Last week was crazy and wonderful. We spent Tuesday and Wednesday teching the show - long days which lasted into the late evening, as we struggled our way through the whole thing. I'm usually fairly efficient in techs - but the first go at any devised piece is always more complex than scripted work, because the reality is that the play isn't even fully scripted at that stage (it still isn't!), never mind rehearsed. We'd managed to work our way through the first half while Denise and Micha were with us, but the second half was still no more than a series of scenes, and I had to stage the transitions at the same time as lighting them, sorting out the sound cues and integrating video more fully. In work of this kind, the tech is not an add-on, but an integrated part of the production's creation: that's why it was so important that we did it in this period, rather than waiting for Manchester.
On Thursday and Friday mornings, we had dress runs, with extensive notes afterwards. The first time through, the main preoccupation for everybody seemed to be with costume changes. The Chinese actors are used to large companies of dressers and make-up artists - and hardly anybody is used to appearing as so many different characters, all of whom have to look different, in a comparatively short play. By Friday morning, we had just about got to a stage where it was possible for a showing to happen - which was just as well, since they were on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
Our invited audiences were wonderful. On Friday, there was a younger group - very diverse - with Swedes, Chinese and Indian people much in evidence. The different laughs rising out of different areas of the audience were very exciting, and instructive. On the Saturday, we made some key changes before the second showing - clarifying bits of the "back-story" which hadn't been apparent to the first audience, adjusting a couple of scenes to overcome language barriers, and speeding up the bits that had dragged. The second showing was a huge leap forward from the first. This time the audience included lots of very knowledgeable and articulate people - Paul Sirrett from Soho, Alaknanda Samarth, Juwon Ogunde, Di Robson, Sarah Nunn... and so on. Haili and Peter were there from earlier casts as well. So the post-show conversation lasted well over an hour, and was incredibly helpful. Not everybody in the audience agreed on everything - there were some people who wanted a stronger sense of "closure", or at least to "know what happened to the characters", while others were excited by the open-ness. It's interesting that the people who wanted narrative closure tended to be white Europeans: Asian people were much more open to the open! There was also a very useful conversation about Song and Alex's lesbian relationship, which continued over our "au revoir" dinner afterwards. This will be hugely helpful for re-working the second play.
On Sunday, I delivered the Chinese performers to the airport, and got the (now much bigger) set back into storage. Once again, we're at a beginning point.