Monday, May 15, 2006


Zhang Ruihong was right (of course): Dis-Orientations won't be performed in China. Tracy Xu emails to say the Shanghai Festival committee felt that the "scenes sensitive" weren't for them. I'm stoical about it: the key thing is that the collaboration will be happening and working for the audience here, that Zhang Ruihong will bring her talent and knowledge, and that we will be able to offer her something of what's good in the West - the openness of our process and the democracy contained within our theatre. The process of change in China is complex and delicate: it may well not benefit at all from us blasting in there with something that would be felt controversial. Gradualism - that was Zhou Enlai's way.

Thinking about this rich and strange dialogue between our cultures, I find myself on the 25th floor of the HSBC UK headquarters in Canary Wharf, talking to Stephen King, who is their Group Chief Economist. He and I were at college together, and I sat next to him at a reunion lunch last summer, where I heard about his job. It seemed an ideal opportunity to try out Deborah's hunch that our image (and this project) would be very much the sort of thing a bank would want to be associated with, particularly a bank which deals with China and other emerging markets. Stephen's instinct is that she's right: he's passing on the info to his marketing people.

The glass-walled office we are in towers over the East London skyline. Through the wall, we look out at the Barclays building, the Millennium Dome and the widening river far below. When Stephen first came here, he had to give a presentation to the board on the 40th floor. Given that planes taking off from City Airport fly just above the building, he found what would have been a nerve-wracking experience at the best of times a totally petrifying one. It was just after 9/11, and he was convinced that every aircraft was heading straight for him. The corridors here are marbled and lushly carpeted: bankers in smart suits glide through them with an air of total confidence. These people, in their close relationship with China's burgeoning wealth, are the people who run the world.

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