I started work in the Space Theatre in Cape Town, a defiantly non-racial fringe company in a racially divided country. These years gave me a lifelong love of theatre and as a filmmaker I often gravitated towards live performance, capturing shows, documenting the creative process or creating moving images and projections for productions. With very tiny budgets we learnt to do a great deal with very little, printing posters in the attic at the top of the derelict building and for sets, using found materials, like bits of wood, rags, scraps of newspaper, or (the tentative beginning of my film career) flickering images from an old Super 8 projector.

We were a diverse bunch, some straight out of art and drama school, others self-taught - poets, writers, actors and activists 'schooled' in the townships of apartheid South Africa. Adrian Kohler of Handspring Puppets was there and he and his partner Basil Jones became close friends and colleagues with whom I have frequently worked over the years.

Choreographing thought

In 2010 Adrian and Basil workshopped a play looking back at their past and forward to a yet unknown future with puppets of young and old A and B created by Adrian. I documented the process and made a series of short films for the National Theatre, London who had commissioned the play. This is one of them:

A+B workshop | Choreographing Thought

Or You Could Kiss Me

The outcome of the workshops was a tender, fictionalised portrait of a shared life, written and directed by Neil Bartlett. The four lead puppets are A and B age 19 and, looking into the future, A and B in their 80s. The puppets are eloquent, creating another dimension in which memories are played out physically. Filmed at the Cottesloe Theatre, October 2010, with 3 cameras during 2 live performances.

This short version is an edit of selected scenes showcasing the puppets, made for an exhibition - Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in 2014. Jointly curated by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) and SFMOMA, it featured the work of 25 artists, including the puppets from Or You Could Kiss Me.

Or You Could Kiss Me

Way of The Dinosaur

In the early 80's I lucked out, being in the film department at UN HQ in New York. That was my film school, working with brilliant people from all over the world, making short films and promos for international conferences and campaigns. Knowing of my art school background, producer Peter Hollander asked me to submit a storyboard for an animated film to open a conference on renewable energy. To my horror my idea was accepted and Peter sent me off to be mentored by a man of great talent and patience, George Griffin, whose bread and butter work was for Sesame Street, With the help of George and many friends we made it. The Way of The Dinosaur opened the UN Conference on Renewable Energy in 1983. It was also the beginning of a stint as an animator in London.

Way of The Dinosaur

What If?

Skip forward a few years and... this isn't chronological in any way. One thought or memory will lead to another. I'd like to find a place to mention some of the artists I've worked with, makers and thinkers who don't sit easily within received genres. Katherine Araniello, Phia Menard, Ursula Martinez and Lemn Sissay being a few.

On the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, poet, writer and performer Lemn Sissay asked What If... we got it wrong?

A lost number in the equation,
a simple understandable miscalculation
and what if, on the basis of that,
the world as we know it
lost its matter of fact?

a lost number in the equation

Manifestly Phia

Phia Ménard is a juggler who's worked with the 'unjuggleable' substances of ice and wind. Here Phia talks about the meaning of transformation and erosion in her work and life, about piecing together the puzzle of each performance, about putting herself in danger, and about the power of the circus artist to bring their audience into a closer relationship with death. French with subtitles.

Phia Ménard juggling the unjugglable

Oh! What a Lovely Lovely Ward!

It was a joy to know and work with Katherine Araniello, performance/video artist and creator of SickBitchCrips and DAG (Disabled Avant-Garde). Her work was shot through with an acerbic satirical wit and her punk aesthetic and arty mess often produced a shocked, open-mouthed silence. When asked how she was doing she’d usually reply “I’m busy staying alive”. It gave her a fearless perspective that informed everything that she did.

In 2013 we were commissioned to make a short film for 14|18 Now marking the 100th anniversary of World War One. Katherine turned sentimentality on its head in a playful and absurd re-imagining of a wartime hospital, where the wounded and war damaged waited to have their morale lifted by Matron. Starring Katherine as Matron and, as the war damaged patients, friends from the edgier side of London's performance art scene.

Katherine was unique. She died in 2019. I miss her, we all do... and we miss her profound profanities.

Katherine Araniello | Disabled Avant-Garde