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Posts Tagged ‘Tunisia’

I’m not sure which title is more accurate. Probably the latter. Though I like to think of myself as a Londoner while I’m living in the city. I try not to unfold maps and wave them around in public (in fact, I’ve resisted buying a map to avoid that temptation altogether), and I try not to ask for directions too frequently. This, of course, has resulted in my getting lost on several occasions. But, hey, at least I’m wearing cute outfits while wandering around desperately searching for the underground.

I feel like I’m way overdue for a blog entry. My reasons for the delay are three-fold:

  1. LIFT Festival kept me busy! Oh my goodness, we’re talking about 12-17 hour days. Part of that is travel time: living in Upminster means it take 1-2 hours to get anywhere in central London. Also, there were a few complications with the company from Tunisia: set pieces and props arriving late, trying to organize rehearsal space, and arranging for media interviews in our few spare hours. Even after the company returned home, I was keen to attend other LIFT shows, including Home Sweet Home, Music for Seven Ice Cream Vans, Beloved and Haircuts by Children.

    Music for Seven Ice Cream Vans

  2. I’m still working on my thesis. Nuff said.
  3. I’m applying for jobs in London. Man, I hadn’t realized what hard work that can be! I haven’t actually applied for a job in about 5 years: in Ottawa, people have been nice enough to offer them to me based on my prior qualifications. Also, I’ve been in school, so I haven’t had to worry too much about having a full-time job that actually pays a full-time salary. I’m really hoping for this Assistant Producer job with the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill. Check out the description: isn’t it so perfect for me? They have a mini outdoors festival on this week, and I definitely plan to attend/participate in some shows.

Gate Theatre presents DOMINI PÚBLIC

So yes, if I do find an arts job, I plan to live here permanently for at least one year. I’m looking forward to this adventure, but there a few things I’ll have to get used to. I’m going to provide a list of London quirks for anyone thinking of visiting or living here in the near future. Perhaps some fellow Londoners would like to add some items in the comments section. But for now:

  • People see theatre. Like, it’s not a completely niche thing. There is an audience for professional theatre. There is an audience for community theatre. There is an audience for children’s theatre. And there is an audience for weird little site-specific outdoor pieces that take places in obscure corners of the city. I love that people are aware of the arts around them. It is very inspiring.
  • The underground (and all associated forms of transportation) is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, the trains are frequent and generally reliable — except when there is construction, which happens every weekend and some weekdays. In those cases, some lines are closed entirely and you have to reroute your trip. And then the tube stops running just after midnight, even on weekends! Thankfully there are night buses that are in operation across the city. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, I’m living in Upminster, which requires a long train ride to get home… which means my nights end before 11pm. Not much time for a post-show drink.
  • There is little to no public recycling. Plus most of the little Italian cafes charge extra if you want to “eat in”, so everyone gets take-out and just throws the waste in the garbage afterward. It makes me cringe so much.
  • Don’t bother asking for directions. Most people hardly know where they’re going, let alone where you’re trying to go. Just check the detailed maps at bus stops.
  • Bang Said The Gun satisfies my need for awesomeness every week. This loud and rambunctious series focuses on spoken word, but welcomes every other kind of art form and every kind of artist. The organizers were incredibly sweet with me, and they even added my name to the (competitive) open mic list even though I arrived a bit late – again, thanks to changes on the underground. Through this series, I found out that London is brimming with poetry shows, and I plan to attend as many of them as possible! Props also to Poetry Unplugged at the Poetry Cafe.
  • It doesn’t actually rain that much. Uh, knock on wood.
  • Very few people have commented on my accent. It seems like everyone in London has a slightly different accent, depending on the neighbourhood, or because they come from Ireland or Wales or Scotland or some other part of the world. Each accent is as individual as the people who carry them. It’s kind of beautiful, actually.
  • London to Paris by train takes just over 2 hours and costs £130 return trip – that is, if you book only two weeks in advance. Oh, by the way, I’m going to Paris for a few days in August. Yippee!

I plan to return to Ottawa on August 16. Until then, I’m going to discover some London hot spots! Keep you posted.

Shakespeare's house for rent. Anyone?

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When she spoke Arabic, her eyes lit up and her face glowed and her arms swayed with the musicality of her words. The language, to my ear, combines the smooth rhythm of Italian, the guttural sounds of German, and the serpentine hum of soft-spoken Hindi. Her instructor, a strong-willed young woman, stops the actress mid-speech to give her feedback on her performance; they slide between Tunisian (an Arab dialect? its own language? there is some debate over that) and French seamlessly. This is not naturalism, she says. Let your body dance.

Hobb Story - members of the company

I picked them up from Heathrow airport only a few days ago. Ten Tunisians belonging to or associated with the company APA that created the show entitled “Hobb Story : Instructions for Arab Love” presented this month at the London International Festival of Theatre. Many of the company members were visiting London for the first time, and boy were they excited. I want to visit the Big Ben! one of them tells me in French, which they all speak fluently. I have been recruited as a volunteer interpreter, host, guide, liaison to the festival. Within minutes, I doubt my qualifications for the position: which place has the best exchange rate? where can we find food at 11pm on a Sunday night? how do we get a taxi in this city? why are your French language skills so poor?

They never vocalize that last question, but my neurotic self knows that is just what they’re thinking.

I am reminded of this poem that I saw performed recently, and it hurt me to realize that I am the same:

I, too, only speak English. And it hurts me because, for all intents and purposes, I am Canadian. Born and raised in Ottawa, a city that calls itself by bilingual, where one’s livelihood depends on being bilingual because that’s where the good jobs are. Sure, I can say on my resumé that I was in French immersion for 11 years, that I have taken a directing seminar in French, that I directed a “bilingual” play; and all that is true. I understand French, yes, but do I speak the language? Perfectly, fluently, comprehensibly. Could I write a spoken word poem in French? Could I participate in French debate without stumbling, searching for words every few seconds?

And what about Spanish. I am Canadian. I am English. I am Spanish. My father was born and raised in Spain and teaches Spanish, writes in Spanish, speaks Spanish for a living. I can say that I received a Spanish subject award in high school – but that says more about my tendency to complete my homework assignments than it does about my fluency in the language. And I could blame my parents for not teaching me a second language when I was younger. I could blame my bilingual friends for speaking English around me to make things easier. But I could – and should – just as easily blame myself for not putting in the effort.

I’m currently writing one of those lists of 101 things to accomplish in 1001 days. Two of those items are: write a poem in French and write a poem in Spanish. That may sound simple enough, but the idea behind it is that I must become acquainted with both languages well enough that I can fabricate a well-written poem in each language, not simply an anglicized version of each.

I want to be able to tell that strong-willed instructor (also an actress, a producer, and supportive partner to the playwright) that I think she is extraordinary, that I admire her ability to do interviews in English even though she insists she doesn’t speak the language very well. I also admire all the things that she and her company are trying to accomplish with this play: by touching on issues of love, sexuality, and relationships, they hope to show a different side of the Arabic culture, one that is not often seen in the Western world. This is documentary theatre that includes real testimonials from Tunisians, with hints of fantasy and lyrical theatre weaved in.

And the Arabic dialects really are beautiful.

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Bye bye Canada!

Right now I’m sitting at the airport preparing for yet another trip to the old world. This time I’m visiting the UK for a really fun gig: I’m going to be playing “Host” to this theatre company from Tunisia that is participating this year in the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT). I’m meeting with the festival organizers on Saturday to sort out all the details. They’ve asked me to meet them by some “van” near the National Theatre. Sounds suspicious.

I return to Ottawa on August 16, and until then I’ll be spending time in London, acquainting myself with the theatre scene. And I may take a trip to France for the Avignon Festival and then check out the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.

I’m going to rely on the power of the internet for suggestions, so here are a few questions I’ve been asking myself and haven’t yet had the chance to find the answers. If you are able to respond helpfully to any of the following items, please post your advice in the comments section below. Thank you!

  • I need a phone while I’m in London. Is there someway of “renting” a phone for just these six weeks and “borrowing” a UK phone number? Pay-as-you-go with text messaging would be perfect for me. I do have my Motorola phone from Ottawa, and I have canceled my regular plan with Rogers: is it possible to apply what I need to that phone? Could I also use this same plan in France and Scotland?
  • I’m supposed to take this Tunisian theatre company to some cool places in central London. Any ideas of places to go / things to see that aren’t too costly and would be interesting to French-speaking visitors?
  • I’ve bought an Oyster pass (weekly) for the underground. Is that the cheapest and most efficient way of getting around?
  • Am I allowed to take a bicycle on the underground, or is it merely frowned upon?
  • Is it crazy of me to think I can get away with biking in Central London?
  • I guess I need to find myself a bicycle first…
  • What are the regulations for busking in London? I’m thinking of trying my luck as an amateur flautist.
  • I don’t know anything about Avignon. Enlighten me.
  • I don’t know much about Edinburgh either. Except that they have this awesome Fringe festival.
  • Is it easier / cheaper / more convenient to travel by bus, by train, or by plane within Europe?
  • Should I refrain from speaking with a faux English accent? Sometimes I can’t help myself!

* I’m not actually a female pilot. I just think that it’s a really sexy term, and I’ll favour alliteration over correct definitions any day.

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