Wednesday, January 11, 2006

New beginnings

The blog's been silent for a while, because life has been mad - buying and selling homes for one thing. And it's likely to continue crazily for a while, not least because we've just started developing Dis-Orientations with final year students at CSSD. This is the most exciting part of the job - but it's also the most difficult to blog, because it keeps me in the rehearsal room full time. Already, in two days, we've had a whole morning of me talking about the company, the background and what the play might be; improvisation games with images; the discovery that the students have never improvised before (!); a visit to the V&A's exhibition Between Past and Future (which is incredibly inspiring - a great video of women re-creating themselves in a Shanghai night-club toilet, shot with a hidden camera); a whole series of short scenes about sexual harassment on tube trains; and Haili's introduction to the Yue form, which involved going right back to the Taoist world view, so as to explain why everything in Yue moves in circles.

This process won't create the final play - but it will certainly facilitate it. What I have to remember is that Haili is the only Chinese voice in the room, and she is not performing - so we need to treat this as a Western view of China, and think of this process as contributing the Western half of the play. Lots of scenes today dealing with tourism and alienation in a different culture..... Also, we've got 13 actors in this process, 11 of whom are women. The days when Border Crossings will be able to afford casts like that are still far away.

They have big casts in tiny theatres sometimes, though. I went to see The Emperor Jones at the Gate the other night. 16 on stage, 65 in the audience. I got to know this play as the piece which inspired Soyinka to write The Strong Breed: and to my mind it works like Soyinka's piece, as a spiritual journey into a cultural and historical space of the mind which the post-colonial subject may feel divorced from, but which is still present in a very real way. The set positions the audience above and around a pit, like lookers-on at an autopsy. It's like the configuration for Grotowski's The Constant Prince; and, like that play, it flays the central character. Jones being played by Paterson Joseph, who I've long regarded as a really great actor, the pain is palpable. People say that Cieslak's body glowed with an inner spiritual light in The Constant Prince: well, Joseph's body steams. It feels like African spirituality's more visceral answer to the transformative power of Grotowski.

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