This was the year that our silent movie show Cliffhanger! went global, with performances in Macau, China in May and then in Gwacheon and Gwangju, in South Korea in October. Both trips went brilliantly well, with enthusiastic audiences and great hospitality. But it nearly went horribly wrong from the very start.
Despite all our experience of performing in Europe, we had never before arranged the air freighting of our equipment, with all the potential hazards that this entails. But back in April things were going well: we had arranged the visas, invested in some large wooden shipping containers, paid for the air fares… and then the Icelandic volcanic dust cloud shut down all the airports across Northern Europe! It was just one week before our equipment was to due to leave, and we thought the Macau trip was over before it had even begun.
Luck was with us, however. The wind changed direction, the skies became safe once more (we hoped), and everything went according to plan. The set arrived safely followed, shortly after, by the rest of us. The Macau Arts Festival crew were fantastic, friendly and well-organised, and we had an amazing experience.
We performed on three consecutive evenings to enthusiastic audiences in a densely-populated square in the north of Macau. The weather was overcast, the humidity was incredible, and none of us could sleep because of jetlag! It was a great experience, though much too short, and we even managed to grab a couple of days’ holiday on the island of Lama, next door to Hong Kong. We couldn’t stay long however, because one week later we were in Paris performing Cliffhanger! followed by a trip south into Spain, to the beautiful city of Vitoria Gasteiz, with The Station.
Next came another long haul to Normandy, followed by an 18-hour drive to the northern tip of Denmark to catch a ferry to Norway, to the charming town of Porsgrunn. Macau, Paris, Spain, Normandy, Norway in successive weekends – we were exhausted, and it was only the end of June!
July took us to Dublin, then once again to Normandy, on to Germany, back to Normandy, east to Picardie, overnight to the UK (Skegness and Gloucester), back again to Picardie and once more to the UK for our first-ever appearance at the Stockton Riverside Festival – 21 shows in 24 days in four different countries. It was that sort of summer. Here we must put in a mention for the fantastic reaction we received from audiences in both Skegness and Stockton. These were never going to be the most picturesque of our 2010 venues, but the public were as friendly and enthusiastic as anywhere in Europe.
August was spent, mostly in a daze, performing mainly in France (La Vendee, Thonon, Vichy, Paris, Laval, Caen to name a few). We swam in Lake Geneva, rode the Thunder Mountain ride at EuroDisney, visited William the Conquerer’s castle, and the magical Mont Saint Michel (the twin, of course, to our very own St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall) so it wasn’t all hard graft.
In other years, September would normally see us winding down for the season, not this year however, because we had been invited to the Gwacheon International Street Theatre Festival in South Korea. Passports had to be sent off once again (this created another headache because we still had three more shows to do Paris!) and the air freight arranged and containers packed: a straight-jacket, a blunderbuss, a dead rat…what would the customs officers make of our props’ list?
They seemed not to mind, because once again everything arrived according to plan, and the South Koreans welcomed us with smiles and gifts, good humour and great enthusiasm. Cliffhanger! was a great sucess. The audiences cheered ‘The Hero’ and booed ‘The Villain’ – actually the sound they make is more of a ‘woo-ing’ noise – and the only sad thing about the whole trip was that we had to cancel one performance due to rain (the only show we cancelled all year).
Three days after our return to the UK, we dragged ourselves out of bed and set-off in our van for the last of our summer engagements which meant a two-day drive to the town of Fermo in Italy, halfway down the Adriatic coast. It was a showcase festival where companies hope to attract future bookings. It was organised at very short notice, amid great confusion and chaos, typically Italian really, and was enormous fun. Out of the chaos, there was order (mostly) and we were very well looked after by the charming Italian organisers. The weather was kind, and we performed The Station at 11 o’clock on a brisk October morning – not our normal performance time by any means. It was a great show, warmly received, and we were immediately rewarded with the offer of several contracts for 2011. Things got even better, however – we spent the following few days visiting Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius.
For those who do not know us, we are a very small company – just four performers, no technician, no administrator – and we tour with our two home-educated children. This summer we travelled more than 40,000 kms by road, and a lot more by air. We had no illnesses, no accidents, we stayed sane (just), good humoured (relatively) and we entertained tens of thousands of people. We owe a huge ‘thank you’ to our long-suffering, fellow performer Russell Hurd, likewise to our musician Julian Gaskell, and of course to Finbar and Lochlann (aged 11 and 9).
In 2011 we hope to be performing at the Sibiu International Theatre Festival in Romania; at festivals in Florence and Montegranaro in Italy; Warsaw in Poland; Gorlitz and Dortmund in Germany; Picardie in France, and we have also had enquiries from festivals in Denmark and Sweden. Let us know if you would like any publicity material or DVDs!
In March and April our most recent production The Lion Tamer will be on tour once again, with performances in Wales, Dorset and Cornwall. Full details will be listed on our website.
We wish you all a very Happy Christmas.