Friday, 26 July 2013

Edinburgh Blogpost 2: Postcard from Poland

I'm writing a 'preparing for Edinburgh' blog for the British Council - over here. For completeness I'm posting them here, too, after a short delay, as that seems to be etiquette.

May 2013
Postcard from Poland

We’ve just returned from the Teatromania festival in Bytom, Poland, where we presented What I Heard About the World. This is the start of a short international tour – Paris and Rio de Janeiro next month – which serves as a very nice precursor to taking the show back to Edinburgh for the British Council’s Showcase at the end of August.

This weekend in Bytom was the first time we had performed the show since last August in fact, which we split between the Edinburgh Fringe and the Stage at Helsinki festival. In Edinburgh last year we were fortunate enough to be part of the fantastic programme of work at Northern Stage at St Stephen’s, which was simply the best Edinburgh experience we’ve ever had. So I’m really pleased that Northern Stage have been able to accommodate us again as a late addition to the St Stephen’s programme, because we know that the space is right for the show, and the venue ethos one that completely values the work.

However, because we are a late addition, we’re taking a very early slot in the day – 9.30am. In any other city or any other festival this would be unheard of. But the idea of Theatre for Breakfast has been growing in Edinburgh over the last few years, we have a swathe of great reviews from last year’s festival and we’ll be giving out free pastries to the audience. So we’ll be aiming to entice international promoters away from the Showcase breakfasts for one morning of the week, and to lure audiences out of their accommodation that little bit earlier in the day. It is something of a gamble, but most of us will be in Edinburgh anyway, and being part of the Showcase is too good an opportunity to miss.

In fact, our Edinburgh schedule is remarkably busy, but we’re asked to keep the details of it under wraps until the Fringe Brochure is published and our venues announce their programmes at the end of May. So more on that next time, perhaps.

At Teatromania we were presenting the UK version of the show. What I Heard About the World is a co-production with mala voadora, a company based in Lisbon, and our partners Sheffield Theatres and Teatro Maria Matos. We tour two versions of the show. The UK version is performed in English, with a couple of minutes of French (surtitled) and of Portuguese (not surtitled). In the Portuguese version Chris Thorpe and I perform in English (surtitled) and Jorge Andrade performs in his native Portuguese and also English. One particular story is performed by Jorge in Portuguese rather than by Chris in English…

Consequently, we have two versions of the set - a strange hybrid of living space and locker room - that we can tour from Sheffield or from Lisbon. This appeals for practical reasons, but also because a theme of the show is one of authenticity – and the use of replicas or substitutes. So, rather than rely on freight, we can drive the set ourselves to a good area of Europe.

However, following our successful experience with Presumption (presented in the Showcase in 2007) of having sets re-made for us by festivals in Moscow and Yerevan, we have embraced the same attitude for this show. If a venue is too far for us to drive to, they have been sourcing a replica, or perhaps more accurately, a substitute set for us.

My favourite challenge in this is that venues are invited to find for us an “exotic animal”. In the Portuguese set, the animal is a real, stuffed giraffe (well, the head and neck, anyway), acquired, as I understand it, from a night club in Lisbon. The UK version features a two taxidermy sculptures by artist and film maker Susannah Gent, a stag’s head and rampant fox. In Helsinki they provided us with a gothic looking owl to perch on set. And in Bytom they set the bar pretty high for future set & props gatherers, as we turned up to find a full-size replica zebra. Where did they get it? “It’s our office zebra,” they explained.

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