– by Jack Tarlton
Whilst performing The Golden Dragon at the Traverse Theatre this August. Jack took the time to film his day and made a short film about it. During the festival no two days were the same, especially with a rotating performance schedule, but this provides a behind-the-scene look at what actors actually do.
I went to Krakow last weekend for IETM. This was my first visit to Poland. It was my first IETM. And I went as we were strongly advised by a British Council officer earlier in the year that it was the way into developing better pan-European links.
IETM is the Informal European Theatre Meeting. Part conference, part discussion forum, part festival, part booze-fest, it has been going for around 30 years and draws people from the world of dance and theatre from across Europe and from much further afield – Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the US were the homes for a number of people I met. I rocked up after an insanely early start and cramped Ryanair flight to be greeted by a stunning city bathed in bright sunshine and fulfilling everything that people had told me in terms of it being a pretty and ancient town. OK it didn’t stay like this with rain and freezing weather but it was the most stunning introduction to a city I’ve had in some time.
Krakow is the former capital of Poland. It is the cultural seat hosting a huge number of theatres and festivals, home to the university at which Nicholas Copernicus discovered that the earth revolved around the sun, and in more recent history the Nazi command centre that sought to implement the horrifying ‘final solution’ at nearby Auschwitz during World War 2. Today, it attracts tourists by the coachload. There were groups large and small meandering through its cobbled streets, and I was struck by the sheer number of young people – students and tourists alike, taking in the sights, and supping the delicious local beer.
For such a touristy town, it really didn’t feel overrun by gawpers, or packed with people trying to get money out of the visitors. In fact, the Polish people I met were friendly and warm, willing to talk, hospitable and seemed happy that we were there. So late in the season this was truly a surprise.
The meeting took place over a number of locations around the main, enormous market square in ancient palaces. There was the newcomers introduction fuelled by vodka and speed dating (networking really, but on the same model!) to a news sessions where participants introduced themselves and drank vodka if they went over time in old master filled former ballrooms; to plenary sessions about how the arts can and should respond to the world financial crisis, cuts to funding and arguments with politicians hosted in a modern theatre created in an ancient assembly hall, the whole weekend was packed with talking. A lot of talking. But in a good way. Talking about art, about performance, about the wider world and what it is like where you come from, about ideas for visits and collaborations, about the work we’d seen or the people we’d met or the session we’d sat in, or through, or avoided. It’s exhausting talking to strangers all weekend, mainly in English that puts all of the Brits to shame in their own foreign language abilities. Late night drinking was the place to unwind, and really relax with new friends in different bars, mainly fuelled by bison grass vodka.
The meeting is categorically not about selling shows or products or touring. Taking away that pressure really opens up the possibility of getting to know someone and understanding their situation. Which in turn leads to collaboration and touring and shows. It’s a really good approach to avoid a market place and let arts professionals talk. I came away with an enormous stack of business cards, lots of thoughts about other places and challenges to how we do things, and hopefully the start of some new relationships with venues and companies in other parts of the Europe that we can take Actors Touring Company to in the future.
Here are a great selection of tweets from our month run at London’s Arcola Theatre with The Golden Dragon. Thanks everyone for the support!
|“||Theatre Review: @ATCLondon ‘s rather delicious #TheGoldenDragon @arcolatheatre: http://boycottingtrends.blogspot.com/2011/09/theatre-review-golden-dragon-arcola.html|
My journey into the office has most definitely changed since I started my internship with ATC. August allowed me to don pretty dresses and sunglasses to work, and I welcomed the walk from Liverpool Street station – who wants to stand on a cramped, sweaty bus when you can glide through the streets of London’s east end and let the sun cause your body to go into an endorphin frenzy?
And then, September came. The cast had been in Edinburgh performing The Golden Dragon for Fringe Festival fanatics, and it seemed that on their return to London they brought with them less than pleasant weather. In the last few weeks autumn has well and truly asserted itself in the capital, and thick tights and thicker jumpers have been prised from the depths of my wardrobe as I reluctantly resign myself to the aptly acronymed Seasonal Affective Disorder.
But the distinct seasonal differences have made me realise how the work that I am doing for ATC has also changed since I started at the end of July. My fellow intern has moved on, the cast have moved back and I have moved forward. In the past month, I have been tweaking my copywriting skills, attempting to record and edit video footage (heavy emphasis on ‘attempting’), and enjoying the free ‘Side Orders’ that accompany the performances of The Golden Dragon.
However, it was attending the Gala Fundraiser last week that really highlighted how far I’ve come in the last few months. In July, I was a sparkling new graduate, free from the chains of academia and thrust enthusiastically into a world of possibilities. I knew when deliberating over which career path to take – to become a penniless writer, or a penniless actress? – that money would have to take a backseat to passion and I searched avidly for opportunities that could lead to great things. And it was on the absolutely stunning Dalston Roof Park, overlooking the deliciously lit city and casually socialising with playwrights that I have admired wholeheartedly since my school days, that I realised how incredibly lucky I am to be working with such a brilliant company.
Two months ago, I would never have imagined that I would even be sharing breathing space with the likes of Mark Ravenhill and Martin Crimp, and yet last Wednesday, tucking into a delightfully pillow-soft yum bun, surrounded by gorgeous Chinese lanterns and a considerable amount of fairy lights, I did just that.
After the brilliant press night of The Golden Dragon at the Arcola, we thought we’d list the lovely bloggers who wrote about the show. If you have a blog you’d like added then please let us know. Here they are:
This is all intriguing and amusingly eccentric from the off, but as the evening progresses the production takes on a surprising depth and emotional power, adding up to a hugely resonant – and fairly devastating – anatomisation of globalisation and economic migration, and the exploitations resulting from each. But Schimmelpfennig doesn’t preach; he presents. And a beautiful sense of structure and design underpins the apparently scattershot approach as we gradually come to perceive the intricate web of interconnections that link these seemingly disparate lives.
Ramin Gray’s production resists the temptation to overplay the links between the stories, instead allowing a gradual sense of connectedness to emerge, the actors finding an extraordinary depth of humanity in the counterintuitive casting which works beautifully.
we got something like Georges Perec (La vie mode d’emploi) adapated by Bertolt Brecht and staged in the poor theatre style of Jerzy Grotowski, with plenty of stage directions spoken by the actors, men playing women, old actors playing young characters, undersized furniture…a good night of modern European theatre.
…a beguiling piece of theatre, well-crafted and directed on an aptly minimalist set.
The Golden Dragon itself could be anywhere in Europe, the point being that such places can be imagined as home-from-home for all sorts, and the extraction of a tooth a sign of cultural appropriation by heavy-handed means (vodka and a huge spanner, to be exact). But that’s less important than the fun generated and the fleet, skilful theatricality of the event.
this was a clever and quirky piece of theatre which attempted to step away from the conventional presentation
Along with a couple of publication reviews too …
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.
By Jack Tarlton / http://flavors.me/jacktarlton
My strongest memory of the Traverse Theatre from when I was young is still the seats. Huge felt covered steps that you had to clamber up to get to the top of the auditorium. Rough and exciting they captured the spirit of the place, a converted sail makers’ studio, the lights of which you reached down a darkened close in the Grassmarket.
This was not the first incarnation of the Traverse though. That was in a former brothel in the Lawnmarket. The story goes that the seating there was arranged in two blocks either side of the stage, in transverse, but that someone got the word wrong and that this is how the theatre ended up with its unique name. I like this tale as, in effect, the theatre was named after the audience, the group of people that arrive as strangers and together with the performers conjure the show.
It was in its Grassmarket home that I got to know the Traverse. It was here that I was taken to see a huge array of strong, engaging plays. It was on this stage that I took my first panicky steps on stilts, tottering from one bank of worn felt steps to the next. Along with Theatre Workshop in Stockbridge (now abandoned and allowed to fall into disrepair but that’s a story for another time) it was the Traverse that encouraged and fed a love of theatre in me from an early age. It was a place that I always wanted to work in. And now, seventeen years after leaving Edinburgh to start acting, I’m actually doing it.
The Traverse has been in its posh new home in Grindlay Street for nearly 20 years now. I remember it being built and once again seeing some fantastic stuff – Bondagers, Moscow Stations and Gagarin Way remain strong memories. These were all performed in Traverse 1, the larger of its two spaces. We are performing The Golden Dragon in Traverse 2, which I believe was constructed to have the same dimensions as the old Grassmarket theatre. In fact, when Traverse 2 first opened I’m sure it still had the old felted oversized steps from its previous home. I remember watching an early performance of Disco Pigs from them, the actors, atmosphere and audience sweaty and charged.
Now however, it is nondescript blue fold down chairs that our audience sits on. A shame, as these seats could belong to any theatre anywhere. But they can be moved and reconfigured more easily making the playing space much more flexible. And by the end I admit the previous auditorium was looking pretty threadbare and warped. If one person sat down particularly heavily it was possible for their neighbour to spring up with the force.
Even if for me the most loved thing about the old Traverse no longer remains it is still an incredibly exciting space to play. It does feel like coming home. I was nervous not just for the obvious reasons during the first few shows, as being here is a culmination of something that started when I was a shy boy who suddenly decided he wanted to be an actor. On the first preview my old art teacher who I had spent hours talking to about theatre when at school came to watch it. I was delighted to see her but it also threw up the spectre of my teenage self, someone that very few people like to be reminded of. It did not feel quite real somehow, us chatting about a preview that I was still not sure had gone that well with someone who I had once spoken over earnestly to about acting when it was something that other people did.
But now I am doing it and I do still get a kick out of coming to work every day. The dream has become a reality and that reality is far more rewarding. Simple acts like getting a coffee, mucking about in the dressing room, warming up, making friends, chatting about other plays we’ve seen or having a pint after the show are more fulfilling than I could have imagined. It has been a fantastic summer.
And I can just see a wee boy sitting at the top of a bank of huge grey felt seats enjoying the show.
|“||http://mentalbulletins.blogspot.com/2011/08/edinburgh.html #thegoldendragon @CulturalWatch @ATCLondon @JoCaird @nick_i_williams @jacktarlton|