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Posts Tagged ‘London’

I’m visiting Japan for 9 days to visit a friend of mine who is studying Noh Theatre there for a month. We’ll be staying in Tokyo and also visiting an island in Okinawa. Here are some of my stories…

 I boarded the first plane and walked straight to the back toward my selected window seat. There was a middle-aged Chinese man sitting in the spot next to mine, and when he saw me he smiled and said “I’ve been waiting for you!”

Once I settled myself in, we talked about our respective flights, and he told me he was traveling from New York, where he has lived for the past 30 years, to China for business. Why was he traveling through London, rather than crossing over the Pacific?

He had originally booked a flight to London for a holiday with his wife and two boys, but then he suddenly had to go to China for a business trip, which cut into the holiday. When he tried to alter the flight, the airline told him it would cost over $2000 US, so he found it cheaper to simply book a round-trip flight from London to China and back again. But this meant, for him, being in air transit for over 24 hours. What fun!

Despite his intense schedule, he seemed well-rested and cheery and we embarked, as strangers sometimes do, into polite topics of conversation such as the history slavery, the legal limits of abortion, same-sex marriage, matriarchal societies, the decline of the family unit, and human rights versus cultural traditions. It was comforting to realise that we shared a number of fundamental values, though we had come to them from very different perspectives and experiences.

I also asked him if he was a spy – since he seemed to do an awful lot of traveling for work – and he told me, no, he was an IT consultant. Growing up in communist China, a liberal arts degree wasn’t exactly encouraged, so he pursued the sciences instead. Though, he said, he’d be interested in seeing my show about Sappho when it plays in New York in a couple of months (…shameless plug).

I made the mistake of going out drinking the night before this flight, so I’ll admit I’m not exactly in the best shape to be enjoying a cramped 9 hour journey with a stopover in Beijing, and then another flight to my final destination. But I’m keeping my mind focused on my arrival in Tokyo, on devouring epic quantities of sushi, on exploring markets and temples and fashion districts, on cherry blossom season, on lush islands surrounded by ocean waves and whales, on on on, and and and…

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I shall be tossing in my sleep dreaming over it! It really was the most powerful female performance I have seen in a very long time. Her voice still rattles in my bones.

– review from an audience member who will be attending ‘SAPPHO …in 9 fragments’ for a second time next week

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SAPPHO …in 9 fragments by Jane Montgomery Griffiths transfers to The Rose, Bankside from 21st May to 2nd June, 2013. This politically-charged and visually-compelling solo performance, featuring the “magnetic” (RemoteGoat) Victoria Grove, achieved critical and popular acclaim with a sold-out extended run at the White Rabbit Theatre.

Rose“The Rose – part fringe theatre, part excavation site – is the perfect venue for a play about Sappho, whose extensive collection of poetry has been all but lost, save for a few fragments that suggest what might have existed; just like the foundations that permit us to imagine the theatre once used by Marlowe and Shakespeare” 

– Jessica Ruano, Director of SAPPHO …in 9 fragments

Following its two-week run in London’s historic venue, this “uncommonly exhilarating” (Exeunt Magazine) production begins a tri-city Canadian tour in June 2013, then plays at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2013 at theSpace Venue 45. 

Within a secluded cavern, Ancient Greece’s first love poet laments her erasure from history, while a chorus girl named Atthis is seduced into a modern-day Sapphic romance.

Featuring Victoria Grove as Sappho/Atthis and directed by Jessica Ruano, this production is designed by Ana Ines Jabares, with lighting by Sarah Crocker, sound by Luca Romagnoli, and aerial work by Jani Nightchild.

SAPPHO …in 9 fragments plays at The Rose, Bankside, 56 Park Street, London, SE1 9AS (near London Bridge Station) from 21st May to 2nd June, 2013, Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are £12 (£10 concessions) at wegottickets.com

For more information: 0207 261 9565, info@rosetheatre.org.uk, and rosetheatre.org.uk.

For a one-minute trailer of the show, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UN2E8j5UfiE 

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Sappho Poster low res

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My background was, I suppose, theatrical…

Simon Callow, My Life in Pieces: An Alternative Autobiography

After about half an hour of waiting for Simon Callow at the stage door of Trafalgar Studios following a performance of his one-man show Being Shakespeare, Ottawa playwright Lawrence Aronovitch asked me: How determined are you?

Considering his book Being An Actor was practically my bible throughout high school and ‘Meet Simon Callow’ is number 91 on my list of 101/1001, yes, I was pretty keen to exchange a few words with the guy, perhaps snag an autograph.

Just as we were contemplating heading back to our respective homes, Lawrence looked over my shoulder, smiled, and said simply, There he is.

And out walked The Actor into the dimly lit street, followed closely by a young man with a fold-up bicycle. He greeted us warmly and happily agreed to sign our newly purchased books.

 

Did you find the script or did the script find you, I asked with uncharacteristic succinctness.

He laughed and replied: Well, I wrote it.

Didn’t the playwright write it…?

It was a collaborative process. We worked together quite closely. There were some changes made.

Lawrence is a playwright! I couldn’t resist playing the role of agent/producer…

Ah, really! T.E. or Olivier?

Confirming the correct spelling of his name, my companion mentioned that he, too, was working on a one-man show.

You inspire, Lawrence said graciously. I saw you in Wilde. And I’ve read Tuesdays at Tescos.

An extraordinary play, noted Simon Callow. A difficult play, difficult to memorize.

Probably keen to continue with their evening, The Actor and the man with the fold-up bicycle politely made their excuses and headed up the street and into the crowds of Trafalgar Square.

Funny he would say that, said Lawrence.

Say what?

That he wrote the play. Really, Shakespeare wrote most of it. And the playwright, presumably. There was a lot of subtext in that statement.

Yeah, true. Interesting. [pause] Hey – we met Simon Callow! Nice!!

And that’s how I celebrated my sixth month anniversary of living in London.

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Several weeks ago I attended a play at the National Theatre called Travelling Light, and it was a wonderful production. But the interesting thing about my experience with this play was not the any one aspect of the production, but how it – as a whole – affected me afterwards. Which is not to undervalue the qualities of this play: despite an unnecessarily sentimental ending, this is a strong and witty script about the creation of film, stemming from small-town ambition, complete with endearing Jewish personalities, a neurotic young film director, and his beautiful assistant turned silent film actress. And it had Anthony Sher, who is a fantastic stage actor.

My experience is not something I can explain in objective terms. I suppose the best way I can describe it is that it had this intoxicating, contagious energy that stayed with me the entire walk and tube ride home. I found myself walking so quickly I was practically skipping down the street with nervous excitement. I just wanted to keep moving. Even waiting at a crosswalk, I could barely keep still. I took out my iPod touch and started filming my route, paying close attention to the quick turns in the road, observing small details as I passed. Similar to when I became acquainted with Harriet the Spy and immediately bought myself a spy notebook just like hers; but, in this case, I thought I could be a film maker. Granted, the little video I created was far from imaginative, and it is, in fact, so boring to watch, that I won’t even bother sharing it. But the point is, at the time, something electric happened, and it felt fantastic.

I mention this only because sometimes going to the theatre can be an exhausting experience, which is why, I think, it isn’t as popular as it once was. Watching videos at home requires far less emotional sacrifice. But if a play is poor quality or simply ‘not for you’, the effort it takes to watch and stay engaged with a live performance can feel wasted when the experience is not gratifying. Still, once in a while, during or following a performance, you find yourself in a similar state to riding down a steep hill at full speed on your beloved bicycle (sometimes more therapeutic than therapy, I recently discovered…) or flying down a particularly lush snow hill with a sharp wind hitting the parts of your face not covered by ski goggles. And those moments are somehow magnified, multiplied by the closeness of theatre, by the intimacy of sharing the same space. And that’s why I keep going back – hoping to renew my acquaintance with that feeling.

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This is a day to celebrate being alive. Kick your legs up and grass stain your knees. Roll down a hill into your lover’s arms and eat crab apples from trees made for picking.

Somewhere between the mall and the bus station, there is a patch of green, and this is where I sit. Flower baskets wrapped like birds’ nests around street lamps. People scattered like toadstools amidst planted trees. Phone conversations as common as shrill bird calls. Couples strolling along the pathway, hands held sealed with sunshine. Clear blue endless. You appear on your orange bicycle. Perfect.

Time measured / Distance weathered / Feelings tethered / Passions pleasured

Late night verses feel like early morning kisses. Sun shattered and vibrant. New places retain familiarity with photographs and messages a mere click away. As long as this feeling holds, I’ll imagine you in my arms every restless night.

Don’t take this the wrong way, but I kinda love you. And thanks to you, I’ve started thinking in poetry again.

This is where Virginia Woolf used to live, she said

Really?? I replied

And that’s where she used to write poetry, she said, pointing to the nearby park

I’m in heaven, I sighed

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One week anniversary

Important news first: I GOT A JOB!

I’ll be working as a receptionist for The Health Works, a centre that offers yoga, pilates, and bellydancing, as well as several types of physical and mental therapies. I visited last week hoping to take a yoga class and ended up chatting extensively with Jo, the Director. This morning I had a wonderfully informal interview, and I’m going to begin training tomorrow. This position is ideal for me for several reasons: first, I’m fascinated by all the services offered here and I’m looking forward to learning a lot from the practitioners; everyone is super friendly, so I think it’ll be a great social haven (I’ve already been invited to the Christmas party!); it’s a flexible, part-time job, which means I’ll still have time to attend poetry shows and theatre performances and maybe pick up some freelance writing gigs on the side; and it’s a 15-minute walk from my house, so I can save time and money on transit. Hooray!

What else has happened this week? Here’s a short list:

  • Dinner with my flatmates and their former flatmate at this incredible Portuguese restaurant called The Windmill on High Street. I’m planning to take my grandmother there when she comes to visit the neighbourhood.
  • Bang Said the Gun reunion! See my post about this wonderful poetry series.
  • Bought a yoga mat and making good use of it.
  • Tried biking with one of those London rental bikes in Hyde Park and beyond.
  • Checked out Sexual Nature (exhibit about the mating habits of various animals; so so good) at the Natural History Museum; photos posted on Facebook!
  • Visited my grandmother in Upminster (and learned to avoid transit on weekends; replacement buses take forever…) and met her boyfriend, who is a total sweetheart. I approve.
  • Attended Disco Night at The Cock Tavern (not kidding…) with flatmate R and gossiped about boys.
  • Invited myself to a picnic with my new poetry friend W and ended up meeting several members of her beautiful, welcoming family. Nigerian wedding leftovers shared in a gorgeous park on a Sunday: what more could I ask for?
  • Went to see The Golden Dragon at Arcola Theatre with J. Holmes and caught up over a delicious meal at a nearby Turkish restaurant. Funny thing about this show: I went in not knowing what I was about to see, and part-way in I concluded that this was reminiscent of another contemporary German play I had seen recently. Perhaps German theatre is trending something very specific! Funnily enough, this play and the other called Arabian Night were both, in fact, written by the same playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig.
Not bad for one week, including jet lag!
Also, for the past two mornings, I’ve spent close to an hour just walking (and occasionally jogging) around the neighbourhood; not actively searching for anything or analyzing anything, but just allowing myself to soak in my surroundings and my mind to wander. It is very relaxing and very freeing, actually, to be completely anonymous in a place that I currently call home. I could get used to this.

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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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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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