Champagne, Foie-Gras and Adrian Spring ‘dans le role du Pilote’ – notes from the Eurostar.

This morning for breakfast I had a whole basket of bread, four flavours of chocolate spread, and coffee in a bowl.
This blog post is a lot about food.

We’re somewhere close to Calais on our way back to London from Reims. Across the aisle Jojo is asleep, Dr Mike is working on complicated-looking geological diagrams on his laptop. Adrian, in the seat in front of me is listening to music on his phone and Nick, beside him, is reading a Superman comic set in Soviet USSR. I’ve just bought a cup of tea but forgot to get any milk in my excitement at getting back to my seat with a good cup of ‘le thé de Petit-Dejeuner’ and now I can’t be bothered to make the journey back down the train to get some, so I am drinking shit tea and it still feels a lot like France.

Seeing as we’re back on the blog, I thought I should tell you (three or four?) readers about our adventure to France. We were lucky enough to be invited, way back in July, to perform at the Comedie in Reims as part of FRAC Champagne-Ardennes Reims Scenes d’Europe programme. It’s our first ever international gig and we were definitely the youngest, greenest kids in town. Whilst the six other European solo artists arrived looking comfortable, well dressed and professional, the five of us tumbled off the train – unslept and slightly smelly – with about a million suitcases, two snow shovels and a papier mache volcano. Good start.

(I do wonder if we will ever develop this ‘chic artist aura’ – if our scruffiness is something to do with age and inexperience or if, as I suspect, we are just a bunch of scruffy bastards and will be for our whole lives. Answers on the back of a postcard.)

Reims is a nice city with a big cathedral and a sort of German market because it’s Christmas-ish and a kiosk in the street where you can drink champagne in case you need a quick hit on your way to the shops. The theatre is big and nice. We stayed in a hotel with a mad old wooden lift and a nice courtyard and a tiny room.

On Saturday we went to the theatre and watched work by Toril Johannessen (Norway), Angelo Plessar (Greece), Fernando Garcia Dory (Spain) and Pamina de Couloun (Switzerland). All of them apart from Toril’s were in French, so we were fairly lost but as far as we can work out the performances were all interesting, well received and got people talking and so we’ve decided we need to get them all gigs in the UK so that we can watch them in English. In the evening we had a meal in the theatre with great bread, wine, cheese, pasta and lentils and I got indigestion from eating too much good food too fast. (It was worth it though.) We then took a trip to see Bruno Roubicek’s ‘Man Digs Pond’, drank mulled wine and offered our presence – because what more could we do – in support of Bruno’s solo 24 pond dig. He had frost on the sweat patches on his jacket and was steaming in the cold; it was oddly wonderful.

Sunday (yesterday) was Volcano day, and as on any Volcano day, we missed everyone else’s performances whilst we were engulfed in complicated technical faffing, the sourcing of poppadoms (we didn’t find any) and spreading of volcanic ash*. You should however look up David Evrard (Belgium) and Anna Ådahl (Sweden) who performed before us yesterday, because they are both really great people who we liked a lot and their work sounds great too. We’ll go see it in the future so you can come with us if you want.

The show went well, with it feeling pretty tight now that we’re more or less used to it having performed at The Point and Shoreditch Town Hall over the past month, but the audience were very quiet, which definitely threw us. It’s hard to know if people hated it, couldn’t follow it, were concentrating too much on reading the surtitles**, or just if the sense of humour is too British. The less people laughed, the more Jojo and I played up the awkward silences, shrugs, slapstick moments in the desperate effort to squeeze out even a giggle, but very little came, and perhaps it was the wrong tactic. Awkward is very Bristish, non? Nonetheless, people were nice about it afterwards and the opinion of the organisers and other artists seemed to be that the audience had enjoyed it, but I guess we’ll never really know for sure. It turns out they don’t know who the Cheeky Girls are in France, so what can you do, really?

It was our last show with Nick who has been teching all our Autumn dates and it is with a heavy heart that we say au revoir to him because he has been an ace and totally ungrumpy person to work with but unfortunately probably can’t do the spring dates (more on those soon…).

So now we’re through the tunnel and will soon be back in London, so I’ll end this long post now with telling you about what we ate last night because it was the poshest meal I’ve ever had in my life. It had four courses.

Champagne (lots), Red Wine (lots), Sparkling Water (not as much as the champagne and the wine).
Cold carrot soup in a shot glass.
Foie-Gras (yep, the one where they force feed the goose. Don’t think about it).
Lovely lovely duck and potatoes.
Mango sorbet with mango juice and a biscuit thing (that I am not doing justice by calling it a biscuit thing).

Tomorrow morning we’ll get up early and go to Heathrow and catch the plane to Mumbai. Yikes. This will do for now.

love, Rachael x

 

*The theatre had rubber Astroturf grains that we used instead of soil and it was GREAT and not that messy and much easier to clean up.
**expertly translated last minute by Jess Piette – thank you!

 

 

Almost there… almost… yeah.

I am in a pre-show state of disrepair. Everything is broken. I am broken. Yesterday my very expensive and eternally* useful camera wouldn’t turn on. My headphones are held together with araldite and sellotape. My laptop is doing something strange with sound that is horrendously worrying seeing as we are planning to operate the show from it on Friday. I have a blister on my left foot that is making it difficult to walk. As soon as the sun came out an arm fell of my sunglasses. I need a hair cut. I need to clear up the desktop of my computer so I can actually see the things I’m meant to be working on. I need to sort out all of these things but I just. Don’t. Have. Time.

They will have to wait.

Almost there.

Four days.

Breathe.

 

*HA!

23rd of April 2013 and 2012

Today is the 23rd of April 2013. Today we have finalised all of the texts in the show, which was the last thing that we didn’t quite know about. Today we bought a pilot’s hat from a vintage shop in Brighton, ate lunch in the sun in the Pavillion gardens, drank beer in the theatre at night, and are about to go to Adrian’s house for some sleep. Today, quite by chance, when looking for an old version of the Karaoke text, I stumbled upon the only page of notes that I have ever typed up from this whole process. They are dated 23rd April 2012, and so it seems appropriate to share them:

Rehearsal 23rd of April

  • Warm up – the Art of Volcanoes dance: Presidents of the USA, Volcano
  • Volcano tours of Falmouth and the performance centre
    • Pendennis point
    • Underground
    • Rugby Club
    • Penryn house
    • Performance Centre lift shaft
  • 10 ways to be a volcano
    • Unstill-life
    • Along the arm/noises
    • Tongue
  • Karaoke
    • Speaking the words instead of singing – Unchained Melody
    • With narration, responding to the narrator
    • He only listens to karaoke versions of songs
  • The Pilot
    • A really clear snapshot
    • Narrated
    • Costume, in a pool of light – feels like a photograph
    • The world around him is frozen
  • Talking about Volcanoes
    • 112 types of grass grown on Volcanoes
    • There are 16 volcanoes in Falmouth but we don’t talk about it as it might scare off potential students
    • Goats and snakes live on volcanoes, but not all of them can deal with the heat

There’s a month to go and it feels all right, actually.

So today is the 11th of April. It’s just under one month until the premiere of Volcano on the 10th of May and we’ve done so much reshaping, writing, shuffling over the past months that it would be ridiculous to suggest that there haven’t been times when this show has felt like a book that you’ve been struggling with: one where you’ve been staring at the words on the page for so long that not only are you not taking them in, they don’t even mean anything anymore. At other times breakthroughs have been sudden and thrilling, only to fall apart almost as fast. Conversely, there has been material that has built slowly and beautifully, creeping out, working well, growing each time we do it. And there have – thankfully – been moments where we’ve looked over our show (like Simba at the start of the Lion King – Aaahsavegnya!) and thought, ‘hey, that’s pretty good, y’know’.

Because it finally feels like this show is coming back together into something stronger and fuller than it was before. And that’s what we’ve been trying to do for a long time. And yes, it’s taken a long time.

Part of this is down to the strange conundrum of taking a show that was already in some senses in a ‘finished’ state – in that it was developed as my degree show, and presented as a final piece of student work – and pulling it apart again to make it something more. In hindsight that was never going to be easy. There were also the logistics of our new relationship with The Basement to negotiate, and of course, the huge drain on creativity brought about by attempting to write an Arts Council application for the first time.

And we’ve done some horrific things to the show in the process. We have. We’ve even done some horrific things to it in front of audiences. A couple of weeks ago we performed the weirdest, longest version of this show (ever) at the truly amazing //Buzzcut festival. And we’re sorry about that. We’d have loved to give you something better.

However, here’s a classic top-draw cliche for you: we learnt a hell of a lot from doing that. And from doing all the other horrific things.

Yesterday we did a run of the show for Kit, our lighting designer, and the folk at The Basement. It’s the first run we’ve done for The Basement in a few months, and we were pretty nervous but – it went well. I mean, we have to make sure not to get cocky, we certainly can’t afford to do that, but it really felt like it was getting there. Close. Close.

Mainly, the structure was good, and that has been the hardest thing with this show. As I mentioned in the previous post, it’s a very delicate balancing act. So now that it feels like we have something we can work with there, the rest seems wonderfully manageable!

Things  that are coming together:

1. We have a structure that works.

2. This weekend we will be working with Dr. Mike for the first time. Dr. Mike is a volcanologist and research fellow at the University of Southampton. He is going to be in the show giving a lecture! It’s bloody exciting.

3. Adrian is now the pilot. It feels like a bold thing to do, but really, really good. It’s probably the most drastic change we’ve made in terms of form and it could have really not worked at all but it does (we think) and we’re very happy with it.

4. Kit came up with some ace thoughts about lighting and it’s going to be banging.

5. There are more volcanoes in the show than before: Krakatoa, Vesuvius, Eyjafjallajökull, Mt. Pelee, Yellowstone.

6. We have a new website that is slick and cool and makes us look a bit like a design agency (but in a good way, hopefully)

7. We have a slick and cool and epic and really nice trailer that Ian Bucknole made for us when we were at The Performance centre in Falmouth. You should watch it and then share it with all your friends on facebook and twitter and stuff.

 

Those are the reasons it feels all right, actually. Thanks for reading. x

Reshuffling

Image

 

Making theatre is hard. Not hard like being a doctor is hard, or like climbing a mountain is hard, or teaching children is hard, but still, it’s pretty hard. Sometimes it feels a bit like trying to get blood out of a stone.*

At the moment our show is in a state of reshuffle. It works like this – each section of the show, of which there are many, is written onto a strip of paper and blutack is affixed to the back. The strips of paper then go onto a board or the wall in an order. And then we run this order and try to work out what’s wrong. And then we fix it.

This bit is ok, but the problem is always with balance. This show, particularly, feels like a very delicate balancing act. So when you move the bit of material that didn’t work where you’d originally placed it, suddenly everything else is wrong. You’ve now got a section where Jojo is talking for six minutes whilst Rachael just sits on the floor, or the pilot sections are too close together and we lose the sensation of weaving the story through.

And so then you have a lot of other bits of paper to move, rearrange, and you can sometimes forget what one you were moving in the first place. Sometimes it even ends up back in the same place with us thinking we’ve moved it and made the show better.

Then we run it again. Talk about it. Find new problems that weren’t there before. Reshuffle…

It feels like we’re getting there, but that feeling of the show constantly being *just* out of reach – we have all the ingredients, all the performances, texts to make an hour long show that we really rate – is infinitely frustrating. We know we have to make it work, there won’t be a golden solution (probably) where everything suddenly fits perfectly, but at the moment the little bits of paper are getting curly at the edges and the blutack is starting to lose its stick and something is always in the wrong place, and it can feel a bit like we’re going round in circles……………….

 

*A mountain doctor?

 

 

Three videos from our week in the mud

This week we’ve been working in the pit (small space) at The Basement, trying to address one of our issues with the show, which is that we love having a load of soil (ASH) on stage, but really, we don’t use it very much, or enough to justify it. Here are some of the things we’ve been playing with. We’re particularly excited about the last video of the Northern Lights over the pilot.

These are also worth watching if, like many others, you think we are making a show where we dance to songs about volcanoes. We love them too, but *this* stuff might actually be in the show!

 

 

 

 

 

This is a wishlist that we wrote today of things we want for this show:

(and we are going to make them all happen over the next few weeks)

Geology layer

Build ups of tension

Something else that happens with the soil

Explanation/justification of building blocks

Captivate people

Move them to tears

Make them hold their breath (more)

Relatable pilot

Incredible visual moments + lighting

More time

Build up structure

Real life eruption

Successful Ragu scene

Stop people feeling like it’s a ‘funny’ show.