Show me the way to go home

posted in: Life in South Africa | 3

And so to our final day at DCS.  For myself, having three lessons to teach became an opportunity to say goodbye to the learners I had taught over the past three months, and it was a gentle and relaxed day.  Val had a less comfortable time, having to fight with IT, but she was still able to enjoy most of it.

In no particular order, it was:

  • Me leading morning prayers
  • Teaching, with spirited playing of the “Who killed King John?” game, and some magnificent improvisations
  • Handing out presents to the laundry ladies, the security guys, the kitchen staff, and the maintenance team
  • A short outdoor concert given by the choir in our honour
  • A low-key but most enjoyable farewell braai
  • A trip to the astonishing Zebra Bar in Maboneng, including me playing an intense game of chess against Swazi, the owner. (I lost, but narrowly.)

And so we finish our stay, and with it comes the end of our daily blogs.  We shall record the last three weeks of our trip, but sporadically.  We hope it has proved (almost) as enjoyable an adventure for you as for us.  Au revoir.

Reflections XI – Memories (are made of this)

posted in: Life in South Africa | 0

Things we’ll miss about DCS:

Many, many people (with apologies to those I miss out): the triumvirate of ladies who really run the school – Mrs Marx in the staff room, Joyce in reprographics, Lina in the laundry.  Dayle and Paulus from the site team.  The security guys, especially Prosper, who welcomes us with a big smile when we come back late. The team in the boarding house kitchen/canteen.

Far more of the learners than we can possibly name.

The singing of the choir, especially rehearsing in the old chapel.

The congregation holding hands together in church as we sing the Lord’s Prayer.

Fitness boot camp (for Val)

The wonderful shower in our apartment

Working with Viloshni and Nthlane (Lucky)

Social occasions with Brighton, Darryl, others


Things we won’t miss:

Those (few) times when I have had to discipline learners

The toilet in our apartment, which kept going wrong

The ants, mosquitoes and the odd cockroach that have made occasional appearances in our apartment

Fried fish in the boarding house


Things we’ll miss about Johannesburg:

The weather

Bananas, cappuccinos

Taking Uber taxis, allowing us freedom: not to navigate, not to park, to drink

Friday evenings in Maboneng: a lovely meal out, great theatre (mostly) at the POPArt, home by 9.15

Swimming in the local (open air) pools

World class theatre – Woza Albert, Sophiatown, the shadows play… all for a mere pittance

The street art and the buzz of Johannesburg


And things we won’t:

Feeling trapped in our caged compound, not able to walk out the gate

Rubbish on the streets


The last time

posted in: Production | 0

The trouble with a two night run is that (to adapt a quote about America) it can go from nervousness to self indulgence without any intervening period of brilliance. It was, nonetheless, another thoroughly enjoyable performance.

The best way to describe it is through pictures not words: via this link to the utterly wonderful set of photos taken by Paul Horn, DCS’s irreplaceable photographer, pianist, It guru.

Plus this link to the video trailer, shot and edited by Brighton Ncomo, art teacher, drinking buddy and Man City supporter…

A hard day’s night

posted in: Production | 0

Quite a day. It began with weekly mass, our final opportunity to attend, so mildly disappointing that it was rather low-key, with the singing somewhat lackluster. It was followed by a school assembly; we had been scheduled to perform an extract of the play, but when assembly over-ran, it was probably just as well that our slot was cancelled. It can be a thankless task performing without lighting, costume, or context, to a pressed audience (and all the more so when they would be deprived of some of their break.)

School had acceded to our request for additional rehearsal time during the rest of the morning (vital, after yesterday’s dress run.) And that led directly into two performances, more or less back to back. The first was to a packed hall of enthralled primary school learners… though they too had to evacuate en masse when the time came for their buses to leave. The performers on stage were left somewhat bemused by the exodus of virtually the entire audience.

And then on to our first night. The performance went very well, and was received with enormous warmth and enthusiasm, but I have to confess to mild twinges of disappointment. A director is always going to be aware of the details that are not quite right. The audience loved it, I know; many of them told me so… but I still want it to be better.

“Dress rehoisals is supposed to go wrong…”

posted in: Production | 0

(“Dat’s what makes for a great performance!”)
And heaven knows I’ve sat through quite a few in my time. Though rarely, if ever, have I had a third of my cast disappear two-thirds of the way through, on account of the fact that otherwise their bus home would leave without them.

On the other hand, there were glimpses of what might be. For example, check out the video. Two of the three sisters are determined to murder the other one, but then discover they are all pregnant. These three, let me remind you, were given their roles yesterday, and just look at them. They make my heart sing.

Though before I get too carried away, the scene was a disaster, and is in need of serious work before we get to perform tomorrow, first as a matinee to the primary school, and then to our first night audience.

The beat goes on

posted in: Production | 0

The inclusion of drumming and marimbas to illustrate, accentuate and punctuate the play has been one of its most exciting and welcome elements. I have indeed been fortunate to have Lucky (pun intended) as a colleague; no-one could be in any doubt as to his energy, expertise and commitment.

All the same, with two days to go there are no grounds for complacency. The longest of the plays, The Three Sisters, has undergone a forced root and branch re-casting overnight; and during today’s all-day rehearsal, I found myself reading in for three roles, including a most unlikely Demanzana/Gretel – one of our babes in the woods. Miracles happen – I know they do – especially with a dress rehearsal and a primary school matinee still to come, but they need to as well.

Tea for two

posted in: Life in South Africa | 0

Our nearest neighbours (through a few layers of security fences) are the Sisters of the Holy Cross of the Third Order of St Francis – 4 sisters to be precise, two elderly, one student and Sister Maureen; I was pleased to accept the latter’s invitation to tea. They live together in a beautiful old house, built 100 years ago, and bought by the order in 1974. It has a lovely veranda and flower garden at the front, and retains many of its original features.

Over tea and scones, Sister Maureen told several fascinating tales of her life living and teaching in South Africa and Zimbabwe, through times of change, from the Apartheid era to now. She recounted how she used to take the bus into town to go shopping and visit the post office (now a burnt-out shell in the Central Business District). She did not hark back to a bygone era, but instead told it how it is – she still takes the bus to town today. “You just have to be sensible and not look like you have too much money”, while adding “It probably helps to be seen as a person of the church”.

It was also interesting to hear her experience of how teaching has changed over the years, especially through the 1980’s when students played a central role in the struggle for freedom, though one by-product was a decline in discipline in schools, making teaching more challenging at the time. This appears not to be an enduring legacy, at least from our experience at DCS, where the learners are focused and engaged.