Tag Archives: theatre

Creativity in the lines – Directing children’s theatre in Beijing.

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I’ve been racking my brains, daunted by the task of just how I can put into words my time in Beijing. How would I describe such a place, such an experience, such a feeling? I’ve still not worked it out so I’m trying to split it up into more manageable parts. Whilst thinking about this I realised that I very rarely write about my work on this blog so I thought that might be a nice place to start.

So, this year I’ve been teaching theatre and acting at a drama academy in Beijing, China. I work solely in English, teaching students who range from about seven to twelve years old. They tend to have pretty good to excellent English and those who are of a lower level bring so much enthusiasm and dedication to my classes that it’s anything but an obstacle. Throughout the year my students demonstrated extraordinary talent and such a mature, almost intense work ethic which never failed to impress.

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We split our year into two semesters, one was our ‘training’ semester in which we taught various aspects of drama and English. The second is the ‘production’ semester where we directed shows. We also, during summer and winter, ran five day camps where we would direct a full show in the week. So, as you can see, the majority of the work focused on directing.

I think the process of directing a show for a group of children is always difficult and complicated, but doing it in Beijing carries its own set of very specific considerations and requires a lot of technical juggling to make all the parts fit together.

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Firstly, a large part of the job becomes about parent management. Chinese parents are very involved in their children’s upbringing and education, desperate to make sure their child is learning to the best of their ability and being given the opportunity to challenge and push themselves. It’s touching to see the level of involvement and care but it can also manifest itself in an ugly tendency to compete. Some parents, in wanting their child to do the best they can, also want them to be the best in the class and so be given the most attention. Managing this becomes an art that starts with the script.

Many of the scripts we were given (no, we didn’t choose them ourselves) were quite awful. Many were badly written and those which weren’t were often inappropriate in terms of language level, cultural applicability and designation of lines. The first thing on the agenda is to cut the script to ribbons. Most of them (but not all, to be fair) are not designed to be given to classes of kids who should all have roughly the same number of lines. This means that we have to be quite liberal in the way we reallocate lines. Anything that can be spoken in unison is, anything that can be split between multiple actors is, anything too reliant on cultural foreknowledge is cut and many sentences are simplified in a big way. Already, I know we’re going to have problems with some of the parents not understanding why one character’s lines suddenly belong to five others, but that is my burden to bear. This first draft is all about mathematics, not about the story, my students skill or level and certainly not about making a well written show. More will change as we go, but this is our first draft, cut down from the usually bloated and inappropriate original.

The funny thing about juggling the lines is that despite their insistence that the lines be reallocated with mathematical precision my student’s parents do not often share their children’s English abilities. More often than not we’re performing to an audience who don’t understand what we’re saying either way. This changes the way we direct and deliver the dialogue. Lines now need to sound impressive rather than actually being perfectly articulated. Tone, pitch and rhythm of the dialogue becomes of utmost importance as we cut and rewrite along the way, making sure everything carries a kind of singsong quality. Jokes are built up with rising tone and punchlines are delivered to sound like a drumbeat. At the same time our actors have to reiterate all this with their movements, undulating like waves with the rhythm of their speech and punctuating their meaning with gesture and pose. During rehearsal, it can sometimes look like some sort of bizarre Meyerhold etude before being pared down to something more manageable later.

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This rhythm also informs the overall structure of the show. Again keeping in mind the fact the audience won’t be following us it’s important to keep the show flowing whilst putting an emphasis on visual action. Logical story telling tends to take a backseat to movement and action and this is, admittedly, exacerbated by the fact I tend not to prioritise linear narrative in theatre at the best of times; a product of having studied experimental theatre arts.

When working with young students it becomes very important to keep everyone as active as possible so whenever I can put everyone on stage, I will. This is a matter of logistics but also a hangover from a lot of my own theatre work which included large scale casts. A lot of the work becomes about the placement of students on the stage. I go to bed dreaming of geometric patterns formed of Chinese children dressed as sheep or broccoli. When successful the result of this is beautiful. A Kaleidoscope of action and sound which can be mesmerising and impressive in its simplicity. I often worked with ideas adapted and simplified from Greek chorus or, more often, from the way Kantor used procession and group postures. As often as possible I would have actors appear from and vanish into the collective in order to create a sense of ensemble which, as I discovered early on, was not typical of Chinese drama education which tends to focus on ‘star mentality’.

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Something else I played with, especially towards the end of the year, was the actor’s journey rather than the character’s. Most of the audience were made up of friends and parents so the actor’s story became just as, if not more, important than that of the character. This culminated with a moment in my last show where one of my Witches jumped into the role of Lady Macduff in all of one second. My co-teachers were desperately telling me she needed a costume change which I didn’t want to make time for, knowing the rhythm would be thrown off. I was sure that the audience were more invested in the actress than the character so that even if our simple signifier demonstrating the change wasn’t clear enough (which it would never have been considering not all the audience would even understand who Lady Macduff is or why there are witches hanging around everywhere) it didn’t matter. The audience won’t care if she’s the Witch or Lady Macduff, I said, because she’s Connie. They would be following her journey as a performer from one scene and character to the next over the technicalities of the story. This was one of our most successful scenes in the end.

There’s a lot more to it, of course, but these are some of the ideas I’ve been playing with throughout the year.

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Almost every decision made during the direction of these shows is underpinned by a logistic, mathematical need. Lines are counted and made equal as is the placement of performers on the stage (we can’t have certain actors downstage more often than others for example). The actor’s presence on the stage is checked so that if someone has been in the ensemble for a while they must (damned be the story) feature prominently in the next part. Delivery is designed in a non-naturalistic, descriptive way partially to help the audience understand and partially to entertain without them needing to. The funny thing is that fitting all these sliding parts together and trying to keep everyone happy actually sort of forces you to adopt a more expressive, less linear mode of performance which can be understood and enjoyed by all. I found many creative doors opening before us in part because of this focus on technical direction.

My year in this job has certainly taught me a lot of tricks when it comes to the directing (and writing) of plays. These are tricks that I’ll be taking with me whether I continue to work with children or with adults. It’s taught me to embrace and explore inside a forced structure and that creativity sometimes lies in the lines of a page rather than just between them.

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Thou shalt not doubt thyself. Also; blog.

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WeChat Image_20170706095042My last update on this blog was posted about three years ago. I stopped writing because I suffered a blow to my self-confidence.

Without going into too many details; a job loss, a broken heart and other not-so-little things hit me and my resolve faulted. The problem is that when such things occur I have a bad habit of trying to undo myself, something I will write more about at a later date. So, through teary-eyes and a hammering heart I deleted my personal acting and writing website, gave away my book and film collection and basically sought to remove myself from a life that had brought me pain. A little dramatic, I know. But I am an actor after all!

Throughout the past few years I thought about starting up my blog again but was always haunted by the thought that perhaps I didn’t actually have anything very interesting to say. Is my life even worth talking about? The problem has always been that although something cool might be happening I’ve had the lingering thought that it might all fall away the next week and I’ll again be stuck with nothing to say.

That was three years ago and since then I moved to Barcelona to spend two years performing in different towns and cities throughout Spain and Portugal, pretty much every day. I performed with a brass quintet. I did a tour in Moldova and Romania. I finished writing my first book and then followed it up with a second, and a third, and a forth. I rediscovered my heart and gave it to someone else and, as of writing, it remains whole and happily pumping along. Then I moved to China where I’ve been living in Beijing for a year teaching drama and directing my own shows. Soon I’m going to leave China to set off on another set of mini-adventures before trying to settle again in another country, I don’t know where yet.

So, I figured I might at least have some slightly interesting things to share and thought now is as good a time as any to get started again.

I don’t know why I’ve always worried about being uninteresting but I do realise that it has always stood in the way of owning my own achievements and experiences. In the past few years I’ve learnt that no one is uninteresting and every journey is unique. The only thing that ever says otherwise is our own self-doubt, which can be hard to overcome. But overcome it we must. And in an increasingly scary, divided world which sometimes seems geared towards discrediting the ‘average’ person, I think it’s important to share our thoughts and opinions; our stories and experiences of a life that can, and should, be celebrated.

So, I’ll start blogging again. Read if you fancy it.

Leaving for Poland – Part 1 of 2

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It’s 4am and Stansted airport is heaving with activity.

The shops and currency exchange stations are open an doing good business, the overhead announcements are chiming in from all over the place and there are endless queues of people lining up to drop in their bags. Around me several other bleary eyed passengers are waking up and frantically checking their phones or watches to make they haven’t, by some cruel trick of fate, slept through the morning and missed their flight. Upon realising the time they look up, just as I do, and look slightly perplexed.

When had it gotten this busy?

I was awake, deciding to catch a moments rest only half an hour ago and the atmosphere had been almost the exact opposite of how it is now. Of course it had still been light, stuck in that perpetual artificially induced daylight that makes airports seem like another world altogether, but there had been no rush, no bustling travelers and excited holidaymakers.

In fact there had been almost no activity at all when I arrived at about 1.20am through until 3.30.
It had been quiet, the only sounds being the buzz of electrics and hushed voices emanating from a Pret at the back of the airport. Bodies had lined all the walls as people slept or waited or hid themselves away. It seemed to me as if there was some unwritten rule that no one would (or should) invade the centre of the vast space. Instead everyone huddled, either alone, in couples or even in the occasional group, close to the walls. Or they  lay underneath signage, behind bins, computer terminals or in any other nooks and alcoves they could find.
I remember feeling exposed walking through the centre of these low down, silent crowds as I searched frantically for a plug socket. Most of these had already been claimed by other creatures like myself who marked their territory by setting up whatever piece of technology they had, making that area a temporary home. Like them, I too retreated to the corners and edges of the room, found somewhere suitably safe, and buried myself between bags and under clothes.

But now, as I awake to find the place alive and bustling, again I feel exposed, this time for the exact opposite reason. Because I am not a part of the noisy eclectic crowd rushing around. I feel exposed as those tall, noisy crowds loom over me, throwing dark glances my way.

Shocked by this sudden change of atmosphere, as if I had just tumbled through a looking glass or stepped into a magic wardrobe, I stand, collect my belongings and slyly join the crowd, getting caught up in the tide of people searching for cheap coffee and tax free chocolate…

The Winter’s Tale – Re-imagined for everyone ages six and over

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imagesThe Winter’s Tale is an odd play at the best of times, what with its sixteen year gap and massive shift in tone between acts. It can only get odder if you imagine it through the eyes of a child. And that’s exactly what you can find at the Regent’s Park Open air Theatre right now.

Re-imagined for people ages 6 and up, The Winter’s Tale is a real treat for families. The play is, of course, cut down and simplified for kids, but that’s not to say the play is just simple and nor does it speak down to its audience. Shakespeare’s rich language is still present as is the jealousy, cruelty and death of the first act. The magic and festivities of the second are also handled with aplomb. What this production does wonderfully is hit the middle ground between being silly and serious.

As I said, the play is a bit problematic itself in the way that the first act is generally much more somber than the second, and especially with this production I found that it wasn’t until the second act that it really hit its stride. There were hints of the madness to come right from the outset, with happy-go-lucky dance moves, pop-culture references and a great visual gag involving a boat, but it really isn’t until the second act that it all comes together.

Beginning with the bizarre sheep shearing contest which was, in this case, realised quite magnificently, the second act seems to relish in the sheer absurdity of it all and is much stronger for it. The visual gags really come into their own and the performances also take off.

For me, the highlight though, was the audience! Kids absolutely loved this show and their reactions and interactions were just as entertaining as the show itself. It’s just excellent hearing some of the stuff that kids come out with. At one point, just as the notorious bear attack is looming near, one kid near us ominously said ‘He’s gunna die…’ and then burst into laughter when the fated attack happened! At another point we were all encouraged to call out ‘Sheer the sheep! Sheer the sheep!’ but some mischievous children behind us were instead shouting ‘Eat the sheep!’ and there was even one rather macabre little boy calling out ‘SKIN THE SHEEP!’ One final moment of note was watching an entire block of tiny children reenacting the Gangnam Style dance routine.

The performances are fun and easy, with a stand out performance by Dean Nolan. In general they handle the Shakespeare in a clear and concise way and switch nicely but simply between multiple characters. The show never really hits any of the play’s emotional highs, but instead is a wonderfully fun and rather silly afternoons entertainment. I’d highly recommend seeing it, if not just to enjoy the children’s reactions to the insanity on stage.

The show is on until the 20th of July and more info can be found here.

Sandwiches and cigarettes with Hayao Miyazaki

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post detailing my first few days in Tokyo, with the promise that I’d follow it up with more details at a later point. A promise that I abruptly failed to deliver on. So, now I’ll try to fill in a bit on something cool which happened.

After our first show in the AiiA Theatre, we had a small meet and greet with members of our sponsors and other interested parties. During the night, we were told that our schedule was being suspended on a certain day because we were to be taken to the actual Studio Ghibli for a small tour. Now this, it may not be commonly known, is relatively rare. Rare enough that they have resorted to placing a very obvious piece of paper on the front door which states; ‘Studio Ghibli is a closed studio. We do not offer tours’.197758_10200499802631282_529193703_n

The studio is a collection of buildings in Koganei, Tokyo. It’s a lovely area and pretty perfect for the studio. It’s very green, very peaceful and very pretty. Jeff (who was showing us around and also happens to be the producer of the English dub of the upcoming From Up On Poppy Hill) told us that for some reason the local area was really badly planned, resulting in oddly laid out properties and lots of space in between them, filled with trees and other greenery. It really is the perfect place for the studio and gives the impression that these people are living the ideal ‘artist’ lifestyles.

It might also be interesting to note that Gainax have their studios there too. Unfortunately despite desperately wanting to meet Hiroyuki Yamaga (director of Wings of Honneamise (which I wrote a blog about here) and writer of Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket) I didn’t get the chance to see them.

On the way to the studio we were shown a beautiful building which was designed by Hayao Miyazaki himself and where all the Ghibli employee’s children stay during the day. As soon as they saw us, all the kids began running wild, shouting and jumping around, whilst their poor carer chased them desperately trying to calm them down. Next we walked passed, if I remember correctly, Studio 5, which is where the background art is done. And a few other studio buildings, but for the life of me, I can’t recall what happened where.

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Studio 5

The one place I do remember pretty well, is Miyazaki-san’s private studio. Stopping outside the building, we were shown where Miyazaki’s car was parked and told how he spends his day before being invited inside. After an appropriate period of suspense had played out, the man himself appeared in all his prolific, fantastically bearded glory.

I guess it comes with being one of the most important artists currently working, but when such a man enters the room, the effect is profound. An excited (and almost fearful) hush falls over the room and you can almost hear the collective hearts in the room skip a beat. I must admit, I’m not the sort of person to get star struck and I had to laugh a bit looking around the room at all the faces filled with so much admiration that they’d lost all control. It was a beautiful moment which I’m so glad I could be a part of.

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That is me in the stripy shirt and spotty trousers.

After he kindly signed and personalised pictures for us all, he thanked us for all our work and cracked out some sandwiches. Saying; ‘please smoke if you like – I’m going to’, he sparked up and we all dug in.

And let me tell you, these sandwiches were completely excellent! I took the box mine came in, but I think it got lost in transit. It’s a shame, that was a memory I’d cherish.

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Cast and crew of Princess Mononoke with Miyazaki and Suzuki.

We had a lovely time speaking to various people around the room and basking in the glory of the situation. Our Asitaka (the lead in the show) showed off riding Yakul (his trusty elk, played by another actor) and we all mingled most effectively.

After a wonderful time we were all hustled out and Toshio Suzuki took us into one of the other studios and showed us around a bit. Unfortunately I have to be a bit secretive about anything we may or may not have seen inside the studio, so I’ll stop there.

It was a wonderful, dreamlike time. We were told that we had somehow reminded Miyazaki and Suzuki of their younger selves and we had inspired them, just as they had us. Hearing that from some of our most respected figures was amazing and people cried and I laughed at them and a great time was had by all.

The next evening Suzuki took us all to dinner and I spent the evening talking about Ultraman G with Seiji Okuda, the executive producer of Death Note.

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My autograph. The umbrella was added because the character I play carries one around in both our show and in the film.

This day really made me reflect on the last few years. I’ve done some amazing things in the past year or two, and this was just one of many. I’ve trained under Gennady Bogdanov, heir to the Meyerhold legacy. I’ve made a show with Andrzej and Teresa Welminski, lead actors from Tadeusz Kantor’s Cricot2 company and wonderful artists in their own right. I’ve performed at a whole bunch of international venues including the legendary Moscow Arts Theatre. And now I’ve met Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki.

All these things attribute to a rather bizarre feeling; the feeling that I actually exist. I’m not getting weird here, I’ve not had some grand existential breakthrough, but it is a real feeling. Not that I exist on a molecular level and not even that I’m someone worth knowing about. But, just that I’m managing to exist in this world that I’ve chosen to be a part of. When I decided that I would be an artist, I sort of meant I’d write in my room and perform to my friends and family. But now, I feel like slowly, slowly I’m actually beginning to exist within the art world.

Obviously it doesn’t actually make a difference to my art no matter who I might have shared sandwiches with. But it does encourage me that I’m on the right track, that I really do exist in the same world as these great things and people, and that I might actually consider myself a real artist sometime soon…As opposed to a pretend one, that it.

Acceptance of my Liebster Award

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liebster-award“Ever heard of the Liebster Award Jack? If not, you’re about to because I just nominated you for one.”

What a very exciting comment for somebody to leave on one’s blog! This is what I woke up to this morning, and in my bleary eyed, half asleep state I felt incredibly humbled without even knowing what a Liebster Award was. I’m the sort of man who gets extremely over excited if anybody so much as hits the ‘like’ button on my blog. If a post gets more than one like, I am overcome with pride, and if anybody follows me I’m as giddy as a child on Christmas. So, to realise that somebody likes my blog enough to give me an award is absolutely grand. Although, I must admit it did make me feel slightly guilty about my lack of activity recently!

I have the lovely Linda Torlakson over at Thoughts and fears about dying (and living!) to thank for my Liebster so, thank you Linda!

I first came across Linda during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where she provided much support and encouragement. Her blog is a lovely collection of posts and articles on writing and blogging, occasionally delving into questions of human nature and psychology. It’s a really nice, heartfelt blog which I highly recommend.

Now that I have been nominated for a Liebster Award, it’s probably a good idea to work out what that is, right?

Liebster is a German word meaning ‘dearest’ or ‘cherished’. Linda says that it has nothing to do with how many readers or likes you have, but simply shows that somebody out there is reading and enjoying your work.

The idea is that someone nominates a certain number of people for an award, and then each of them nominate their own people and so on and so forth. It’s been compared to those chain mails we’re all far too familiar with, but the difference is; Liebster Awards are nice, not annoying.

The person nominating you will ask 5 questions and then, you’ll ask your people 5 questions also.

So, here are my questions from Linda and my answers:

1. Why did you initially launch your blog?

I initially launched it as a way to research for my children’s novel Sketch. Each post was related to something I was writing about and gave me the opportunity to learn about it through writing about it. It was also a way for me to practice writing in general and to sneakily promote my acting work.
2. Is that still its primary purpose or has it evolved into something else?

Yes, and yes… That is still the primary purpose however Sketch has been on the back burner recently. The blog became more a place for me to speak my mind and ponder over subjects I found generally interesting. That was never my intention but I’m glad it has become this.
3. How does your blog reflect who you are (or who you wish you were)?

I think it shows off a less scruffy version of myself. A place where I can actually sort through my thoughts and think about what I’m saying, rather than just rambling as I do in person.
4. What do you hope to offer readers through your blog?

I just hope people find some sort of interest through it.
5. What are your five favorite blogs to read and why? (I’m giving you a head start on the nomination process should you decide to accept)

Well, I feel like this question is cheating! So I’m going to list my 5 nominations underneath:

1. Unbound Boxes Limping Gods – From writer Cheryl Moore this blog is a collection of shorts based on characters from her story Unbound Boxes Limping Gods. Cheryl describes her writing as ‘experimental feminist fiction and poetry’. This is deep, involving stuff illustrated by the author. I highly recommend it to any writers, or those who enjoy stories.

2. Brains are cool – This blog belongs to my friends boyfriend Barney Low. It’s a collection of  ‘ruminations about consciousness’ which although complex have been made accessible and easy to read by Barney.

3. HarsH ReaLiTy – From Opinionated Man. A blog about the harshness of reality (obviously) with scatterings of his own writing and poetry.

4. Otherwhere – News and film reviews from around the world, specifically looking at Japanese and Korean cinema.

5. Alastair Savage – Another writer blogging about his thoughts on poetry, fiction and pretty much everything else. Also placed throughout are extracts from his own fiction. Alastair has some very cool and interesting views on the world. Well worth checking out.

And now my questions to thou humble few:

1. Are you happy?

2. Does your blog help you fulfill your creative needs?

3. Do you write for you readers or for yourself?

4. What is your favourite city in the world?

5. Do you think that internet distribution of art (blogging, myspace, etc) and the fact that it is easier than ever for people to get their work seen by others, could eventually do away with the idea of commercial success for the arts (that’s nothing to do with artistic or creative success, just numbers on an atm)? Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?

Once again. Thanks very much Linda!leibster

Hello Japan

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DSC_0033As a kid I always wanted to visit Tokyo. It seemed like an amazing place, filled with cats and robots and anime-a-plenty. Well, yesterday I arrived in Tokyo where I’ll be performing Princess Mononoke with Wholehog Theatre! To come here for a work reason, and to perform in the theatre no less, feels amazing!

As first impressions go, this is a pretty crazy and exciting place to be! The funny thing is; it at once feels extremely foreign and strangely familiar. I think in this internet age, we have access to so much information, images and movies that we have a good sense of what a great deal of places are like before we actually see them in person, so we don’t find it so surprising when we actually arrive – wandering around the amazingly eclectic Shinjuku area of Tokyo was a lot like this. Things like the way the buildings are laid out, the songs the traffic lights play and things like that are exactly as I pictured them to be.

Upon arrival, we were taken straight to our hotel; The Listel Hotel in Shinjuku. It’s a lovely little place with fantastically 70’s style rooms. The best thing, was walking in and finding a complimentary cotton kimono laid out on my bed! Wasting no time, every male member of the cast donned these and met in the hallway whilst the women looked on and shook their heads at us. In our excitement at least four of us (spread over two rooms) forgot our keycards and locked ourselves out, wearing nothing but our new found kimonos.

Some great features of the room are a built in radio which plays obscure Japanese talk shows and a decent sized tv with some Japanese channels. Usually, the last thing I want to do in a hotel is watch tv or listen to the radio, but it’s just so interesting to see it here. Another enjoyable, if not rather surprising feature is the bathroom, and more specifically the toilet. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say; it’s all a bit much for my English sensitivities!

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Shinjuku, my temporary home

Wandering around Shinjuku is like a childhood dream come true. Everywhere you look, there are flashing lights and massive cartoon-esque signs. Pop music seems to linger in the very air and beautiful people on 20ft billboards are forever looking down at you.

There  are just so many exciting bizarre things to see at every moment. At one point, me and a few of my buddies; Adam and Andy, were walking down the street when a truck drove past dragging a trailer with two giant bikini clad robot anime girls singing pop music. Andy has since told me that they had chairs built into their groins…maybe they’re part of some sort of theme park ride? Who knows. Since then, we’ve seen this Giant Robot Truck (GRuck) several times.

The GRuck

The GRuck

Soon after this, we decided to pop into an arcade. Now, one thing to know about Tokyo, is that one does not just ‘pop into’ an arcade! It was five floors high (actually there was a sixth, but we dared not go in, on account of how pink it was and how many pretty girls there were in there). Still, me and Andy ran around the place with childlike grins on our faces watching the various pros playing on dance machines and other gadgets which defy comprehension.

Another thing me and Andy got over excited about was a Cat Cafe! Unfortunately, it was all booked up, so all we saw of it was the reception, which looked conspicuously like a vet. Still, we’ll be booking a place for next week at some point.

We also wandered into the Shinjuku red light district which is a fantastic blaze of lights, music and colorful dress senses. A really exciting, lively place to be, and I imagine the night life is amazing.

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Between all of this craziness are the temples. These are beautiful classic Japanese houses with lovely gardens and miniature shrines. In one, we drank water from a pool decorated with a dragon, in another, we played with Coy fish, making them swim circles around our hands. I found it really interesting watching people come and pray or make wishes at the shrines. I didn’t realise this was still such a large part of Japanese culture. I think it’s a shame we don’t have things like this in London. There’s something very peaceful, spiritual if you like, about it. I think from a purely practical point of view it would be wonderful to have somewhere to stop off at on the way to work, where we have a moment to reflect on the day, what we’d like to achieve from it, make a wish, etc. Obviously these shrines mean more than this to these people, but still, it would be nice.

Another very cool feature is of course the food! Noodles are pretty much my favorite thing ever, so to eat real, proper, genuine, yummy noodles is ace! Everywhere you go there are noodle and rice bars. Genuine Onigiri is also excellent – so, very excellent!

Partially related to food is the excessive amount of vending machines we see everywhere. A very exciting feature of these is the ability to get a can of hot coffee out of them for 100YEN, that’s about 67p. These are so obviously and incredibly useful that I find myself wondering why we don’t have many move vending machines in London… Oh yeah, it might have something to do with the fact that they’d most definitely get cracked open by someone a week after being installed. I’m told that Tokyo is the safest city in the world, and on the face of it, it looks likely. There’s no obvious signs of vandalism anywhere, bikes are left unchained in the street and walls of washing machines are left outside (possibly due to teeny, tiny houses) and nothing gets stolen. The whole bike thing took a while for me to get my head around. No one steals the bikes? What do you mean no one steals the bikes? But…They’re bikes…? I think everyone I know in England has had a bike stolen. I sort of thought bikes were supposed to be stolen. But hey. It’s very nice to know people are considerate and decent here, but it’s just a bit…weird…

On the way to work

On the way to work

All these things are mixed up within a beautifully maintained city. It’s very open and there are parks and trees everywhere! It makes such a huge difference, making everything feel that much more welcoming and pleasant. The whole city is very friendly and as I said, apparently the safest city in the world. An interesting personal observation; I remember going to Moscow and feeling sort of intimidated by the lack of English (etc) at first. But here, there is no more English, yet I feel super confident and street-wise. I’d have no qualms hopping on the metro and recon I could find my way around easily enough, or just wandering the streets. I now know this is purely psychological! When I went to Moscow the most useful piece of advice I was given was; ‘You will probably die’. Here, on the other hand, People have said; ‘You defiantly won’t die’. I thought I was relativity strong willed and open minded and I hadn’t realised how much these things effected my point of view right from the outset, but apparently, they really have. Obvious perhaps, but interesting nonetheless.

Last night a few of us went out into Shibuya, a hugely busy and popular area of Tokyo, where we met a nice guy who has been living here for a year who was able to tell us some very interesting things about Japan, Tokyo and the quality of life here, outside of our fairy tale vision of the city. I was very glad of this and he told me that he’s been blogging about life in Japan, so it’ll be interesting to have a look at his stuff at some point.

And of course, one very important thing we did was check out the theatre that we’ll be performing in! It’s the AiiA Theater in Shibuya. The theatre is rather large and rather respectable, so it will be extremely exciting to get inside of it! Of course it’s worlds away from the New Diorama in London, dwarfing it in size, so it’ll certainly be tricky adapting to such a large space…and such a large audience!

DSC_0031It’ll be great to see even more of the city if I can, but so far, my biggest impression of Tokyo is that it’s very green, very shiny and very wonderful. I hope I’ve given an idea of what it’s been like so far. I always find these travel blogs so hard to write, because I’m trying to give a sense of something which is also completely new to me!

I’ll do a separate post on our work in the theatre and any other exciting things we do throughout the next few weeks. But for now; Sayonara.