Monday, 21 December 2009

Out with the old

It's the end of the year.
So what did we do in 2009?

In January, we organised a seminar in Kanonhallen in Oslo, where we performed Everything Falls Apart and the Trilogy. People from all over Europe came over to see our new show and to discuss theatre for/with young people. From Oslo, I drove to Parma, where we played The End of Everything Ever and Past Half Remembered. This was the first time we performed in Italy.

In February, we toured some UK venues with The End of Everything Ever.

In March, we rehearsed and opened Das Schiff on the steamboat Schönbrunn in Linz. We worked together with our friends from Sgaramusch, and made the show as part of Linz09 and Schäxpir.

In April, rehearsals started for Berlin 1961, a co-production with Junges Ensemble Stuttgart. At the same time, we were still playing Das Schiff in Linz. We also brough Everything Falls Apart to Stuttgart while The Song of Lost Treasures toured Norway.

In May, The Song of Lost Treasure continued its tour in Norway and Berlin 1961 continued rehearsals in Stuttgart to open in June.

In July, Das Schiff played throughout the Schäxpir festival in Linz. At the end of July we rehearsed My Life with the Dogs to get ready for Edinburgh.

We spent all of August in Edinburgh to play My Life with the Dogs at The Pleasance.

In September we went all the way to the North of Norway with My Life with the Dogs, and then travelled from there to Horn, Prague and Jindrichuv Hradec with Everything Falls Apart.

In October, My Life with the Dogs went to the UK for a two week tour, while The Song of Lost Treasures toured in Vestfold in Norway. Berlin 1961 played was on in Stuttgart.

In November we crossed the Atlantic in a cargo ship as part of R&D for Tales of a Sea Journey and The Song of Lost Treasures toured in Norway.

In December, Berlin 1961 played in Stuttgart and we did the first two weeks of development of Around the World in 80 Days at BAC in London.

From London to Belgium in 80 Days

We all travelled home yesterday and I'm not sure whether all of us made it home.
If you were at home following the news of cancelled flights and closed airports, consider yourself lucky.

I was supposed to go home by Eurostar. There was a slight worry last week when the British Eurostar crew announced a strike. That worry subsided when it was decided that the French and the Belgians would work instead.

But that was before the White Christmas decided to make a real effort this year.

On Saturday morning we found out that the Eurostar was broken. Apparently it froze when it came out of the tunnel.

Cat immediately bought me a backup flight, and I thought I could go down to St. Pancras on Sunday, check it out and if it wasn't happening, still head to Heathrow for the backup flight.

But an hour later United Airlines left Cat a message saying they'd cancelled the flight she just booked and they put me on a BMI flight earlier on Sunday morning. But I had to go to the UA desk first to pick up my new ticket.

Throughout the day it became very clear that travel was going to be chaos. Wherever you were planning to go, it wasn't going to be easy.

So on Sunday morning I decided to get to Heathrow early. I got there at 8am, and went straight to the UA desk. Terminal 1 was heaving. Check-in queues were looooong, and all around people were sitting on there luggage, looking at the departure screens, some of them crying, most of them on their mobiles.

The queue I was in wasn't that long. There were about 7 people ahead of me (I didn't count couples, as they would be served together). But it was United Airlines and their flight to Washington had just been cancelled, along with some other flights to the States. Most people in front of me were there to attempt to find an alternative way to get to their destination.
At 9.45am I had my new ticket. I felt enormously privileged, because most of the people around me would not be able to fly that day.

Check-in was quite fast, and so was security. The gate opened at 10.45 (half an hour before the flight), and everything still seemed fine.
But then a man came out of the double doors that led to the plane and said Brussels airport was closed because all three landing strips were covered in ice.
He said the plan was that Brussels would open again at 4pm, but because this plane couldn't just sit at that gate for so long, he suggested we board the plane immediately and wait on the plane. He thought we'd be on the plane for two hours before taking off. He gave us 10 minutes to decide.

This was weird. A group of people who didn't know each other had to come to a consensus about boarding or not boarding. I left and went to get some food just in case.
By the time I got back they'd decided not to board just yet. We'd board at 12.50, aiming to leave at 2pm, so we'd be landing at 4pm Brussels time.
I stayed at the gate. The departure hall was heaving with people who were not going anywhere for quite some time, and the gate was calmer.
At 12.45, the man came back and said we wouldn't be boarding after all. He sent us all back to the departure hall, telling us to keep an eye on the screens.
The screens kept saying 'Delayed until 12.50' - even though it was now later than that.
Suddenly, at 1.50pm, the screens read: 'Flight closing'. Me and quite a few other people ran back to the gate. We got on buses that drove us to the plane and by 2.45pm we took off.

I was in Brussels at 5pm local time. The arrivals hall looked spectacular: suitcases everywhere, every conveyor belt was full, and airport staff tried to clear luggage from previous flights off the belts to other areas of the hall. I didn't quite understand how all that luggage could have arrived without people, but that must all be from people who were on connecting flights and had gotten stuck halfway. The luggage must have been on another flight.

I was out by 5.30pm, and as I bought my train ticket, the man said all trains were suffering severe delays. On the platform I saw a lot of people who hadn't gone anywhere, who'd been told to go home.

I've been stuck in airports before, but never that close to home. London-Ghent is about 300km. It took me 11 hours.

Still I feel very lucky. I got home. A lot of people didn't.

Scratch over. Year over.

We have left London. Or at least I think we all did. The scratch nights were great fun, and we now can't wait to develop this further.
But, as I've explained to many people over the last two weeks: we have quite a few more shows to make before this one opens, so at the moment we are planning to do another week in June, and then maybe we find some more time before autumn 2011. Yes, you read that right. 2011. I will try and explain to you in a next post what is happening before autumn 2011. One thing's for sure: we're not taking a sabbatical.

This is what Katchka made of the reception room where the audience came in before the show started. Our collection of maps and mad hats and costumes.

Some people grabbed the pen and marked on the map where they had been. Between you and us, we didn't cover the world. So we'll have to work harder. You have until autumn 2011 to fill in the gaps we leave in our travels. I will definitely try to make an effort to fill in those gaps no one else seems to be willing to fill in.

Nils is telling the audience just how big the world is.

On Saturday, we came in at 11am to get some extra scenes into shape to present to the next audience. BAC is an enormous listed building with a lot of windows and single glazing. It gets cold in there...

The view from the Committee Room (the Old Bar)

After lunch we came back to BAC and found a few of the cast couldn't resist the urge to play Around the World in 80 days as a West End musical. So they had a go at it.
About 5 minutes in, Alex cut them off: it was too much to handle.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

What will it be?

No one knows yet. All options are still open and in the luxurious freedom of a scratch, they can stay open until the very last minute.
Will it be around the world in 80 rooms? Around the world in 80 maps?
Only time will tell.
And even then, the Friday scratch might be very different from the Saturday scratch.

On Monday Katchka and I went to Stanfords, the map shop. We bought 4 different maps there, and one is very big. We got back to BAC and mounted the biggest one on a sheet, so it would be easier to use.

On Monday night I went to see a friend who gave me two bags of costumes. Yesterday morning we tried them on.
They are very different from our usual second hand shop costumes.

Phileas Fogg and Passepartout

Everyone stayed in costume for more text research.

Then we explored the scene with Mrs Aouda, after she'd been saved from the temple. It is the start of the love story.

Love at first sight?

Mr Fix

We found out that Mr Fix adjust to his surroundings very easily...

Last night and went back to Stanfords and bought 4 more maps. I'm off to BAC now to hand them over and see how they can be used.

It's been great to be back in London. Our rehearsing and touring over the last two years hasn't really hit London. The last time we were here was when we rehearsed Everything Falls Apart at the Lyric.

Other great news: our Norwegian funding application for making The Sea Journey has been approved. Which means that next March we will start processing all of our experiences aboard the Fort St. Louis and try to mould them into a show that can hopefully show you what life on the sea is like. Or what it can be like.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

End of week One - in the middle

It's the end of the first week and I thought I'd update you on some of the things we've been doing.

We've explored more of the book, analysed all chapters to lay out the stories, played around with some music and bought some funny hats.

There is no casting yet, so here are some possibilities:

Nils as Phileas Fogg, Unai as very competent storyteller. Esquire is his favourite word.

Unai as Phileas Fogg, Esq.
A true English gentleman...

A selection of instruments.

Henrik as Phileas Fogg. He has issues with his own name.

Tarek as Phileas Fogg, Unai as Passepartout.

Tarek sings the Journey-Description-Song.

Henrik Ipsen as Phileas Fogg. Tuan sings the Suez-Canal-Song.

Other than rehearsing we have had a company dinner to catch up on people's lives outside NIE, and we've attended BAC's Amnesty International Gala Night and watched 1984. We had some hot punch, which I think must have been gluh-gin, as it seemed to have a lot of gluhwein ingredients, but it had gin instead of wine. It was very strong.

I realise I haven't yet shown you what was inside the big cardboard box. I will take a picture of it tomorrow.

There is one more thing, but again: I'd like to keep it as a surprise for those who come and see the scratch performances on the 18th and 19th. I'll reveal it afterwards for those who can't make it.
All I can say is that it's very exciting.

Tomorrow I will go and buy a bigger map. We need it.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

NIE goes posh

Today we went in search of the life of Phileas Fogg. We do realise he is a fictional character (something we haven't touched on much in the past years), but what if we treated him as if he were real? What was this Reform Club? He spent most of his time there, took all of his meals there, and started his journey there. So we had to go there.

Or rather: Alex found out you can book guided tours of the reform club, so he decided we should go.
Some time last week we all got an email from Tom (photo reference in previous blog post) saying we were to visit the Reform Club and there was a dress code.
Yesterday we discussed the dress code further and were clearly instructed that jeans and trainers wouldn't fly.

This morning we all met outside the Reform Club. We were not allowed to take photographs inside, but if you really want to know, you can find some here.

The tour was great, even though personally I thought they could do with some work over there at the Reform Club. Some of the furniture has seen better years. In all fairness, they were having some reconstruction done and the man who gave us the tour explained that there were some leaks in the roof that didn't seem to have any cause. It's a beautiful building with an Italian palazzo as a main entrance. But as we're not in Italy or an Italian-like climate, it is covered with a glass tiled roof.
We saw the non-smoking Smoking Room, two different dining rooms, and were told there were hotel rooms in the floors we couldn't see.
I really liked the floors we couldn't see. The guide said they were there, but there was no trace of them on the inside.

After the Reform Club we tried to count the footsteps between the club and Savile Row, where Fogg's fictional home was. But we went the wrong way, so the footsteps didn't add up.
Additionally, either they re-numbered the houses or Jules Verne got his numbers wrong. Verne mentions Fogg lives in the house were Sheridan died, Number 7 Savile Row.

This is the house where Sheridan died, but it is not number 7, it's number 14. The house that used to be on number 7 must have been bombed, as it is now a newer building. So for our purposes it is nicer to believe that it must be number 14.

We were on a roll testing out this new way of life, and carried on for high tea at Langtry's.

When the sandwiches arrived, I got slightly worried: this would not be enough lunch for me. They were tiny. And cut in a way that in my experience is only suitable for very small children. Henrik compared them to airplane food. Clearly we're not English.

But my concerns vanished when the scones arrived. I'd eaten scones before, but it had been a long time and I'd forgotten how filling they are.

At 2pm our fancy fake life had to end and we headed back to BAC for some of our own familiar world. And more fancy dress. But the kind we are very used to.

We also have this thing:
I will show you what's inside later.

Where do they go?

Yesterday we started rehearsals. We all met at BAC, met our producer there, and joined forces in our first rehearsal room. BAC has a lot of rooms and they all have different names. I know the room as Tom and Emma's old office. I think it is now called the Town's Clerk Room.
You can see Foxton's from the windows, and the first thing I noticed is how there are fewer staff at Foxton's now than there were 5 years ago.

Times change.

The first thing we decided to do after getting all the practical stuff out of the way, is draw Phileas Foggs journey on a map of the world. We discussed various versions of world maps, and how it's very hard to get a real idea of how big things are.

Henrik reinforced that idea by turning the map upside down to give us a new perspective.
But it confused us too much, so we made him turn it back the normal way up.

This is the journey from the book. We made a mistake in India, because he didn't travel straight across India, he went NE and then SE - seems like a slight waste of time to me, but he probably did it because there was no other way to cross at that time.

The team we are working with now is a new mix again, so I thought I'd introduce him.





Katchka (I spelt this wrong, but i don't have the Czech accents on my computer, so I tried to make it phonetic)



Unai (incognito)


Nils (he is very very tall, especially compared to me)

Elke (that's me - I am relatively short, but exceptionally short compared to Nils)

New show, new toys. Alex had some fun before we started and rented some costumes and this enormous bass drum. Considering he decided to hire it, we decided to also let him carry it. Alex is relatively short compared to this bass drum.

In the afternoon we changed to a different room. This room is called the New Committee Room. And I can't remember what I remember it as. It must have been someone's office.

The show that had been in there before must have been quite disturbing. The walls were covered in quotes relating to homophobic acts of violence, which luckily is quite far removed from the world we're immersing ourselves in.