British Council Showcase and The Golden Dragon

by Nick Williams, Executive Director

I was delighted to receive the call on 12th August inviting Actors Touring Company’s production of The Golden Dragon to be one of five Latest Recommendations by the British Council for their 2011 Showcase.  This is a hugely important moment for the show and the company as the biennial showcase is the main marketplace for UK companies wishing to tour internationally.  As a company specialising in international work, and wanting to make work more collaboratively in future with artists from abroad, getting into the showcase was a key objective.  We were selected on the quality of the production.  It is a huge honour to be selected to be one of a handful of shows to be highlighted as being the best of British contemporary theatre and shown off to theatres and festivals from all over the world.

The British Council, the UK’s agency for culture and education abroad, brings hundreds of delegates over from their home countries to see work, meet companies and buy shows for touring during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  Only 35 shows make the cut out of the 2500-odd productions at the Fringe this year.  Usually, companies apply and assessors see the show during their original runs.  We hadn’t made The Golden Dragon by the time the deadline passed but one of the Drama and Dance Advisors came to rehearsal as a mystery guest.  Luckily she liked it and came back to see it again early in our run at the Traverse Theatre and invited us to join the showcase.  Result!

So what did this mean?  In essence, it gave both Ramin Gray and I access to the delegates through a series of receptions, talks, informal networking sessions and parties.  We met many of the British Council’s international staff – responsible for supporting work visiting their countries, and many, many delegates from all over the world.  Representatives from theatres and festivals as diverse as India, New Zealand, Iran, the USA, Hong Kong, and Vietnam as well as those a little closer to home from Ireland, France, Denmark, Poland and Germany came to see the show during its last week.   Positioning myself in the bar after each performance, I met as many as I could, and taking a deep breath asked “What did you think of the show?”

We got a hugely positive response – it is a great show, of course, but would it work for people watching mainly in their second language?  The answer was a resounding “YES!”  And what’s more, they all wanted to know more about the style of the performance, the rehearsal process, the nature of the text, the casting.

Many were very interested in presenting the show at their own theatres and festivals and we hope that we can visit them next year.  Some loved it but lamented the fact that, as a play in English which has a swift pace, it would be difficult for them to show to their own audiences who would always rely on surtitles.  A shame, but always a difficulty with visiting international work.  Most of them were keen to keep in touch with us for future projects and showcase ended having made some new friends which is always exciting.

So what will happen?  We’re in discussion about the potential for the show to visit India in the early New Year and potentially have a European tour in summer 2012.  A terrific result from 6 days of heavy networking!   Watch this space for updates.

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