we sent a few emails back and fore, and then had a video chat to cement the concept. All he really wants is to ensure that his writings and the overall concept of (extra)ordinary, (un)usual are treated with respect and not changed too much.
I plotted out a plan of action – auditions, rehearsals, monologue selection, filming, streaming and the screening. Once Malicki saw that I was organised, he was happy to sign off on the project and let me run with it. We’ve stayed in touch throughout the process, just with little updates on how things are going. However, the majority of the time I’ve been left to create my version of the show the way I see it happening.
When it came to the actual monologues, I have made a few adaptations with the help of the actor performing each piece. These were done to contextualise the piece more to a South African audience. We changed references and slang that must make sense in Australia (we had to Google a few to work out exactly what they meant and how best to adapt them to an SA context), but have stayed true to the essence and main structure of each monologue.
TheCapeRobyn: Is this the first time that this piece is being produced in SA?
Faeron Wheeler: Yes, it is.
TheCapeRobyn: How many actors in your production?
Faeron Wheeler: My incredibly talented cast is made up of six performers:
Amy Young – performing a piece call The Happiest Day of my Life
Kim R2 – Digging Deep
Gizelle Willows – The Flowers
Gavin Werner – Screams and Whispers
Lizanne Peters – The Story of Darling Brown
Matthew Newman – Keep Calm and Go Kill Yourself
And then they all take part in the surprise piece at the end.
TheCapeRobyn: Have you localised the monologues for South African audiences- through accent and other references?
Faeron Wheeler: As mentioned, we have adapted the pieces slightly but only really on the references that don’t make sense to an SA audience. All of the actors are performing in their natural accents – that’s SA for five of them and Matthew Newman is from the UK. This meant we had to think a little bit about taking out references that didn’t make sense for someone living here.
TheCapeRobyn: This production is a hybrid theatre-film which draws on idioms from film and live performance. Can you elaborate?
Faeron Wheeler: I wanted stay true to the theatrical writings but do something that was more than just filming a stage show. If we’d gone with the true realism of film, it would’ve lost some of the art of the story telling in the monologues. However, I haven’t simply put the actors on stage, set up cameras and filmed them in one take. We had fun with different camera angles and I’ve added in some extras like sound effects and cutaways in the editing process.
The end product is not a traditional film, nor is it a traditional stage show that has been filmed. We’ve gone with somewhere in the middle.
TheCapeRobyn: There is great excitement that we can go into theatres but many people are reluctant to go into confined spaces until a vaccine is widely available. It looks like hybrid theatre is going to be the way forward?
Faeron Wheeler: I certainly think that the global crisis has pushed creative folk to be inventive and try new things in order to keep on making art. What I’ve been seeing is a lot of people taking this notion of hybrid theatre in various directions – live streaming events and video on demand seem to be the most popular. It hasn’t all been successful because I think audiences are a little sceptical and are missing the live element of being in a theatre (as are the performers!). Technical worries and glitches have also played a part in things not always being successful.
What’s great about what is happening now is that artists are learning a lot of new skills and showing just how adaptable they can be. It’s possible that we have found some new ways of doing performing arts that can continue even once the world returns to some kind of normal.
TheCapeRobyn: The title (extra)ordinary, (un)usual is so apt now. It is has been and extraordinary and unusual. There are certainly benefits in being able to extend the life of a live work by making it available as VOD?
Faeron Wheeler: Yes, the title certainly spoke to me in this year of crazy. And yes, having the filmed versions of these shows for the archives is certainly beneficial. I’ve already used footage from our Your Perfect Life film to create promotional material for the live performances. It’s also gratifying to know that the pieces of art that we created will not disappear from the world once we stop performing them live. The show, as we conceived it, will live on.
I think this digital element to theatre may well stay as a new facet of the industry. It will never replace live performance, but I think it will add to the list of tactics and techniques that theatre makers can pull out to create new work.
TheCapeRobyn: Any other projects that you want to talk about?
Faeron Wheeler: We are currently performing Your Perfect Life at 44 on Long (October 9-10) and it has been an interesting experience to get back on stage while people are still so unsure about getting out into the world. Audiences have been lovely so far and I believe they are enjoying the live experience once again.
Then we are gearing up for two runs of So You Want to be a Trophy Wife? at The Drama Factory (Oct 29-31) and 44 on Long (Nov 6-7 and 13-14). It’ll be great to get this new work up in front of actual audiences at last.
There are no new projects currently on the horizon for F Creations, but I am always on the lookout for more. If anyone reading this feels inspired or has a project they would like to collaborate on, I am always open to proposals.