26 hours on the plane with one suitcase full of puppet pigs and another with the hurdy-gurdy and we finally arrived in Taipei, capital of Taiwan.
Word of mouth about Hand to Mouth got us the gig, and what an intense experience it was….15 shows in 3 days………and with both of us being ill with colds…..and on the other side of the world too!
The festival was “Close to You” which was a great idea in which the audience walk between 3 venues in the course of an hour and a half and get to see three different shows of 20 minutes each, all in non-theatre spaces. Over the course of a week and two weekends 9 quite disparate companies put on their shows which made for a varied menu for the ticket-holders. It turned out that the organisers had seen this principle at work in Dordrecht in the Netherlands, and it’s one that I’d love to see duplicated over here too sometime. It gives the audience a fun and interesting tour around a district they may never have been in before, and a pot-luck experience of object and puppet based micro-theatre.
Our space turned out to be the basement of a friendly and stylish cafe, with hardly room to swing a cat, but just enough to fatten a pig. Shows were in batches of 3, with 10 minute resetting time and a little extra for audience arrival contingencies. Our show is very direct and energetic and so it was quite a challenge to pace ourselves physically and mentally to be able to succeed consistently. The only other time we have performed in the Far East (South Korea in 2005) we had audiences of 500 outdoors in an amphitheatre. This time the maximum number was 25!
Over the years I’ve been really lucky in having been pretty fit and have rarely had to cancel or postpone a performance, and so it was really tough to have to face up to the realisation that I was indeed in the throes of a heavy cold on arrival, and that if it developed in a flu direction the performances would be in serious jeopardy. The dress rehearsal on the Friday afternoon was hard going, and was not a great rendition of the piece. But Doctor Theatre, or to give him his alternative name, Professor Adrenalin, is a wonderful fellow, and I was able to rise to the occasion and get through the first batch of three shows that evening. Su was her usual magnificent self ,acting with her eyes and playing the spine-tingling gurdy. We had the perfect wind-down and quiet celebration upstairs under subdued lights in the back room of the cafe where the bar owner insisted we sample his collection of whiskeys of the world, including single malts from Japan.
We loved the crush of the crowds in the night markets, the smells and sights of the foodstalls and endless tiny shops, and the apparent obliviousness of the scooter riders barging their way through the pedestrians. Buddist/Taoist temples, pandas at the zoo, and the National Museum topped it all off.
Scooters and motorbikes were superabundant in general, and swarmed ahead of the rest of the traffic at the intersections of the wide streets.
We soon got into the swing of our trimmed-down show, which at 20 minutes meant cutting lots of favourite bits, but we had to be ruthless and it paid off with audience reaction which was voluble and at times, ecstatic. I can now say “Whopper” in Taiwanese and get a laugh! As always Su’s eyebrow raising and musical prowess was a source of much intrigue. She only just made it through the final day’s shows however, as she went under with the cold which I kindly passed on to her. She was as white as a sheet in the final three shows after which she threw up. Ah…… the glamour of showbiz.
And to finish, here’s a couple of random images, one of a shop display, and the other from a toilet cubicle, clearly showing what is acceptable and what is not.
Thank you and goodnight.