The Market Theatre, despite being colonized by Moyo, is still the sexiest venue in a glamorous and dangerous city. There, on Friday night, I saw the opening performance of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf with Sean Taylor and Fiona Ramsay as the loving George and Martha. Taylor and Ramsay are as good as it gets, maestros at play, roaring and rollicking through the climaxes, commanding hushed awe in a savage arena, drawing blood.
Nearly early thirty years ago, when I was in the Rhodes Unversity drama department, Taylor and Ramsay came up to one of the first Grahamstown festivals with a production of Steven Berkoff’s East, directed by their old friend Richard Grant.
Voices, cruel and cockney: “Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun…”
And a cone of light rising, revealing the characters from the floor up, shoes, shins, thighs, hunched bodies. The grotesque, masked faces. In a pool of light on a bare stage, they created a world more believable than any movie. It had gravity. It sucked you in.
And it turned me on to theatre. It taught me that theatre, when it works, is the highest art form, taking us back to a time when ritual lived. I once directed Sean as Lear, and watching him become the king was like… I don’t know. Summiting Everest.
So if you live in Joburg, or are passing through, nip down to Newtown and the Market Theatre. Have a scotch at the bar, and get to know George and Martha. Breathe the history. Live. If you go soon, you might even catch a glimpse of the old grey wolf, Mannie Manim, who started it all.