There is such a demand in this New South Africa for political correctness and political correctness is so desperately boring and thoroughly unhelpful. It is also, usually, a lie.
How many people say what they really think? People won’t even be honest about a play, for heaven’s sake. I have seen so many plays that are, quite frankly, badly performed twaddle, obviously directed by someone who saw something that was directed, once, and thought they’d have a go. After the pain of sitting through this insult to the theatre, people, sometimes even professional theatre practitioner people, emerge smiling and saying ‘wasn’t that wonderful’. Balderdash! No it wasn’t wonderful. It was atrocious. The artistic director of the theatre needs to be taken out back and fired upon by the squad for allowing this rubbish to be inflicted on the public. What artistic direction is happening there?
How do we complain that people don’t frequent the theatre if when they do bother to leave the comfort of their homes and the dubious assurance of their soap operas we subject them to what can, frankly, only be described as crap. I used to be a Naledi judge. After doing that for a year and a bit, I’m actually frightened of the theatre. There you have it. I am scared stiff of the thing I love because I have been pained, horrified and amazed there. Amazed, not in a good way. Yes, I know there is also excellence, but it is rare, and I’m not talking about the excellence now, I’m lamenting where it lacks.
I have been bug-eyed with incredulity, hands pressed against mouth to withhold exclamations of dismay at some of the absolute nightmares to vision that I have seen on the runways at South Africa Fashion Week, and that other fashion week with the revolving sponsorship. Clothes badly made, seams not properly ironed with hanging threads, nasty fabrics, hideous designs. There must be some kind of approval panel. Is it made up of the blind? Perhaps there is none. Perhaps if Daddy hands over the cash, you get to show your dubious wares and then we, the unsuspecting public, must hurt our eyes looking at them. But, even here, people emerge, and yes, even fashion practitioner people, saying ‘wasn’t that great’. No, it wasn’t great. It was horrible. They’ve got eyes. They saw what I saw. They know it was horrible. Why don’t they say so? What are they afraid of?
That’s what happened after that show on the bridge. It was horrible, and people came away saying, ‘wasn’t it fantastic’. No it wasn’t. Why are they saying that? Or do they totally want for discerning good taste? Yes, perhaps those are the ones who wouldn’t recognise style if it slapped them on the backside and tweaked their ears while screaming it’s name, which it has obviously never done because this abysmal collection of foul frocks, they call, fantastic. Again, before designer knickers get into unpleasant twists, I know that there is excellence, but it is rare and I am not talking about that right now.
I think there is a severe, and I mean rather fatally severe absence of good stuff on the SABC. One is often caused to wonder if the director of the show picked this take of the scene because it was the best take of a really bad lot, or does the director think this is good? One is caused to wonder if the people performing the scene ever received instruction in what is, in fact, an art. Did they go to any acting classes ever in their lives, or did they wake up one morning, whimsically pop along to the casting call, bonk the director in the back corridor and thus land the part? Did the producer decide to pocket the budget, leaving nothing in the kitty with which to hire real actors, therefore someone went along to the taxi rank and called for volunteers?
When watching many of the shows on television one cannot help but pose a question. Did a group of friends who don’t know what a script is sit down over beer and dagga and decide to come up with dialogue. Was it dagga or was it crack? Well, we have no way of knowing, but it was definitely something bad. It was something shared by the person who signed off on the script and sent it through to the non-actors to play with. I hesitated to use the word perform. I don’t think one can call that performance. Not if one respects the art of acting. Excellence, yes, blah blah, not talking about the excellent right now!
Am I harsh? Well isn’t it about time that someone was. Honesty is often harsh. Reality is often harsh. The arts needs more harshness, more calling it as it is, more honesty. The practitioners need to stop massaging each other’s egos. Stop with the political correctness, it is patronising and it is insulting both to those who should not be practicing whatever it is they are practising, and those who have to pay to see it. How will things ever improve if we are not honest, if we do not demand better?
It doesn’t stop there, excellent writers sit with unpublished manuscripts, while badly expressed drivel flows to the book store shelves? How does that happen? Who makes that decision? ‘Read SA writers’ we are told. ‘Go beyond the usual suspects, read new writers’. I suppose one can’t expect that everything published is good. That doesn’t happen anywhere, but in a teeny tiny industry like ours one would hope that most of what gets turned into a book with someone’s name on the cover is, at least, readable. Not so. Our books shops abound with the over-rated and the unreadable.
I don’t know much about music, so I can’t comment there. I do adore listening to Simphiwe Dana.