Sunday, 30 November 2008

They are in China, I am in Denmark

While the rest of the group are in China, I was working on a project in Denmark.  This was the first workshop weekend for a show that I will make next year based on Charles Dickens book Hard Time.  These are some pictures from the rehearsal room.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

The wall

Yesterday we went to see the Great Wall of China. It is great.
How it all happened was: Iva arranged for a minibus and struck a deal with the man who runs the company (Kevin) to get us all there for 700RMB. A bargain.
First of all, the minibus was almost half an hour late, also it was not the vehicle Kevin had shown Iva AND it didn't have seatbelts even though she specifically asked for them. The answer was: "we're not going very fast anyway, so it's ok".

Then the guide said she would take us to a jade gallery first, but as we needed to be back in time to get some rest before the show, we all said we wanted to go straight to the wall.
Big problem. We HAD to go to the gallery. So Bob phoned Kevin and was very firm with him, explaining that unless they took us straight to the wall, we'd all get off the bus and go with another company.
The phone got handed back and forth between Bob and Sophie (our guide), and eventually the deal was that if we didn't want to go to this gallery (for which they obviously got a commission or something), we'd have to pay 200RMB more.
So we stopped the bus and all got off.

More phone calls resulted in an extra 80RMB to go straight to the wall. Sophie kept saying 'more or less', and we kept saying 'no, not more or less, 80 exactly'.

Anyway, we got to the wall in the end.

On the bus.

Arrival at the wall.

Going up to the cablecar.

In the cable car. Great wall in the background.

And there it is, in all its glory. It is the most spectacular sight.

Sasha thought it was like a dream.

After the trip, we got back into the bus and started driving. Sophie seemed to have a plan to take us to a restaurant somewhere, but as soon as we said we wanted to go back to the hotel, she stopped talking. Then, as the driver was about to get on the motorway, she shouted something at him, he stopped and reversed and took another route. Tom asked Sophie why we weren't going on the motorway, and we all got back into revolt-mode. So she said: "we will in a few minutes". She shouted something else at the driver and 5 minutes later we were on the motorway (which has tollbooths). But not after there was another moment of stopping in the middle of the road and reversing back onto the tollbooth lanes.

When we arrived back into the city, we decided to get off because traffic was horrible and it would be faster by underground. Sophie then tried to raise the fee again, claiming we had to pay for parking and the toll road and god knows what else.
Bob and Iva are very strict negotiators though, so I think this time they didn't manage to pull a huge tourist scam.

After the show last night we were introduced to some young directors from Beijing. One of them explained to us that in the whole of Beijing, there were only 20 young emerging artist (in theatre, that is). The strange thing is that he used the term 'emerging artist' as an official title, which I guess could very well be the case. The difference about them was that they are the ones who want to make theatre their own way, possibly influenced by western theatre, but definitely not following the rules of traditional theatre.
It was a very interesting evening, and I asked them a lot of questions about what they thought about all 4 Edinburgh shows that have passed through Beijing in the past 4 weeks.

We met about 8 of these emerging artists, and they each have their own style and don't necessarily have very much in common other than these organised events.

One of them invited us to a party tonight, where there will be live music and young Beijing artists or art students.

Today David and I went shopping, and stumbled on a street full of shopping centres. Yes, not a street full of shops, but a street full of 8 floor shopping arcades. One of them was incredible: a maze of tiny stalls selling pretty much anything you might want or need. With ample opportunity to haggle.

For lunch we had a very special crepe, and joined the Chinese who were having their lunch sitting on a wall.

My feet hurt.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Life is good in Beijing

Last night we were invited to have dinner with the people from the British Council. We ate a lot (as you do in China) and had a great night out. The British Council people had been living in Beijing (or elsewhere in China) for a while, so we could ask them a lot of questions.
They all spoke Mandarin, which I thought was very impressive.

Today, Dave, Bob and I went to the 798 Art District, at the edge of the city. It is an industrial complex built by the East Germans in the 50s that has been turned into what is probably best described as an art village. Gallery after gallery in the most amazing spaces.

This is the Originality Square.

And this is some of the art we found there.

After that we took a taxi back into town (taxis are incredibly cheap here, in fact so is food), and went for a walk along the artificial lakes west of the Forbidden City.

The path along the lake was very peaceful for most of it. At one point there were a lot of tourist tat shops, but we ignored them all.

This was the peaceful bit.

And this was one of the lakeside guidelines. We were good children and obeyed the rules.

Then Dave tried out some of the fitness equipment. The Chinese really work on their physical health, they go jogging, stretch, and use these kinds of adult's playgrounds to keep in shape.

This is the entrance to where we perform. Only, it's not where we play. On the first day we all got confused, because what happens is you have to walk around this theatre to get to where we play.

This is where we play. It's a great space and suits us to the bone.

Today the warm-up game was Chinese football, which is with a big shuttlecock. We were rubbish at it and all the ushers laughed at us.

Musical warm-up.

Some subtitles.

Some more subtitles.

After the show we went for dinner and ate some pigeon. This is the pigeon's head.

It's the second time we went to this restaurant - it's really good and close to the hotel. The woman who waits at the door to let people in wears a fur coat.

Yesterday I got a Chinese haircut. I like getting my hair cut in strange places, so I decided this had to be a winner. We all joked beforehand that because the Chinese are not used to curly hair, I might end up with straight black hair.

It didn't end up black, but boy was it straight. The hairdresser worked very hard and got an incredible result: I've never seen my hair like this before.

The next morning, however, it was back to normal.

I would like to add that this is probably the best and most precise haircut I've ever had. But I prefer my own curls.

Tomorrow morning we will leave at 8am to go to THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Beijing explorers

Alex and Nadja waving us off at Heathrow

Waiting at Helsinki airport.

Arrival in Beijing. An amazing airport.

Our first Chinese meal: hotpot.

We weren't quite ready for the seahorses yet. But that will come soon.

Our neighbourhood in Beijing.

The get-in.

A tuktuk.

Look behind you...

What are they saying?

We met another theatre company (TNT) and went for a fantastic meal together.

The temple of Heaven.

A hutong.

Monday, 24 November 2008

We are in China

Pictures will follow later, I'm too tired to transfer them from my camera right now.
But after a very long delay in Helsinki due to a snowstorm, we finally arrived in Beijing. It is quite overwhelming, the pollution is everything everyone says it is, and there are small things we didn't expect, like local people taking pictures of the children, and ways of eating food that we weren't familiar with at all.

We only arrived 3 hours ago, but people at the hotel and the restaurant laughed at our helplessness. Not in a mean way though, I think they are charmed by our ignorance.

One thing that did unsettle me was speakers on the streets telling me not to trust anyone and to always keep an eye on my belongings.
Other than that it is amazing to be here.
We play our first show tomorrow.

I will report more soon.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

No rest for the wicked

We did it. We opened the show at the Junction and now it has an end.
Monday was a long day with setting everything up and doing a last run-through.

Ready to go? We'd better be...

Mama Zog

The party speech

More party

The bike ride

Uncle Stepan

More uncle Stepan

The End

After the show we all went for drinks to celebrate our opening night. I think we deserved a big night out. After all, we'd been working hard for three weeks to get to this point.

Bob showing off his tattoos

On Tuesday we played two shows, and my thought was that they got better and better. So now all we have to do is play more. But we have to wait until January when we'll play again in Oslo.

After the fight

Papa Zog pays for the boys' trip

In the car

Jean-Pierre and the magical refrigerateur

"I love cooking, I do"

The curtain call.

So what's next? CHINA!
I do intend to update this blog while we're there, but it might not be so easy. So I'm not promising anything.