Why do the last few days before you go away always disintegrate into total pandemonium? I suppose because you feel you have to sort your whole life out, because nothing can possibly wait for two weeks..... Well, it's past midnight on Saturday, and I'll be up at 5.30 tomorrow to fly to Shanghai, so some things are really going to have to wait. Like the VAT return. But at least I'm doing a last piece of late-night blogging. You have to get your priorities right.
Oh, and I managed to:
do an affidavit of charitable status for Columbia (figures suggesting we're over-dependent on the Arts Council, which I think we know - hopefully Columbia will help us out of that!);
create a CD of our music with carefully designed inlay card to give a unique present to Chinese hosts (and buy boxes of shortbread in case that turns out to be more appropriate);
take the family to Aberystwyth to stay with Nisha's sister while I'm away (a mere 450 mile round trip);
sort out people to share the office and the paperwork to pay Collage Arts;
have a meeting with Geof and Jess at Central about the first stage of the project (we'll be developing the piece with the students in January / February) and how we'll divide expense and credit;
and so on. I'm ready to go!
In the thick of it all, I squeeze in two pieces of African theatre: Who Killed Mr Drum? at the Riverside and The Lion and the Jewel at the Barbican. They couldn't be more different: the South African piece is elegiac, even a little nostalgic for the political and cultural energies of the apartheid era. The Soyinka, although it's fifty years old, feels incredibly current. It's a comedy of changing values (or the failure of change) in post-colonial Nigeria, centring on a woman's sense of herself as a new sort of goddess, because she's been pictured in a magazine. Yes, that current! As so often with Soyinka, I find the piece very disturbing: in spite of the humour and the undeniably infectious buoyancy of Chuck Mike's production with Collective Artistes. As in his serious plays, the colonial, the modern, is only an intervention in a broader cultural history - which is a refreshingly accurate way of looking at it. But the re-assertion of the elder's authority, in the form of what amounts to rape, doesn't feel like a laughing matter to me. I find myself on both sides of the arguments, and not knowing where to place myself. Which is what really good plays do.
The music for both plays is terrific, and they share the same composer: Juwon Ogungbe. I email him about our dormant opera project.
Next time, in Shanghai!