Silence for the Pidgin. Istropolitana Day One & Two

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Hello!

I’m afraid this post isn’t so pretty just yet! I do intend to decorate it but I haven’t uploaded any pictures yet, and I’m already behind as it is.

It’s pretty long – but it’s actually 2 posts in one.

DAY ONE

My first night in Bratislava is spent cowering from the thunder and lightning in a crowded hotel room. Eating a Chicken and Spinach pizza that tastes like bread and hastily gulping down a can of beer which I bought for a single Euro.

The events leading up to this are probably more interesting though:

We landed in Bratislava at about 8pm local time. We were greeted at the airport by three rather attractive young guides who announced that we would be getting a taxi to the registration office and then proceeded to take us on three different buses to get there. Once at the office (which holds an uncanny resemblance to a Student Union Bar) we were hastily attended to. We were made to sign things, red bands were put on our wrists, cameras flashed at us and we were given goodie bags.

Another bus journey and we were at the hotel where I hastily spilled the contents of my goodie bag onto the bed.

The contents of the bag are varied to say the least. Firstly, the things that make sense; A programme for the festival in both Slovakian and English (thank you very much). A postcard with the logo on (more on that in a sec), an A5 flyer, a map of Bratislava and a bigger poster which I can only pray is some sort of ironic joke. Other than this we were given a Fabel-Castell pencil, which is lovely. A rain poncho, lip balm, some sort of menthol nasal spray, baby wipes and a condom with the word “rock” printed on it. With the nasal spray and condom, I am lead to believe that this festival is going to be some kind of cocaine fueled sex binge with other theatre minded people. Now this sounds great in theory but I wander what is left for those of us who cannot morally take part in the sexfest. At least the baby wipes wont go to waste I guess…

So now  lets talk a little bit about the Istropolitana Projekt.

The imagery they’ve gone for this year is very dramatic indeed! A raw, bloody heart lies on a stage, above it scratchy red words proclaim “Naše Srdce Partrí Divadlu” – Our heart beats for Theatre!

It’s all very dramatic and I can only assume it’s meant in a “I would rip my still beating heart from my chest and hurl it at the stage in an act of unadulterated expression!” sort of way. This gruesome imagery follows us everywhere. On posters, on the T-shirts they’ve given us and yet another raw heart image (this one complete with veins and arteries) adorns the side of our goodie bags. Even our name tags have it on, and what’s more, they’ve been cleverly set out so that once your name is written, it forms the sentence “Jack’s heart beats for theatre.” The only thing that doesn’t have this image on is the aforementioned poster, which is on a whole other level of disturbing.

Here we have a couple sitting in a lovely green park. The girl, beautiful with strawberry coloured hair, laughs with joy as she feeds a quintet of cute, fluffy puppies. The man though, stared vacantly (or intently depending how you look at it) into the distance. Next to him is the now familiar slogan “my heart beats for theatre.”

Now I have a few possible interpretations for this. The first, and probably most sensible is that the puppies are cute and the girl pretty, but he doesn’t care because his “heart beats for theatre” alone.

My other readings are a bit deeper and uncover something far more sinister. Firstly, look at his face. There is guilt in those eyes – and see how his hands hang limply at his sides. I think it is possible he has just beaten one of those puppies to death and is now feeling the immense guilt that comes with such actions. Also, he’s probably a little worries about what will happen when his girlfriend finds Fido’s mangled corpse under the bed. But then I noticed something else…Now stay with me…he is sitting on some kind of post or rod. However, he is not sitting comfortably, rather he looks as though he has lowered himself onto said post. Then we have the text in the lower right hand corner: “Feel it in the flesh.” …so…is it possible that the look on his face is not guilt at all but a cross between shock and pleasure, combined with the creepy suspicion that he is not the man he though he was?

One final observation: Put into the context of Istropolitana and taking into consideration the rest of the bleeding heart imagery – it is more than likely that this woman is a psychopath feeding the hearts of theatre students to her dogs! One must then assume that these pups will grow to be ruthless man-eating hell-hounds with a particular taste for the beating hearts of the more theatrically inclined of us.

Be it sinister undertones or messages of sexual liberation I can only conclude that this poster was conceived in a moment of complete insanity or complete genius.

Anyway, that’s the first day done.

Onwards to tomorrow and the beginning of Istropolitana!

DAY TWO

I hate to revert to vague and slightly meaningless terms but today was an absolutely epic day…only way to describe it.

The first half of the day was spent following our lovely hostesses through the town looking at what a good friend of mine might describe as ‘cultural gash’. That is – castles, fountains and other sight see-y things, the best of which I will describe below.

Right first off, food. The only real reason anyone travels abroad. We have been graciously bestowed with food vouchers for our trip, about 7.40 Euros a day, which it turns out is a pretty fair amount here. And all communist jokes aside we’re all very grateful for it. In general we’ve been treated very well thus far and our guides are guiding us wonderfully. Anyway, we went to lunch in a restaurant which charged us only 3.50 Euros for a 3 course meal! I had the Shark which came in a source which kind of tasted like rice pudding, which is an odd combination but almost worked. The two guides (either side of me had a wonderful dish called Lievane which is like pancakes with berries. The guide on my right could not finish hers so I tried a bit…and by try a bit I mean that I finished it. Then the guide on my left could not finish hers so I did what any gentleman would do and scoffed that down as well. All in all a successful meal.

The most interesting things we saw I think were a flat-pack synagogue made of polystyrene and a statue of Schonne Nazi, who was apparently a very friendly German who was really nice to everyone. So they built a statue of him! Isn’t that great?! Also worth mentioning is a man who hushed us as we passed because he had found a pidgin that would eat food from his hand! Seriously though, Bratislava is a extremely beautiful city, the castles are wonderful and even the wide open streets can be quite breathtaking.

So after some more sightseeing we went to see the opening ceremony for Istropolitana. The ceremony was what you would expect from such an event. There were a few speeches, a few introductions and a few announcements. All this was held together by a trio of clowns (not of the red nose verity). Just as a quick side; have you read my about me page? Well, in it I mention that I seem to look like a lot of people. I now have someone else to add to the list. Apparently one of the clowns is my doppelgänger. I caught up with his later and got a picture, I’ll upload it later and you can tell me what you think.

During the ceremony we were introduced to the key philosophy for the Istropolitana Projekt which is to bring together different drama schools from around the world with different work methodologies together in a “international confrontation of their work, opinion and production.” The festival takes place every other year and this year we have 22 productions from 17 different countries.

There is also a competitive element to the festival and prizes are rewarded for the following:

Outstanding achievement.

Grand Prix of the festival (I don’t know what this means).

Best actress.

Best actor.

Best production.

Best review.

Best festival photograph.

Craziest production (I’m guessing they mean crazy as in wacky and quirky production, not biting -the-heads-off-birds crazy).

We also learnt a nice bit of trivia. The phrase “Break a Leg” apparently comes from a German phrase about neck and leg fractures. This in tern was nicked from a Yiddish phrase which sounds the same but means something quite different: Happiness and Blessings – isn’t that nice!

The ceremony lead straight into the first show Bodies and Souls from the University of Saint Denis in France (I’ll review the show later).

After this was the Istropolitana parade. This mostly consisted of us walking down a street making a lot of noise and flinging fliers at the locals who didn’t have the foggiest what was going on and certainly didn’t approve. At certain intervals we would stop to watch short dance/contact scenes which were quite brilliant in a profoundly nonsensical way. They were all themes around the idea of 2 people fighting for the affections of another and featured lifts galore and contact moves. The best of these was undoubtedly the first in which a sexually confused man could not choose between his sweet, doting boyfriend and a fiery mistress. The whole thing was fantastically silly and the performers hammed it up beautifully leaving our manly man sobbing in a heap at the end.

After this we were herded to another group of people who lead us dancing to the outside stage and began the performance The Comedy of the rich man and Lazerus. Again, I’ll review this later but as a sneak peak – it was ace.

Final stop off was a big party in a club right next to the theatre we’ll be performing in tomorrow – handy, no?

The club was excellent – my personal highlight was a female rapper who was wearing some kind of swimsuit made out of ribbons and lime green hot-pants. Quite brilliant really.

And get this: Beer as 3.10 Euros. You keep your cup and they’ll refill it for 1.10 Euro. Then at the end of the night, return the cup and get a Euro back! That’s like 10 Cents for a pint! This country is excellent.

After a quick company meeting (in the club) with out tutor from Rose Bruford, to arrange rehearsal times tomorrow, we returned to the party…to network of course!

I ended Day Two slightly drunk and developing an addiction to Nasal Spray but so far all is good at Istropolitana.

We’re performing our show Pages from the Book of… tomorrow at 21.00. I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish us happiness and blessings!

Jack

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