Thursday, April 05, 2012
Ningbo and after
The public workshop with the students in Ningbo was really helpful to us - not least because it showed us some aspects of the play that weren't really hanging together. We'd been a bit wary of the fact that the play is set in the business world, and opted to make the work-related story about the making of an advertisement, because we felt closer to that world. But the result was that the cultural conflicts we tried to introduce felt forced and artificial - Chinese advertising actually works in a very similar way to Western advertising - it's just that the cultural tropes employed are specific and local - as they would be anywhere in the world. So there's not enough to hang drama on. Good to find this out at such an early stage - and good to be pushed back towards the alien world of high finance, which is really an altogether more meaty prospect at the current moment. We've been looking at characters caught up in a web of inter-personal connections - and, of course, they are also caught up in the complexities of the financial system. The complexity actually is the point. I send out some emails to various contacts who know a bit about Sino-British financial relations. Very pleased to see that they are willing to have their brains picked. I don't think this strand of the play is something we can create through improvisation during the current workshop - we need to put it on ice and collaborate on a writing process after the research work has been done more fully. We know the function of the scenes in terms of the personal stories we want to tell - now we need to bring in another level.
Yesterday was spent filming some scenes which we're planning to project in the final production. We brought in two young actors - Tie Zheng and Zhang Ying - to play younger versions of Li and Hui's characters. Ying even looks rather like a younger version of Hui, and she has the same ease of access to her emotions - the parting scene is beautiful and very moving. Great to bring some younger people into this process, especially after the very fruitful encounter with the students in Ningbo. Roshni Mooneeram, our former board member who now teaches there, tells me that they always seem to be "unlocked" by our drama workshops there. That, of course, is what theatre is for.....