International Theatre: Theatre as global language Eleanor Buchan, 27 January 2014 Who attended: Felix Andrew, Kas Darley, Chris Wootton, Hannah Lambert, Hannah Myers, Aggeliki Georgokosta, Catalina Oana Mihai, Julie Vallortigara, Marianne Powell, Helen Mugridge, Oliver Lampard, Jo Mackie, Annie Fitzmaurice, Ellen Muriel, Eric Ng, Claire Campbell, Fauve Bickerstaffe, Peter Cant, Bryan Woltjien, Sheena Khanna, April Small, Julia Yevnine, Anna Cottis, Jo Crowley, Clara Giraud, Jung Sun den Hollander, Sharlit Deyzac, Zoe Mavroudi I called the session because I know strongly that I want to work in a ‘global theatre’, but finding confusion in what this actually means and how to enable it. I wanted to open discussion around what we understand to be the idea of ‘global language’, what possibilities are held within it, how we make it, how we build it, how we sustain it. Cross cultural casting - Peter Brook uses it in his productions, a Nigerian Ophelia and a Japanese Polonius. If you do work with many cultures and languages within a company, what are the logistics of making that work? It is inherently very complicated without a common language. But, the possibility for the richness that comes with a multi-cultural cast. Tamasha Theatre Company, in particular, works with actors and directors to bring that cultural, national diversity to the stage, encouraging you to bring what your heritage, not hide it. www.tamashaarts.co.uk. Personal experience of working in a cross-cultural cast brings great diversity of expression, body language. Any work with people who don't speak the same language brings great urgency to clarity; you must be extremely clear with your communication, which is always a good thing. Promotes real listening and real understanding across cultures. It's hard, but isn't it hard anyway? Communication always inherently complicated even when speaking the same language. Working internationally requires real collaboration with the host country. Dash Arts, run by Tim Supple was cited as an example of a company who embeds itself, taking months to live and work in the Middle East for the Arabian Nights series, in India for A Midsummer Night's Dream, and now in Russia and the Caucasus for the Soviet series. They cast for a wide range area, ensuring a varied, cross cultural cast within the region that they are working in. Supported in London by monthly ‘cafes’, with music and cinema from, and debate around, the countries they are working on. www.dasharts.org.uk (They are an NPO but struggle with funding as their work is costly and time consuming. They also have real problems touring when applying for visas e.g. Middle Eastern actors trying to get to the US. Some of the tour had to be cancelled.) Working process - can we learn from the working methods of other countries? Theatre company 1927 took 19 months to make ‘The Animals and Children Took To The Streets’, considered a long time by British standards and completely normal by, say, Russian standards. What can we learn about the building of ensembles and creation of work? Who else is working like this? Example of Caroline Steinbeiss, on placement in The Ukraine with the Royal Court, directing a play in 5 weeks with a company used to taking 2 years to stage a piece. Resulting tension between working methods. How can we foster more exchange? Perhaps find out more about what the Royal Court are planning and why? Is there such a thing as ‘global language’? Peter Brook's journey into sub-Saharan Africa in the 70's was a mad, silly and very serious exploration into the possibility of the ‘essence’ of theatre. He was searching to see whether you could glimpse the universal. Read ‘Conference of the Birds’ by John Heilpern about the journey. Are there such things as universal messages when creating story? If making work for the international scene, must you choose stories that resonate at a fundamental human level, (and are thus relevant to all) versus a local story? Are we still even thinking of ‘French’ theatre, ‘German’ theatre? Are those definitions still relevant in our more globally connected society; how does culture change as we cross-pollinate? How do these global networks affect what we make? How do we make work for this new condition? If theatre is a deep expression of a country, a means of processing the unconscious, what happens as we shift and change? Can we really enjoy theatre from other countries? Example of a French company who were told that British audiences don't like French theatre because they don't like subtitles. But example of the ‘Globe to Globe’ Festival (Globe Theatre, 2012) shows differently. 37 Shakespeare plays in 37 different languages (inc. British Sign Language) was very successful. And 80% of the audiences through the door were new to the Globe and represented the true diversity of London's population. Why are we not staging work in the languages of the people who live here? Is it any wonder that most of our audiences are the white middle classes? Does it work only for the Globe because they are a big institution and can afford to price tickets at £2.50? Can we get over our fear of experiencing theatre in a language that is not our own? Was Katie Mitchell's ‘Miss Julie’ at the Barbican a successful example of this? Theatre in English is very popular abroad as a way to learn English, e.g tours of Shakespeare sell out time and again in China. Problems with staging foreign work: Subtitling/Scene titling- Scene titling worked well at Globe to Globe (much easier to focus on the action because not reading every line) but was suggested this was helped by the fact that they are well known stories. Suggested that only the classics can translate well as they are well known. Translation doesn't always work and can be a real hindrance. Do synopsys work better? Marketing- Poses a real struggle for marketing departments; perhaps this is why only a small amount gets programmed. Globe to Globe marketing strategy involved a huge amount of manpower and work on the ground, knocking on doors to reach the communities not available on mailouts and websites. Very costly, but should only have to be done once. How does a smaller venue make this happen? Festivals and Funding bodies: How to tour? The first step is to get seen at an international festival, as the programmers will pick you up from there. BIRMINGHAM EUROPEAN FESTIVAL - workshops, dinners, feedback sessions, 16 programed shows. (Unpaid as the moment). COS Festival - near Barcelona. CARAVAN - Bi-annual showcase in Brighton in May. A market place to cross-pollinate information. IETM - European/International theatre advisory board for networking, advice, twice yearly meetings with other satellite meeting. You don't have to be a member. ONGOING CONVERSATION Sign up to METH ([email protected]) and find on Facebook. 'MakeEuropeanTheatreHere' was formed out of DandD8 and meets monthly to keep the conversation flowing regarding international theatre practice (networking, support, sharing information, birthing projects). We suggest this conversation goes forward via METH so if you are interested, please sign up the that list or add you email to bottom of this report to be added. Those at the session, please also post anything I have forgotten to write up.