Written for the British Council's Edinburgh Showcase blog, (here).
Postcards from Paris and Rio
I’m writing this on the way home from Rio De Janeiro, where we’ve had a brilliant time at the Cena Brasil Internacional festival.
Rio de Janeiro is the furthest I’ve ever been from home, and standing on the beach this afternoon, being the map-obsessive that I am, I was keenly aware that I was the furthest south I have even been. I took a screen grab of my GPS location and took a photo of the view.
All of which is to say that this obsession with my location on the planet, in relation to the place I call home, is one of the starting points for this show. And if any of our shows really ought to take the opportunity to try itself out in front of audiences in other countries, it is this one. This is what we’ve being saying about you. We tell a story about Brazil in the show. Each country is represented by a single story. (Before Rio we were in Paris, and the show tells a story about France, too). And the reception for the work was great – and I think they liked our admission that in our Brazillian story, when Chris plays music, he plays “something Spanish, because normally, no one can tell the difference.”
For Paris and Rio we were performing the Portuguese version of the show, meaning two different sets of surtitles, new ones for Paris, and the existing Portuguese surtitles for the English text for Rio. As ever, the existing surtitles needed updating, prompting a discussion about how to represent the freer sections of the show in the fixed medium of projected text.
We like the presence of the surtitles – we have them to a greater or lesser extent in every version of the show – and for at least half of the show it is straightforward for them to give a precise version of what is said on stage, as these stories are crafted and precisely written. However, the show has several sections where Jorge, Chris and I tell the same story, explain the same idea, but using much looser language, responding to each other, the audience, and any moments of inspiration that strike. Consequently the exact text varies from night to night, and evolves over time, as we find new jokes and ideas to play with. There are also two different stories in the show each performance, drawing on the bank of stories we’ve been told during the life of the project.
How can/should the surtitles represent this? As many audience members use the surtitles to double check their understanding of the text, is it off putting if the text is only giving an idea of what is being said, rather than a line-by-line translation? Can the formatting of the surtitles indicate when they’re just giving an idea of what is being said? What happens if the surtitles just take a break? They’re improvising…
The preferred option will be different for each audience member of course. But as this a key part of the way a section of the audience understand the show, it feels important to explore this, and keep playing with it.
Another great thing about Cena Brasil is the invitation to stay for the whole festival, so as to see as much other work as possible (and we saw some great work, the programme was really exciting), and to run, and take part in, workshops and talks: sharing ideas, techniques, processes, with companies from around the world.
Running workshops (from 3 hours to several months) is something Third Angel does a lot of, and Cena Brasil was a change to further develop a workshop based on the processes of making What I Heard About the World. This is something that has proved tricky to do in half-day workshops, because of how research-dependent this show is. But the two-day workshop format offered in Rio meant we could explore the ideas more. Chris, Jorge and I jointly ran a workshop that ended being delivered/presented in English, Portuguese, Spanish and French, which felt entirely appropriate, the our participants came up with some great, thoughtful, responses.
Exotic Animal Update
In Paris they found us a full-size, “teenage” giraffe – to stand in for the Parisian giraffe we have on the Portuguese set. In Rio they went English style and acquired a stag’s head.
Actual Edinburgh Preparation
Meanwhile, as all of this touring was going on, we signed off on print designs, the Fringe Brochure came out, venues announced their programmes, and the ‘What to See’ blogposts and articles began. And a couple of days after that, we announced the full line up of work that we’re showing in Edinburgh this year.
As well as returning for the Showcase, we’re opening a newshow for the first time. Cape Wrath is a solo performance in a minibus, (also at St Stephen’s) telling the parallel stories of two journeys – mine and my grandfather’s – from England, through Scotland, up to Cape Wrath, the most North-westerly point on the British mainland. I’ll be performing the piece twice a day from the 9th of August. Chris and I are also contributing to The Bloody Great Border Ballad Project at St Stephen’s; I have collaborated on Hannah Nicklin’s A Conversation With My Father, and Third Angel is making a new one-off performance, The Desire Paths, for the event Make. Do. And Mend. – all at St Stephen’s, too, that last one in collaboration with Forest Fringe. Chris also has a new play opening at St Stephen’s, and a new show created with Hannah Jane Walker at Forest Fringe. Add our breakfast performances of What I Heard About the World in Showcase week, and you’ll see that we have a very busy schedule.