Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Inquests and Embassies

They weren't really inquests: there hasn't been a death. We lost quite a bit of money - but nothing like we'd feared, and the board meeting last week was in many ways quite upbeat. We had a sense of being able to look forward, with some very exciting projects on the cards.

The same was true of my meeting with Nick Williams at the Arts Council yesterday. Nick is now emerging as our ongoing contact point in the organisation, which is a relief, after we've been moved from officer to officer in the last few years. He's well placed to work with us, since he knows our sector of theatre very well, and is happy to contribute ideas in the light of having seen Dis-Orientations. Unusually for an Arts Council meeting, I find myself talking in artistic terms more than management-speak. He asks about how Re-Orientations might develop, and what the creative ideas are. I'm surprised what comes out - I tell him that I'm thinking in terms of new paradigms emerging in the re-structuring of relationships between the Western, Indian and Chinese characters from the first two plays (and some new ones), so that we avoid giving the sense that every relationship has to be dysfunctional. So far it's all been about what's breaking down - but alongside this there are always new things building up. Not least the intercultural dialogue itself.

I made another trip to the Hampstead mansion to talk to Ke Yasha about future developments for Dis-Orientations. I'm wondering about a tour next year, or going into 2008 and making it part of the Trilogy. The latter probably makes more sense. As on the press night, Mr. Ke's very positive about the possibility of this work touring to China with "minor adjustments" (like not showing the gay sex, just implying it; and not saying that Jiang Ching became Mme. Mao - although the Chinese audience will of course know that anyway). He feels there's more chance to get the work seen in Shanghai, partly because of Ruihong and SYT; and partly because in Shanghai "the sky is high and the Emperor is far away", while in Beijing people are more wary of the nearby central government censors. Guangzhou and Hong Kong are also strong possibilities. He thinks we should send an "explanation" that the piece is about the changes in China, the increase in freedom and so on - so that people see we have good intentions even if we've not made quite the piece they might like.... Apparently Chinese audiences and bureaucrats like to be told what the artist meant: not always easy with work of this kind.

We talk about the play - as with Nick, it's nice to move beyond the bureaucratic in an admin-focused meeting. "My impression about the whole show is very positive", he says. He especially liked the value we placed on traditional Chinese culture. At the beginning of the Open Door, he tells me, everybody wanted Western values and a fast-paced existence. But now, slowly, that is beginning to be balanced by a return to the traditional culture, to the meditational, the contemplative, the peaceful. I remember on my trip to Shanghai seeing people standing in front of trees in the city parks, communing quietly with nature, or performing Tai Chi while the traffic whirled around them.

Starting to move ahead with The Dilemma of a Ghost too. I met Ivor Agyeman-Duah at the Ghana High Commission yesterday. There's a clear contrast with China: here there is very little bureaucracy, and very little money - though there is a real enthusiasm to promote Ghanaian artists. He promises to broker some meetings...... More meetings. I really need to get some administrative help with this company........ I spoke to Nick about it, and he was quite helpful on ideas for core funding, though there won't be any sign of even a tendering opportunity from ACE for at least a year, and then it's all likely to be reduced funds (as I predicted in this blog, the Olympics are already making a big dent). One positive development on the admin side is that the Consortium (The Theatre Consortium, as it is now known) has constituted itself, got a bank account, and is making funding applications for rent, admin and training. Hardial Rai of Zero Culture really seems to know the funding system very well.... a great guy to have as an ally!

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