Tag Archives: dress rehearsal

Tokyo Storm Warning

When Takayuki Kako, the stage manager of Babylon Theatre Tokyo asked us what our preferred procedure would be if there was an earthquake during one of The Llanarth Group’s performances, I knew I was a long way from Ceredigion.

'Told by the wind' get-in

‘Told by the wind’ get-in

Our safety was his priority, he told us, but tremors were frequent. Would it be best if he stopped the show if he thought any potential quake was dangerous, to lead us and the audience to safety? Yes please, I said, explaining that although I was running the show, I had limited experience of earthquakes and so might not be the best person to lead an evacuation, especially as I don’t speak Japanese.

Phillip Zarrilli and Jo Shapland leading a session in T'ai chi

Phillip Zarrilli and Jo Shapland leading a session in T’ai chi

We are here in Tokyo on a cultural exchange with Ami Theatre, sharing a repertoire of work at Babylon Theatre and exchanging approaches to training and performance work. It has been a week of intense exchanges – workshops with Ami and students of Sophia University, the get-in, dress rehearsal, and the Tokyo premiere of ‘Told by the Wind’. Throughout, we have been dealing with jet lag, never quite getting into the local timezone as our work has been in the evening.

Structured improvisation led by Phillip Zarrilli, Theatre Babylon Tokyo

Structured improvisation led by Phillip Zarrilli, Theatre Babylon Tokyo

At night when I fall into bed, my tiredness dissipates into a whirling brain matching the speed of the spin driers in the 24 hour laundry room directly below me. For some inexplicable reason the opening lines of Elvis Costello’s ‘Tokyo Storm Warning’ – which I haven’t heard for twenty years – plays on loop in my head.

The sky fell over cheap Korean monster-movie scenery
And spilled into the mezzanine of the crushed capsule hotel
Between the Disney abattoir and the chemical refinery
I knew I was in trouble but I thought I was in hell
So you look around the tiny room and you wonder where the hell you are

Joanna and O'Reilly backstage at Babylon Theatre Tokyo

Joanna and O’Reilly backstage at Babylon Theatre Tokyo

I’m happy to say my own experience has been infinitely better than that in Costello’s lyrics.  We aren’t in the centre of the metropolis, but in a quiet neighbourhood in the north of the city, passing the Shinto shrines and the temple on our daily journey between our capsule hotel and Theatre Babylon.

Temple close to Theatre Babylon Tokyo

Temple close to Theatre Babylon Tokyo

Yesterday, on a short break before the dress rehearsal, I wandered down to the temple and stood in the calm, breathing, marvelling that such peace could be found in such a large city. Around the small back lanes people glided by on bicycles and a company of fat, contented cats lazed in the sudden sunshine. I marvelled also about the people we are working with – the staff at Babylon and Theatre Ami are so generous, kind, and talented. We all feel immensely fortunate to be here in this collaboration.

Wall in cafe near to theatre

Wall in cafe near to theatre

It has been great working so closely with scholar and translator Mari Boyd here in Japan. She was an artistic advisor on ‘Told’ in its final rehearsals and was with us for the premiere in Chapter arts centre in Cardiff in 2010. Bringing us here was at her instigation, as she felt this piece, with its influences of Noh theatre and Quietude, would be fascinating to present here  – for us from outside the culture, and for audiences and academics within.

The responses to the work have been extraordinary, the audiences attentive and appreciative, but that will be content for a different blog.

Mari Boyd and Jo Shapland in the auditorium during tech rehearsal

Mari Boyd and Jo Shapland in the auditorium during tech rehearsal

And then suddenly the horrendous typhoon devastated the Philippines – and the weather warnings went up, as the storm seemed to be heading our way. After two successful performances in one day, we headed for bed and the threat of torrential rain and 100mph winds the next day. The Elvis Costello song on loop didn’t seem to be so funny now.
Dim ysmygu

Dim ysmygu

Then at 7.38am I’m lifted from my bed and deposited quite gently onto the floor. I sprawl, feeling everything move beneath me in a calm circling motion. It is not unpleasant – similar, I imagine, to a bird riding a thermal – and just as I am beginning to question whether the earth really should be moving like this, and the building swaying quite so seductively – it stops.
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Not one of the technical team mentioned anything about the quake when we went in for the matinee, but the Japanese Meteorological Society put the tremor at 3-4 on the richter scale, so it was not insignificant. But like our hosts, we just continued, Jo and Phillip performing, me calling the lighting and sound cues, and the audience attending, despite threats of typhoons and possible aftershocks, or any other form of storm warning.
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The Llanarth Group are in Japan thanks to Wales Arts International and the Daiwa Foundation.
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note: If any advertisement appears on any of my blog posts, please know this is not at my instigation or with my consent, but beyond my control, enforced by wordpress.

The Echo Chamber: Opening

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.Publicity image for The Echo Chamber

At the dress rehearsal on 26th January, I felt I was seeing the work for the first time. It always seems a paradox  – work that you know so intimately suddenly transforms, becoming itself once the lights and sound are in place and what we might call the performers’ score, fully embodied, comes to the fore.

Phillip and I wrestled with the programme notes, trying to condense the subject matter and its influences – which suddenly seemed to encompass everything from Quantum mechanics and Japanese Death poetry to Ernest Hemingway’s clipped, stilted dialogue from A Farewell to Arms – into a cohesive blurb. Flowers arrived. A reviewer emailed to arrange comp’ tickets. Tea was made. A soundtrack carefully arranged and selected by Peader was burnt onto several CDs. I swept the stage. The performers walked through some choreography. Ace ran a cue to cue. Coffee was made. Phillip and Ian began their warm-up for the premiere. I chose my seat carefully, then sat in the warm, quiet auditorium, emailing my sister, telling her this was one of my favourite moments in life – sitting in a warm, quiet auditorium as the performers warmed up on stage and the technician made his own preparations in the lighting box.

Ace put on the pre-show music and lights. Phillip and Ian went through some yoga sequences and breathed together, then went backstage to the dressing room. The house opened and the audience came in. The lights went down and the performance began.

PROGRAMME NOTES: THE ECHO CHAMBER

      Two men…something splintering through the skin.

      99% of the human body is made of just 6 elements…

        …something immeasurable is unaccounted for….

A poetic/performative meditation on time, memory, and our place in the universe. Informed by Quantum theory, and ancient/current thinking about matter, cosmology, and the infinite.

 Performers: Ian Morgan, Phillip Zarrilli

Text and dramaturgy by Kaite O’Reilly with contributions from the company

Direction and sound design by Peader Kirk

Design and Lighting by Ace McCarron

27-28 January, 2-4 February 2012, 8pm. Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff.

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