Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Polony and Poppycock

I try not to eat polony because it is fake. There have been times, doing edu-theatre in the townships, when it has been unavoidable and I have had to eat a “kota”(quarter loaf stuffed with polony chips and atchar) in order to survive but, I know too much about polony to eat it capriciously, otherwise. Polony is comprised of all the unwanted and undesirable scraps of meat that have failed the criteria of every prior selection process. Neglected animal anatomy thrown in a heap and ground into a greyish green mass of eclectic flesh-paste. Even in this grainy indistinguishable mix it is so unappealing, that a bright pink food colorant must be added to camouflage it, brighten it, and make it seem consumable. Pungent flavourings like: monosodium glutamate, salts, other artificial ingredients and even garlic are added to further mask the true face, of this ‘recycled’ product. Websites flash bannered warnings about the ill-effects of eating processed meat. It is ‘carcinogenic’ (encouraging of cancer), they say. Every slice, every mouthful, is a lie.
I’m house-sitting for my folks in Deneysville on the Vaal dam. It’s been three days and the majority of these days, have been just me and the animals. Yesterday, Angelina came to clean and tidy, I sat outside painting so we hardly interacted at all. She’s not very chatty and although I usually am, for these few days, I’m on holiday from chatter (other than on Facebook, and even this I am trying to curb).
I’ve been writing, reading, painting and processing my own ‘polony’.
Despite the tranquil and beautiful (albeit winter-dried and yellow) surroundings, I am still reliant on my prescribed sleeping tablets to knock myself out. I want to make the most of the phenomenal bed I am using during my stay. Its mattress and linen is plusher than those I have, in my rented room in Greenside, and it is also extra-length, so I can stretch out catlike in the mornings without hanging a limb. I love this house. My mother has created her dream home and because of the love we share, it contains me very well. In the mornings, I like to journal in a spot of sunlight where my father usually sits. With great relish I resemble him more with every passing year.
My daily drawings and paintings are noteworthy, because they are pastimes I have not enjoyed for several years. As a little boy in Mafikeng I would entertain myself for hours with oil pastels and conjure magical birds and landscapes from my imagination. I made creatures and peoples from wire and clay too. Ironically, this stopped when I began to attend Art school in Braamfontein, as were expected to choose a certain field and the performing arts took precedence, because -presumably- I was better at them.
I’ve stopped drinking again. I say ‘again’ because there have been a number of times in my life when I have sworn off alcohol, for various reasons, and managed to live happily without it for years at a time. This time it is specifically because it causes me to ‘blank out’ (I wake up with huge chunks of the night before, missing from the otherwise credible and secure, vaults of my memory banks.). I struggle to do most things moderately and the very nature of booze is that it impairs my judgment, making any attempt at temperance, almost impossible. Why get ‘tipsy’ when I can get ‘toppled’?
Most of my 31st birthday is compiled of stories that I have gathered from those who witnessed it in a more lucid state. The following morning I felt like I was hearing about the adventures of someone else. It was all news to me. One of my grandfathers suffered from Alzheimer’s, when I was a school boy, my mother and I would often visit him in a home in Lichtenburg. She would trim his fingernails and lovingly rub cream on his hands. It was the only time he didn’t look frustrated or bewildered. In his prime he had been a brilliant mind, but towards the end of his days, his consciousness seemed to be grasping at straws. These ‘blank outs’, of mine, remind me of him in that condition, and I would rather remember any one of another of his attributes and influences.
An unhappy truth is that the sleeping pills I take, also cause ‘blank outs’, if I don’t get to bed soon after taking them. I have discovered e-mails and messages, weeks after I have sent them on my Blackberry, and read them as if for the first time. What is even more disturbing, is that these messages are often my; unedited, innermost hopes and fears, often sent “gung-ho” to a real live person, that I have to deal with later on, in the waking world. There have been times I have not known about a correspondence declaring my; attraction to, or disapproval of someone, until I have received a gut-clamping reply.
You would think the humiliation would put me off the pills and booze, but the reality is that; I often prefer to take the risk of ‘blanking out’, than to lie isolated in the dark for hours on end.
I know I sound melodramatic, but I am an actor for heaven’s sake! I have been indulging in myself, and making a simple story, into a saga, at every opportunity. Looking back it seems I would do anything to avoid boredom and mediocrity, whatever it takes to create intrigue.
I want the movie of my life to be interesting to watch, if it isn’t going to be a romantic comedy (which I would prefer).
There are so many different types of ‘polony’.
I created my show “Little Poof!” to provide a platform for myself to showcase my talents and acquired skills. But, I also created it in the hopes that; an attractive, intelligent and ambitious man would see it and fall in Love with me. I just assumed, should this person present them self to me, that I would automatically match their Love with my own. I was presumptuous.
After six months of touring with the show and an incredible reception all around the country, I found a different outcome to the one I had hoped for.
I was met with unbelievable generosity and support. Raving reviews and on occasion, even standing ovations. Nightly I got washed with a sea of laughter and even the odd trickling tear that I knew I had catalysed. I received affirmation as a writer, singer and actor. It was a lifelong dream, come true. Yet, I was keeping a secret.
It was incredibly hard work, emotionally one of the most taxing times of my life and, despite Cathrine (my MD and accompanist’s) consistent loyalty and presence, often a desperately lonely time. The nature of self-promotion is such; that it leaves very little space for anyone else.
If I am ‘lucky’ I could spend the rest of my life doing my own shows, touring the country and even the world, performing to full houses, but the thought makes me lose colour and dries my mouth out. Would all that money make it worthwhile? I love to perform and create, but I crave more intimacy in my life, and fewer exhibitions. I have to smile, knowing that I will publish this blog on Facebook for the whole world to see. But, if I don’t share my inner world, I feel as though I might cease to exist. Exposing myself through the written word sits more comfortably with me. For some reason it feels more authentic and also, buffered. I am a contradictory exhibitionist it would seem.
So, my heart has not chosen to fall for anyone recently, despite many obstacles and near trip-ups. I wonder if it will ever fall again, or, if it (like other unwanted organs) is inevitably headed for the ‘polony’ factory? I’m too much of a dreamer and an optimist to believe that!
There has got to be more to life than being in Love, romantically. Before I turned 15 I hardly gave it a second thought! I hear the mantras and pop-psychology manifestos belting: ‘Invest in yourself’, ‘Love yourself’, or as Shakespeare said: “To thine own self be true”. I know, I know! But, I also know all the irritating and unattractive things there are to know about me.
It would be so much more fun, to be coming to terms with someone else’s issues, even if they would eventually, lead me back to my own.
Tonight, I’m going to try for the umpteenth time to sleep without a pill fizzing out a ‘zizz’ in my belly. Maybe I’ll meet someone magnificent in the dark.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Tonight is the last performance of Little Poof! In Cape Town and it’s only fitting that it’s a fundraiser and an opportunity for us to give something back to Cape Town after the amazing time that we’ve had here. It’s for the Luleki Sizwe foundation and it’s to promote awareness and support to lesbians in the townships that have been victimized and brutalized because of their sexual orientation. Let’s support James Fernie from Uthando and Ndumi Funda from Luleki Sizwe as they work tirelessly ensuring a better world for us all to live in.
We’ve had good houses peppered by the odd emptyish night so we have just broken even on paying back the loan my boetie gave us to come to Cape Town. It hasn’t exactly been a money-spinner but what an amazing last few weeks it has been. After months of heavy reliance on sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication I feel like an entirely new person. It’s literally like I took a holiday from myself. I sleep unaided at night and my swollen glands (not those glands! The ones that keep flaring up behind my ears and throat due to stress from when I had glandular fever) have completely settled down and I am a smiling idiot most of the time. After a few years of abstaining from alcohol I have been enjoying a few debaucherous tequila and champagne infused nights and although I would never advocate any form of substance abuse I have been having the time of my life!
I have kissed a beautiful Medditeranean man in public in full view of a very packed dance floor. You know that annoying couple in the corner that you wish would “just get a room!” That was me!!!! Mwa Ha Ha!
I have danced provocatively with gorgeous straight (and curious) topless barmen and I have shamelessly thrown my name around like confetti at a wedding and I am over the moon about it.
Grant and Andrew from Beefcakes have been the most exceptionally accommodating and enthusiastic hosts that any performer could ask for and I am head over heels in Love with every single staff-member and regular in the joint. “Family” taken to the next level. I Love that the space I performed in would dramatically transform into a teeming disco only minutes after our show ended. It seemed only fitting. Tonight is jam packed and even the space behind the bar will be full of some staff that want to watch our final performance in Cape Town (for this run).
Cathrine and I have shared a rather crowded sleeper couch for almost three weeks in JC and Tristan’s happy little home in Princess street in Walmer Estate. Jacob and Tris have been hostesses with the mostesses and have coped well with our noisy and tipsy arrivals home early hours of the morning after painting the town “Poof!” Often the bed would then be further burdened by Luca, Leche (their 2 Itallian greyhounds) and at least one of the two black kitties after they would leave for work in the mornings. Needless to say I am over most of my claustrophobia issues.
Next up we perform in Knysna as the official show for the Knysna pink Loerie festival and will be meeting up with our beloved Christopher Dudgeon to (no doubt) allow the fabulous madness to continue. To all my beautiful and adored Cape Tonian friends and fellow performers like the delicious Odidiva I want to say thank you and hope to see you all again soon. XXX

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Some things in life you need to do alone. This was not one of those things. There were long lonely hours on occasion, grappling ideas early hours of the morning. But most of the time I had someone holding my hand or kicking my ass when I needed it most. A week ago today I opened my show LITTLE POOF! And I feel that I cannot even really refer to it as something that is mine when there have been so many other hands and voices involved in its creation. Like my show I feel I have experienced a great opening. But let me share some of the days and weeks building up to last Wednesday:

There was a brick where my stomach should’ve been and because the brick took up so much space there was hardly any room for one of my favourite things on earth; food. I constantly had to talk nicely to myself and ease myself down to a mild panic. At times I felt like I was gripping the reigns of a bucking wild horse that wanted to cause me more harm than mistaking my finger for a carrot. This horse kicked and flailed and although it wasn’t really a talking horse its eyes said: “Who do you think you are? How dare you do this to me?” I have no idea how I managed to break that particular horse in. I was struggling to sleep and soon the days were beginning to take on a sheeny haze like I was staring at everything with my head on the floor watching the hot tarmac warp everything above it. Deep breaths…deep breaths....Oh my God! What the hell was I thinking!! Just me, Cath and a piano! I had nowhere to hide, for an hour, so up close and personal. All these analytical eyes at arm’s reach.
I borrowed a chunk of money from my beloved, benevolent little brother and proceeded to chew my pillow with the back of my head for weeks worrying that the show would not earn enough to pay him back. What if everyone hates it? What if it’s only funny to me? After taking a month off writing to do Sponge Bob the musical I returned to a script that suddenly seemed juvenile, bland and completely inadequate. My other internal organs began to chew on the brick. Then the firm guidance and warm sunshine of my director Neels Clasen and the constant earthy support and litres of tea from my musical director Cathrine Hopkins lifted me under my arms as though I were a child on the floor and things began to take shape. I evolved slowly from fear to faith, then from faith to confidence and then from confidence to sheer excitement to share what we had made with an audience.
Zietsies is an amazing venue and once we moved in there for the last week of rehearsals the fantastic view over Johannesburg helped give me a visual of what it was I was trying to do. I was announcing: “Hi Joburg, look at me! I love you! If you gimme a break you may just grow to love me too.”
Elzabe (the owner and a powerful and accomplished performer in her own right) and her sister Retha were warm and helpful from the start and I hope to keep them both in my life beyond this production. Before the show high on adrenaline Cath and I have bent poor Retha’s ear off many times and she smiles warmly and goes about her sewing and arranging things for the venue. It’s a cabaret space and a guesthouse but mostly it’s a home. Some nights there is extra food and Cath and I are in our element. The food is so good it even dissolves stubborn bricks!
Finally opening night emerged like a great white fin in a paddle pool and after all the stress and fear I was now just eager to get it over with. Next thing I knew Elzabe had announced us and I watched in horror as Cath stepped out to bow and greet the audience and then take her place at the piano. I fantasized about bolting up the stairs and never being seen again. But I could feel all the Love from inside the glass bubble of the dining room and instead I marched in and clung to my clothes rail, steadied myself and on Cath’s cue I began to sing. At first it was a bit shaky but it settled and became more rooted and suddenly I was having fun. Most of the time I was in my own world but every now and then I would emerge to see a close friend or family member laughing from their gut or wiping away a sad tear. Strangely, I remember thinking I was probably dreaming because they were reacting better than I had ever imagined they would. I took a journey and over 30 people took it with me that night. By the end of the opening night we had already sold enough tickets to cover the loan I had taken from my brother (Retha was responding to e-mails for bookings that were still coming through at 9pm that night!)
Since then we have enjoyed full houses and standing ovations every night and although it is still early days I am grateful from the very source of my being. The relief of opening night was so mammoth that I came down with a strange virus (still unidentified) that caused me to sleep straight through the two nights and a day I had off until beginning my next week of shows tonight. I have almost completely recovered and the adrenaline of tonight’s show seemed to have given me a clean bill of health. Most of the tickets sold so far have been people who don"t even know me, and if atleast half of my mates come to see the show we will have to extend or do another run it's wonderful!

Tigger, Tanz, Mom, Si, Cath, Neels, Elly, Wim, Amalanka, Gerrit, Elzabe, Retha, Hopkins family, Collett, Luiz, Bruce W, Coenie K, Sonia, Peter, Sean, Tess, Nicci, everyone on Facebook and many more people... thank you all for the roles you’ve played in this amazing experience. I’m not counting my chickens. I’m merely sharing my gratitude at this point of the journey. I am fully aware that I am still flat broke and am not sure what the Universe has in store for me beyond the end of this run but I am feeling very optimistic nonetheless.
Irrespective of what the future holds I am so thankful for every helping hand and every ticket sold, but I can’t help being a “Little” excited about it too.
So much Love.
Little Poof!

Friday, February 5, 2010


For the past few weeks I have been preparing a show called Little Poof! It's a collection of monologues from different characters from different walks on life that share their perspectives on Queer life in South Africa. I open in four days. It's difficult for me to describe what this process has been like for me. First of all if it wasn't for my brilliant director and my phenomenal musical director and close friend Cath I would have run in front of a taxi ages ago. They, together with my amazing family (especially my brother!) , have made this an experience I can proudly say I am just coping with. Getting up one day and going about making your own show is impossible without the help and constant Love and support of those dear to you, but it is the wrestling with myself that I had not quite bargained with. I realise now that I make a formidable opponent. Most mornings I wake up sport a thong, and heavily douse myself in baby oil. I then step into a slippery ring to face my own image and some tricky toussling then ensues. I'm a sneaky and dexterous wrestling partner and most nights I collapse in a heap of exhaustion. The underhanded tactics employed by my opponent involve whispering things into my ears that attempt to scramble my mind and tremble my heart. Chants like: "what makes you think you can do this?" And "you don't have what it takes, you're going to humiliate yourself.". Then I'll have a kick ass rehearsal that leaves champagne bubbles in my heart which gives me the upper hand to get my bitchy "little" foe in a headlock. Self doubt is rife! It's a plague amongst most of my loved ones. We find it necessary to send ourselves home as the weakest link long before anybody else could have the desire. But I realise that I should in fact be the guy in my own corner, my own pink pom pom thrusting cheerleader waiting to do cartwheels from behind the wings. Rather than my own judge and jury. There are some aspects of this process that have facilitated a few of the loneliest moments of my life, but in the same breath, never before have so many people selflessly come forward to lend a hand and demonstrate their faith in me. I can't wait to perform for you, to demonstrate my gratitude. Also I cannot wait to get up there for my own face off with my shadow and really get to test the sureness of my footing again. Worst case scenario is that I fall on my ass, but even that has entertainment value and should get a laugh.

It's frightening to be the captain of your own ship. It's been easier for me to be one of the crew in so many other instances. Now there is noone to blame if I should styeer myself to crash among the rocks. But then again I may also be the only one qualified to steer my vessel to Shangri-la. I guess that's what adventure is all about. Once this big venture is completed I am already planning my next great big expedition. One that should take me out across the roughest seas of all, The oceans of the heart. But for that one I'll have to find me the right first mate to man the deck with me. And that is no light recruitment task. But for now I will paddle this canoe on it's set path to centrestage sharing my thoughts with a (hopefully) appreciative audience, and who knows maybe I can kill two birds with one stone? Perhaps all this attention will attract the right crew member to assist me casting off on my next great adventure. There's a naughty nautical thought. Ships ahoy!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I am in Cape Town (well Durbanville and Grand West casino to be exact) performing in a show called "The Sponge who could fly". It's about a character named Sponge Bob square pants who aspires to be able to one day realise his dream and fly with the Jellyfish in Jellyfish fields. I play his supportive yet intellectually challenged chum Patrick Starfish. In short a pink morbidly obese mollusc with a heart of gold. I wear a fatsuit and a plush pink cotume that weighs a ton and sing in my lower registers. It's a blast and I am thoroughly enjoying every minute because the rest of the cast are also completely mentally unstable and the most fun to get silly and sweaty with, without the raunchy stuff. Playing this role is the equivalent to dancing my ass off at a rave club wrapped up inside a sleeping bag so I sweat a lot and have lost quite a bit of weight. I have also laughed until it hurt at some point almost every day we have rehearsed and performed. The talent and comic timing of this cast has vastly contributed to my attempts to flatten my stomach. But ironically I have also been wrestling with one of the heaviest and most challenging times of my life internally.

Despite the warm sunshine of the show, my friends, family and being able to pay my bills (for a change) I have sat huddled under a cloudy wet depression that I have struggled to shrug off. It came out of left field and just seemed to block out all good warm and fuzzy things. What is worse is that I had no real reason for it. I had no real reason to feel down, I just did. It appeared at my door like an unwanted evangelist who would not leave me alone. It would come in waves like an ice cold breeze. I would be stuck in writing, having a conversation or readng something and then this leaded feeling would sink into me and everything I was doing would feel pointless and like too much effort. Icy isolation. I would continue smiling and laughing and engaging with others without the usual ease (10 years professional acting is good for some things) and every now and then the sun would come out, sometimes even for a whole day and then without reason or warning my consciousness would begin to feel overcast again. I'm a proactive person and started researching my feelings and symptoms on the internet because I knew there was something wrong. Synchronicty is an amazing thing. The Bob Marley and the Wailers lyrics "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds" ran through my head like a stuck record. I would rise humming the wise yet cheerful tune despite the dark funk I would usually wake up in.

There is a history of depression and anxiety disorders on both sides of my family so I could have just embraced it as an early inheritance, but I truly believe that with awareness and proper nutrition many conditions can be prevented and even avoided. I remenbered a small section of Patrick Holford's book "The Optimum Nutrition Bible" in which he wrote about individuals suffering with high levels of histamine in their bodies. I read it over 4 years ago and I had ticked all the symptoms and something told me to explore it a little further now despite all the time that had past. High histamine in the body is known as Histadelia and the symptoms are: A fast metabolism, high energy, heavy allergies, sneezing in the presence of direct sunlight, elongated fingers and toes especially a long thin second toe, low tolerance for pain, high body temperature, addiction or cravings for drugs and alchohol and severe often unprompted depression and anxiety attacks. This is me, I thought as I read about the condition. Many schitzophrenics have been found to have high levels of histamine in the brain and though I don't quite hear strange voices (other than the characters that I write into my shows) I am not quite that bad. Turns out there is actually a number of articles written about this condition on the net and that histadelics suffering from depression have been found to experience fewer positive results and less relief from traditional depression and anxiety medication. The remedy is actually quite simple although not immediate in its efficacy. I started taking 500mg of an amino acid called methionine as well as 500mg of calcium and magnesium morning and night because they have both been found to lower the bodies production of histamine over an extended period of time (results can generally only be felt after 6 weeks). I have supplemented this with St. Johns wort and 5HTP in the hopes of speeding up the process a little and have felt a bit of relief. 5HTP is a precursor for seritonin production (happy brain chemical) so perhaps that is what has been helping me lift the cloud a bit. St. Johns wort needs to be taken with caution because it is believed to make you photosensitive and more susceptible to sunburn as well as affecting the efficiency of female oral contraceptives so I would advise anyone keen on following this regime to first chat to their doctor.
I am also trying to eat a low histamine diet which cuts out sugars, (real and artificial) and basically anything fermented from yoghurt to smoked chicken. It's a challenge but I really feel it has been a dead weight that I have been dragging behind me and I'm determined to cut the dark cloud loose. Other than that I begin rehearsals for my one man show Little Poof! after the 16th of January and hope to open in a lovely new venue I am negotiating with on or around the 10th of February. This year I am determined to make things happen for myself. I am terribly nervous and have had a few sleepless nights already but am also very excited and cannot wait to work with my director Neels Clasen and musical director Catherine Hopkins. The photos that I have had taken by the brilliant Gerrit Joubert and expertly styled by Wim and Amalanka for the posters and the PR are exquisite and hysterical.
Watch this space because now that I've figured out how to get rid of aunty "Debra" this "Little Poof" is getting ready to make a BIG BANG!