Colouring the Kraken!

A comedian observed that handing out flyers is a bit like saying, “Here, throw this away for me.” He’s not wrong. Flyering can be the most disheartening activity in theatre. Marketing general gets that reputation.

But like any challenge it has the possibility of being really exciting. Every year performers try crazy stunts to get people to take their flyers – they cavort in costume, they sing, they beg… And the for the designers the challenge is just as intense: How to deliver information in a way that engages the imagination of the target audience. As much as the aesthetics matter, the result is what counts.

Yusrah Bardien passed on a great idea to me from Fiona Gordon (if you’re interested in the up & coming generation of people who make theatre happen, it’s them). Instead of making the standard flyer, make a colouring book page. Suddenly the flyer becomes entertaining in itself, an item families can engage with and even look forward to finding on their tables. For me it’s a joy to be able to doodle the characters and a challenge to figure out what makes a good image to colour in. Usually I don’t work with vector graphics but since I’m travelling it became the best way to work.

Colouring Page 01 vWebFirst I’d doodle the characters, trying to find a nice clean cartoon style that is still energetic, then I’d roughly sketch ideas for layout, finally I’d rework these with the vector tools on Photoshop (I know, I know I should use Freehand or Corel if I’m serious about vectors. But I didn’t have time to learn a programme from scratch). I’ll do a work through when I have more time.Doodles 01

The results are still evolving. In these sketches you can see I went back to rework Jay – the first pass felt too non specific, too generic kid (a danger of writing young characters too?) while the new sketches give him more energy and expression.

Doodle 3Doodle 2I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction of kids. Hopefully they’ll enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them.

Get Kraken is on daily at 12pm at Oatlands Hall as part of the ASSITEJ Family Venue at the National Arts Festival 2013.

Get Kraken!

Kraken Teaser webGet Kraken is a tale of high adventure; there are poachers, plucky heroes, ice-cold villains, breath-taking battles and a sea monster bigger than your imagination. All brought to larger-than-life by four actors. No fancy props or cd players making sound effects. Four sweaty actors take the audience under the ocean on the hunt for the greatest catch of all… the KRAKEN!

Get Kraken is next performing at: the Cape Town Fringe 27 September to 5 of October

27 September 2014 15:00
28 September 2014 13:05
29 September 2014 18:00
01 October 2014 13:05
02 October 2014 9:00
03 October 2014 11:00
05 October 2014 11:00

I wrote Get Kraken as part of ASSITEJ SA and The Theatre Arts Admin Collective’s Inspiring a Generation programme, a combination of a mentorship and cultural exchange which I have posted about a couple of times before (Inspiring a Generation, No Really). It’s being performed at various schools around the Cape even gone as far a field as the Garden Route Family Festival in Plett and Knysna. Right now we have one week left at the Intimate Theatre (16th April – 4th May), and it’ll be heading to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in June / July as part of the ASSITEJ family venue.

What sets the play apart from most other family fare is the way Kim Kerfoot and the performers create the world of the story. It’s done in the style of a theatrical comic book without props, set, or costume – the actors, dressed in black t-shirts and pants, use their bodies and voices to zoom in and out, to create special effects and locations from a busy road, the ocean by night, to a submarine or the inside of a whale. Part of going to schools has been giving workshops on this energetic style of performance. The script is also going to form part Shuter & Shooter’s grade 9 English reader next year, an added bonus for schools.

Get Kraken Performance

Reviews So Far:

“Director Kim Kerfoot brings Jon Keevy’s text to life in ways that keep the audience guessing and in stitches. As something of an environmentalist, for me it’s the reasoning behind hunting the Kraken that make this wildly entertaining play stand out among the current theatre on offer in Cape Town.”

– Clifford Graham, the Monday Missile

“Jon Keevy has written a fun and funny script and Kim Kerfoot has directed the cast with vigour and cleverness. I loved it.”

– Megan Furniss,

“Under Kim Kerfoot’s direction this cast bravely goes into a totally different direction to most of what passes for children’s theatre in Cape Town. Instead of sticking to staid, safe fairy tales with bright primary colours and seriously old ways of looking at the world, Get Kraken is a comic-book adventure with references from the now and speech patterns borrowed from TV and film.”

– Theresa Smith, Cape Argus

“I couldn’t stop laughing. All you need is your imagination and you’ll be set for one seriously funny night!”

– Eugene Yiga, Bizcommunity

“The comedic appeal and brilliance of the artists is apparent from the moment they set foot on stage, but it is their imagination that particularly shines in this production. The cast merges vivid miming and idiosyncratic sound effects to create a theatrical tale for the hunt of “Kraken”.  This show without a doubt raises the bar for experimental stage comedy.”

– Benn van der Westhuizen, Whats on in Cape Town

“Keevy has managed to write a script for children which is as entertaining for adults and it is presented in an innovative way – light on embellishment and laden with energy.”

– Tracey Saunders, Cape Times

“Binne ’n driekwartier het jy egter ’n avontuur van epiese proporsies beleef.”

– Marina Griebenow, Die Burger

Get Kraken was first performed at the Intimate Theatre on the 16 April to 4 May

The Get Kraken team:

In a small fishing community along the West Coast Jay and his Oupa try their best to make a living from the sea.  But you need slips of paper and signatures to get at the dwindling fish and perlemoen while police patrol in caspirs and Marine Patrol watch the waters. Despite the dangers Oupa takes Jay out with him one night to pull perlies off the rocks. Bam! Searchlights! They’re caught red-handed by Marine Patrol. But before the authorities can arrest them properly something under the water yanks them away. Suddenly Jay and Oupa in their tiny boat are being towed out to sea… When they finally stop they are drifting in the middle of the ocean, without land in sight.

That’s when things get strange…

Get Kraken! is my new play, written as part of ASSITEJ’s Inspiring a Generation programme. The goal of the programme was that each of the participants should write a play for young audiences somehow related to the theme of ‘poverty’. Taking poverty to be about resources, access and potential I decided to research issues around fishing. I got some amazing research from the University of Cape Town – facts, figures, and collected statements from fishermen from Hawston, Kalk Bay and Langebaan – and processed them.

Then I let my imagination go, using the research as inspiration, not a collection of data points that I had to include. Our Swedish mentor, Lucia Cajchanova, really helped me to find the journey of Jay and his Oupa, two people caught up in a big world that often doesn’t care.

Kim Kerfoot will be directing DJ Mouton, Shaun Acker, Jason Potgieter and Stefan Erasmus in a staged reading at the TAAC on the 28th and 30th of November at 6pm along with Lindelwa Kisana’s Doll Boy.

My Trip to Sweden

I arrived back from Sweden last week. The journey lasted 19 hours including 2 stops – in Istanbul and in Joburg. It capped off an incredible week in Lund, the tiny university town in the south of Sweden. I was there with Beren Belknap, Lindelwa Kisana and Frankie Nassimbeni as a part of ASSITEJ’s Inspiring a Generation programme; Pieter Bosch Botha was with us as our wrangler. The goal of the programme is to get more voices writing plays for young audiences – phase one back in late May had us in workshops for a week finding our own inspiration; this trip to Lund was phase two. We were visiting during the Festival of children’s theatre and our schedule was packed with shows and workshops. I had my first draft of Get Kraken! in hand and was ready to work on it and have my mind pried open by some European theatre.

We arrived in Copenhagen and were met By Niclas Malcroma, the head of ASSITEJ Sweden, who we hadn’t seen since April. We took the train across the Oresund bridge into Sweden from Denmark and when we arrived at Lund’s station we were greeted by the Swedish participants Christofer Bocker, Jonathan Lehtonen, Isa Schöier and Anna Nygren, and our workshop leader Lucia Cajchanova. There was a lot of hugging, which was awkward for me given the 19 hours of travelling without a shower or a refresher round of deodorant.

Our first day was about settling in, getting a sense of the place and popping out for a late beer because the perpetual twilight was messing with my brain.

On Tuesday our programme began in earnest, we registered and headed off to our first Swedish production – Swan Lake. For kids. But what that means in Sweden is very different to what it means here in Cape Town. The theatre was filled children from about 6 to 10 years old (granted I’m just guessing based on height) and they were clearly engaged through most of the work despite it needing ‘grown-up’ adjectives like ‘conceptual’. It was as fascinating   to watch the kids as to watch the performance for me. It was very clear when they were engaged, when they lost focus and when the performance hooked them again. It dissolved the idea that an audience, any audience, could not be recovered once lost.

Over the week we saw about 10 shows of varying quality and style, all contributed to the question we threw back and forth amongst ourselves: what is it that makes a performance for the youth? Typically we’d discuss whether a show deserved that label on our walks between venues, no one quite agreeing since that’d mean agreeing on a definition – something I think we all consciously avoided for our own reasons. My reason was that I kept thinking of J.R.R. Tolkien’s words in On Fairy Stories, referring to stories for children:

“Their books like their clothes should allow for growth, and their books at any rate should encourage it.”

All temporal art creates a causal chain from which we can infer the thesis of the creator, at its most obvious and didactic we refer to it as the moral of the story. The clearer this message is, the more likely we are to think of it as being for children and the inverse is true too – we believe that work for children should be clear. Tolkien’s words remind me though that an important part of development is challenge. While certainly the delivery of clear principles is important, so is the stimulus of an idea just a little out of reach.

The question on my mind was then about how we balance these two, and that relates to understanding the development of children and the context. The audiences of Swedish youngsters I saw were primed for theatre, ready to be surprised and challenged. Can South African theatre for the youth make such daring choices at this stage?

Most of these debates were kept out of the workshops and happened in informal moments, while walking or eating together. The workshops were focused on developing the proposals that came out of the first round in Cape Town. Lucia was a great leader of these, although I do think she could have pushed us harder to do more writing – the exercises that we did do certainly cracked open our drafts. The back and forth over story ideas were some of the liveliest debates during the trip and the ones I value the most. The most useful exercise for me was having the character tell the story in their own words – by coincidence it paralleled my own attempts to wrestle with Owl earlier this year, but in a more fruitful format. This was where the value of the week really shone.

We finished the week with an over long explanation of our journey to 7 curious people in a huge auditorium and struggled to express the different perspectives within the group or connect to the handful of listeners. It is a challenge to express the complexities of arriving in an alien culture and having to balance the internal process of creating a story with the external interactions planned to stimulate it.

It was, overall, a great experience.