The Big Sick Majors on Relationships

The Big Sick is a partially biographic drama about a relationship across cultural

barriers. Kumail (played by himself, Kumail Nanjiani) is a Pakistani Muslim living in the USA. He is a taxi driver and aspiring comedian whose family expects him to become a lawyer and marry a good Pakistani girl. But Kumail continues to pursue stand-up comedy, and he starts a romantic relationship with Emily (Zoe Kazan), a white American girl from a fairly traditional family. Conflict ensues.

On the one hand it is Kumail’s own ‘Americanisation’ that clashes with his family’s traditional demands regarding culture, profession and religion. On the other, when Emily becomes gravely ill and is put into an induced coma, the battle moves to that between Kumail and Emily’s parents. In the latter scenario the white American prejudice against Middle Eastern Muslim is brought to the fore.

The Big Sick is told from an American perspective. It is free choice and self-actualisation that wins out in the end. Score for Westernisation. But, equally, in this film shallow American prejudice against ‘the other’ is subverted. A typical view of fanatic Muslims is undermined, mostly through the use of humour. For example, when Kumail is sent to the basement to do his ritual prayers he watches videos instead. And when Kumail’s mother banishes him from the family for pursuing a forbidden relationship, she struggles to keep up her angry façade, sending him cookies while at the same time refusing to speak to him.

The best part about The Big Sick is the relationships. That between Kumail and his family (which remains loving and gentle despite the differences), between Kumail and Emily (which is a bantering, natural relationship), and between Kumail and Emily’s parents (in which humour breaks down the barriers). The real feel of the Kumail/Emily romance may be because the story is biographical.

The Big Sick is a warm, funny, humanly complex and very watchable film. It opens at cinemas in South Africa on 6 October 2017.

Two university improv groups from opposite ends of the earth 

The festival full of festivities in Grahamstown has come to an end, some are happy and some are sad (although those disgruntled by the ‘traffic’ in the tiny town may be disappointed that the School’s Festival is just kicking off). A Feast of Tales watched and wrote about several shows each day of the first five days (Day one, two, three, four and five). Then, A Feast of Tales watched NatCaf (Naturally Caffeinated), the Rhodes student improvisation group and the Oxford Imps, the (quite obviously) Oxford improvisation group.

Improv theatre is unpredictable, and each show is different from the previous one because new scenes are created with various theatre games, so A Feast of Tales may not have seen the best of either group.

A comparison

NatCaf had the upper hand when it came to creating local jokes that many in the room could identify with, even so, they still reverted to jokes about Donald Trump and references to the Brexit vote which was populating the media greatly around the time of the show. There were several different types of performers on stage, making it interesting to watch, with only one rude sexual reference. Audience involvement was excellent and lots of people volunteered settings and characters when asked by the MC. This group, however, was still lacking in slickness and some jokes really just didn’t work (this may be personal opinion!). And the 21-year-old MC very naively declared at the start of the show that the National Arts Festival is only for people under 30…despite the several over 30s travelling to Grahamstown from far and wide to enjoy the theatre and art.

The Oxford Imps, while not local, had to work hard at capturing their audience in a different way. And work hard they did! Each scene ended with music and a slick change into the next theatre game, without any need to explain at length to the audience how each game was to be played. The show began with choosing someone from the audience to sit on stage and answer questions about herself, after the questions ended, each Imp sang a line serenading the volunteer on stage. Various other games were played, with no specific political references. They had the upper hand on professionalism, variety and slickness. The musical aspect added an interesting and entertaining dimension. For their first visit to the festival, the Oxford Imps were successful!

All in all A Feast of Tales enjoyed the Imps more than NatCaf, but is it really fair to compare the two with Oxford Imps having been around much longer than NatCaf?

Did you see both groups perform? What did you think?

National Arts Festival: Day Three

Thinkfest was first up on A Feast of Tales’s agenda on day three of the NatArtsFest with a discussion on Gender Politics. The hour’s dialogue indicated that this rhetoric-laden topic still favours too much – well – dialogue and too little practical application. An over-aggressive approach also emerged as a problem. Number two on our schedule was the dialogue-heavy House of Truth in which actor, Sello Maake kaNcube, told the story of writer Can Themba and his struggles during apartheid to be recognised as a teacher. The drama had a good script but was depressing and failed to hold the audience’s attention for its overly long 90-minute duration. Hannah Arendt was another ‘struggle’ piece, though this time in the form of a movie. Like the Sophie Scholl film we saw on day two, Hannah Arendt presented a view of Nazi Germany somewhat different to what we were used to. In this story German-Jewish philosopher and author, Hannah Arendt, wrestled with the problem of evil, putting forward the – scandalous – ideas that German perpetrators of crimes in World War II may simply have failed to think and that Jewish victims may have been complicit in their own victimisation. Our day ended with the brilliantly executed The Echo of a Noise by Pieter Dirk-Uys, in which this renowned performer gave an autobiographical account of his life, revolving mostly around his combative relationship with his ‘Pa’. Rich, funny, tender and well-rounded, Uys’s performance was very deserving of its standing ovation.

 

National Arts Festival, Grahamstown: A Perspective

Day two in Grahamstown dawned difficult for the humans of Feast of Tales, which made the day’s entertainment ahead all the more welcome. First up was Brothers Streep: Same Streep Different Day. Unlike the previous version we had seen this show involved just the two ‘brothers’ rather than the whole band. The pair’s constant banter, their originality, and their songwriting – in the present as it were – was clean, enjoyable and made us forget our troubles. As the weather turned stirringly blustery we hurried off to one of the fest’s scheduled films, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. This absorbing film tells the true story of a brother-and-sister team who were part of the White Rose student movement in Nazi Germany. Told mostly from the sister’s (Sophie’s) perspective, we learnt how Sophie and her brother were arrested and ‘tried’ for bravely disseminating anti-Hitler literature. Sophie’s Christian faith is portrayed as a strong, yet gentle, motivator for her actions. Own the Spotlight was the last viewing of the day for us, a dance show involving beautifully choreographed pieces of ballet, modern and contemporary dance set to engaging movie sound tracks.

Laughing Wild causes wild laughter

A review by Sharon Emmerich

This two hander comedy sees Lisa Bobbert and Darren King reprise their award-winning roles in Laughing Wild, Christopher Durang’s internationally acclaimed play which returns to the KZN stage after an absence of 10 years.

Despite having been written in 1987, many of the situations presented have never been more current!

Laughing Wild was previously staged in Durban in 2004 and is currently directed by Steven Stead who oversees the show’s KZN revival.

The play is set in New York in the 1980s. Clever use is made of simple props reflecting a NY Skyline, as well as lighting blackouts to change scenes.

Lisa and Darren portray two zany people trying to come to grips with pressures of city life in this black comedy. The audience, myself included, guffawed often. But then I found myself reflecting that the situation I was laughing at was not really all that funny. I particularly enjoyed the moment when the audience suddenly understood how two random characters and their monologues tied up.

Lisa and Darren deliver their lines at lightning pace, sometimes without pause, as another line or zany action is thrown out. I felt myself moving quickly from the previous “not really funny” moment, to the next, as I laughed  heartily.

Do note: the production runs for 80 minutes, without an interval, which I found rather long towards the end.

Laughing Wild is on at DHS’s Seabrooke’s Theatre in St Thomas Road from 2 to 12 October 2014, with performances at 7.30pm Tuesday to Saturday and 3pm Sunday. Tickets are R100 available through Webtickets, www.webtickets.co.za. Contact Clare, clare@webtickets.co.za, 071 224 1046.

Darren King and Lisa Bobbert star in the revival of Laughing Wild in Durban theatre.

Darren King and Lisa Bobbert star in the revival of Laughing Wild at the DHS Seabrookes Theatre. Photo: Supplied by William Charlton-Perkins

Just light-hearted fun in 22 Jump Street

22 Jump Street is the sequel to 21 Jump Street and like the first movie, it stars Jonah Hill as Schmidt, Channing Tatum as Jenko, and Ice Cube as Captain Dickson. At the start of this film we see that police operations have moved to new premises – number 22 Jump Street, a reconditioned church.

In 21 Jump Street, inept police partners, Schmidt and Jenko, were sent to cover a case at a high school. This time, mean-looking Captain Dickson sends the pair undercover at a local university. Here they have to uncover a drug ring and the reason for a mysterious death. The two don’t seem to have improved at all and find the guilty parties, quickly, but as if by chance.

Most of the action revolves around Schmidt and Jenko settling into their undercover roles. Schmidt as a geek and part of the alternative arts group, and Jenko as (no surprises here) a talented football player and part of the ‘in’ group. This causes friction between the friends and they fall out. It’s only their real love for police work (such as it is) that brings them back together.

There’s lots of action, funny moments, exaggerated stereotyping, unfortunate relationships and even a surprise baddie at the end. Ice Cube is good in his role as the frustrated – and then furious – Captain Dickson. No life changing messages in this film – just light hearted fun.

22 Jump Street opens at Ster Kinekor theatres in South Africa on 20 June.

22 Jump Street, sequel to 21 Jump Street releases in South Africa 20 June.

22 Jump Street, sequel to 21 Jump Street releases in South Africa 20 June. Photo: Creative commons

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in costume for the promotion of 21 Jump Street when it first came out in 2012. Photo: Creative   Commons

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in costume for the promotion of 21 Jump Street when it first came out in 2012. Photo: Creative Commons