Monday, November 28, 2005

The News from China

Xerxes reviews are out: nice ones in the Guardian, Standard, Independent on Sunday and Times - although you'd think Nick Hytner had done it himself again. Always the lot of the revival director to go un-noticed..... although the framework he created, and within which I've worked (and which I admire hugely), is very definitely not "me". It's been an intellectual exercise in a way: giving life to characters in an already existing environment.

Wojtek is doing great work at the office, and freeing me up from the daily terrors of running the company, so I can think art and strategy. He's been phoning round venues to move on the tour booking, and preparing a funding application to UNESCO. I'm starting to wonder how I managed without him - and it's only his second week!

Long chat with Alaknanda. I've watched her video of the Heiner Muller Medea: extraordinary, cold, visceral work, which must have seemed incredibly radical when it was done in Mumbai twelve years ago. Alak thinks that the fashion for things Indian in the British theatre is coming to an end, and she may well be right. It all seems to have blanded out into Bollywood spin-offs and thinly veiled attacks on traditional culture masquerading as inter-generational comedy. She thinks that, just in terms of fashion, we're probably right to be turning from India to China. This wasn't the idea at all - but I guess if China is the "next big thing" theatrically, then it's as well to be ahead of the game.

Good news from China: Director You has agreed that the Shanghai Yue Opera Company will be partners in our project, and that Zhang Ruihong will come to work with us. This is brilliant - the best possible outcome from the trip. Less welcome is the news that Zhou Ye Mang won't be available - but that's the easier part to fill, and I have other ideas. We still need to put together a package of official documents before they get government permission and issue contracts - but it feels like we're on the home straight. Alak felt that, to get Chinese actors working in a creative way which doesn't simply follow the tradition, it may be necessary to bring them here at the start of the work. I suppose she's basing this on her own experience: Indian actors also tend to "follow the master", and need encouragement to take creative responsibility themselves. I think she's probably right - we should do the whole process here, even if it means losing that sense of "living in the material" for the English actors: the authenticity of Zhang Ruihong will more than make up for it.

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