In The Dock

Following from my last post, the first thing I want to share today is another BBC Essay: On Directing, this time with director, Barlett Sher:

Essay: On Directing – Bartlett Sher

bartlettsher200Sher is cut from a different cloth to Emma Rice. He is what I would call a ‘traditional’ director and plays a different role in the theatre world. He has some interesting things to say about the importance of getting transitions and transformation right in theatre as well as talking about the importance of rhythm in theatre making. However, there was a moment that surprised me. He talks about his role in theatre as an ‘interpretive’ art, unlike a visual artist because they start with a blank canvas. He seems to ignore all the new work being created by directors that don’t start with a script or a libretto. In a sense it links to my previous post McTheatre.  I’m not saying for one moment that Sher is one of the Mega-musical mob, but he would have appeared to have missed what is going on around him – not everyone is re-staging South Pacific or Romeo and Juliet or classic American drama. Contemporary theatre directors are creating new work, challenging work, work that is alive. I think it is about taking risks and scaring yourself.

As a perfect example of what I mean is the Royal Court Theatre in the UK. They are renown for doing fantastic, unusual and innovative work. Their current season is called Open Court a six week festival of plays, ideas and events chosen and suggested by a group of over 140 writers.

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Two of the things they are doing  as part of Open Court particularly caught my attention. Firstly, their Surprise Theatre where every Monday and Tuesday nights there is a different surprise performance from a wide-ranging field of writers and theatre-makers; each creating a unique one-off performance, which remains a mystery to its audience right up until the lights go down. How’s that for risk taking by both the performers and the audience?! The performances are also being live-streamed!

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Then there is  PIIGS – New Short Plays. PIIGS stands for Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain – all the European countries that have been hardest hit by the economic down-turn. The idea is that international writers join up with their British counterparts to create plays that explore what life is really like for those living in austerity. What a great idea!

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This is what theatre should be about.

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Telling Tales

One of the most engaging performance I have seen was given by a professional Jamaican storyteller.  She was telling the tales of Anansi the Spider to over a hundred 5 and 6 year olds in a school hall. She was compelling to watch and I have never seen little children sit so still, for so long, utterly transfixed – as were the accompanying adults. I was reminded of this when I listened to this interview by theatre director, Emma Rice. She is currently Artistic Director of the international, UK-based theatre company Kneehigh.

Essay: On Directing – Emma Rice

riceIn it, Rice explores the role of the director as storyteller, and elaborates on the undertaking that transforms a text into a fully fledged production. It is part of  a series the BBC are broadcasting this week and I will share some of the others at a later date. For any of you yet to cut your teeth in a directorial role, it is a great listen. In an earlier interview with Dan Rubin, Rice said:

Theater is storytelling. Sometimes it becomes about lots of other things, but ultimately human beings like to come together and be told a story and to be transported. There’s something very simple about that notion. I think there are probably very few great stories, and the great stories have survived because they hit a fundamental human nerve. So Cinderella is a classic story because there aren’t many of us who, when we were young, didn’t feel unloved, didn’t feel ugly, and didn’t feel that the world was turned against us. So those stories are told for good reason. They speak to us on a very profound level.

This links nicely with an article by Swati Daftur that was published in The Hindu last weekend. The article, titled A Twist In The Tale, talks about the resurgence of professional storytelling in India and how it is no longer just a means of entertainment or passing on cultural heritage.

Storytelling is no longer just about entertaining children. It is now used, in different contexts, to teach and train grown-ups.

“Animals do not tell stories to each other. Humans do. That is how we make sense of the world. So storytelling is essential to being human. Everyone tells stories…We are just not aware of it”, says mythologist and author Devdutt Pattanaik.

Indians are big on stories. This is a land of myths and mythologies; of tales with pious men and brave gods; of stories with carefully masked do’s and don’ts; of tickling anecdotes and gruesome monsters. We have always loved a good story, and we’ve always had storytellers. But, from then to now, the face of storytelling and storytellers has morphed and evolved into something more commercial and professional, but also less localised and farther reaching than ever before.

In the face of rapid urbanisation, mushrooming malls and multiplexes, this ancient art form is somehow making rapid inroads. The Indian storytelling revival has come of age. Stories are no longer just what you hear on lazy afternoons at your grandmother’s house.

In the late 1960s, the Global Storytelling Revival began, with people trying to connect and associate with the past and the present. This involved finding and exploring heritage, identifying with one another and, of course, some good old-fashioned entertainment. Today, India has also joined the movement with its own personal rendition of the revival. With its already rich culture and heritage, and hundreds of traditional storytelling styles and traditions – villu pattu, bommalaatam, phad, chitrakatha and harikatha, to name just a few — the revival has brought together old forms and new applications to storytelling. Efforts made both by the government as well as NGOs, institutes, groups and private players have helped revive and transform storytelling.

Brought on by the revival is also a new and exciting phenomenon— that of professional storytellers. We are in an age where professional storytelling is a legitimate, accepted career choice. Today, there are institutes and colleges that will take you in and teach you to tell wonderful effective stories, and then send you off into the world to actually earn your livelihood by this art.

The Chennai-based World Storytelling Institute, co-founded by Eric Miller and Magdalene Jeyarathnam, is one such example. A veritable home for professional storytellers, the institute brings together threads of different storytelling techniques and styles. It makes use of both the digital as well as the traditional platforms. The institute holds workshops that use storytelling for therapy, healing, environmental issues, educational purposes and countless other projects. Its workshops play with different ideas and forms of storytelling. One striking example is of workshops dealing with animal stories where every animal featuring in a story is supposed to represent an aspect of the human personality (a fox and his cunning, a lion and his fairness, a horse and his loyalty). The institute also has sessions that specifically retell and discuss episodes from an epic. Every story has a purpose, and participants attending the workshop take away everything from management skills to moral lessons.

While The World Storytelling Institute uses both traditional and digital methods to practise and teach professional storytelling, Geetha Ramanujam’s Kathalaya, in Bangalore, keeps the art form free of digitalisation. Ramanujam, the Director of Kathalaya, believes that the storytelling baton has not yet been passed permanently from bards and folk artists to bloggers and the twitterverse. “It is possible for professional storytellers to stick to the traditional art form and still keep it interesting. When I make presentations myself, I don’t use power points and multimedia, but the reception has always been great. At Kathalaya, I’ve tried to make sure that we keep the old ways of storytelling alive. And it does work. We have hundreds of interested people approaching us for workshops in both personal and professional storytelling.”

Top: Devdutt Pattanaik, Geetha Ramanujam. Below: Jeeva Raghunathan, Eric Miller.

Devdutt Pattanaik, Geetha Ramanujam, Jeeva Raghunathan, Eric Miller.

Together Geetha Ramanujam and Eric Miller have founded The Indian Storytelling Network, an online portal and confluence inspired by the International Storytelling Network based in Spain and marking the Indian chapter of the Global Storytelling Revival. The Network, in communication with other storytelling organisations around the world, facilitates and assists storytellers as well as festivals and conferences. Its goals focus on reviving and building upon the country’s storytelling traditions and acting as a bridge between performers, trainers and audience.

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A professional storyteller has myriad options available to him/her today. The art form isn’t just a source of entertainment any more. From schools and colleges to multinational companies and NGOs, stories have found a place in previously unthinkable places. Management trainees, business experts and educational institutes are fast discovering the benefits of storytelling. “It’s always more interesting to learn something through a story instead of mugging up dry facts. And if it’s told in an interesting way, stories can stick with you longer than any academic or instructive lecture,” says Priyanjalee, a management trainee who has attended workshops organised by Kathalaya. Professional storytelling has indeed complemented learning in a number of contexts, both professional and social. With a little rearrangement, a makeover and a brand new outfit, storytelling isn’t just a way to pass the time of the day anymore. It’s a very useful tool with corporate, humanitarian, psychiatric and educational benefits. The opportunities, instead of shrinking, have exploded with this added qualification actually giving trained professionals a leg-up.

There are certain key requirements for a professional storyteller. The idea behind professional storytelling involves not only effective communication but also the need to engage, inspire and motivate the listener. The qualities at once help the audience as well as the storyteller become a better trainer, speaker and communicator. For example, in management storytelling workshops, the idea is for a leader to illustrate a better future for the company via stories that might not directly involve a corporate setting, but still includes lessons that benefit one in a corporate environment. One of the more popular stories that work in a corporate setting happens to be the simple, yet ingenious, fable of the hare and the tortoise.

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After years of being recognised as a source of entertainment, storytelling is now being viewed as a powerful tool for change and the overall development of an individual’s personality, as well as an effective method to address social issues. At once informative, educational and entertaining, professional storytelling is becoming a regular feature at schools, as it is both effective and captures the interest of students, explaining concepts faster than regular textbooks might.

On storytelling’s modern-day reiteration, Jeeva Raghunath, a professional storyteller and one of the pioneers of the movement in Tamil Nadu, says, “What happened within four walls of a house first spread and became a community event. Then, when it turned professional, it became a trade. Now the demand has turned it into a contemporary skill that is required in many fields like therapy, corporate, education, communication, and presentation. Basically, with changing times, due to the lack of comprehension of the old art form, contemporary storytelling has indulged in taking storytelling to another level. Storytelling is turning into a rare but growing commodity and storytellers are becoming brands.”

Jeeva believes that adapting itself to changing mediums is a healthy trend. “Today’s contemporary telling is very different from the traditional styles. Similarly, the digital medium is yet another development; the only difference being the bonding that can happen only in live shows. This change is healthy but just lacks bonding and to a certain extent the stimulation of imagination”. Pattanaik, on the other hand, believes that while the medium might have changed, the human being has not. “I don’t see any real difference. If anything, now we have more versions of the same story and that confuses us. We wonder what is true,” he says.

Today, small and big institutes and groups of professional storytellers are reviving traditions that would otherwise have been long forgotten. For example, Dastangoi, the ancient Urdu storytelling tradition that involved oral narration, was revived by Mahmood Farooqui and Danish Husain in 2005 in the capital. Today, their performances showcasing dastans or fables of fantasy, adventure, intrigue, romance and seduction, have become popular and well appreciated across the country and abroad. Farooqui and Husain have also adapted modern issues and subjects into Dastangoi performances, and their Dastan-e-Sedition or the Tale of sedition was a tribute to Dr. Binayak Sen, conceived during the period of his incarceration and the public outcry against it. The performance was also a part of the Free Binayak Sen campaign held in New Delhi in April 2011.

Acoustic Traditional, founded by Salil Mukhia and Barkha Henry, is another non-profit organisation started to revive and promote storytelling traditions like oral storytelling and tribal folklore, especially of mountain and forest-based communities. Started as a classroom project in Nepal, the organisation is now based in Bangalore. The goal is to preserve the myths, legends and stories of tribal groups, as well as to use these to connect to mainstream communities. Acoustic Traditonals holds The Annual Festival of Indigenous Storytellers along with regular storytelling sessions and workshops.

There is a lot that a story can do. It can affect individuals, or masses. It can bring reform and it can bring joy. It can be used to manipulate public opinion and it can spread misinformation and terror. Clearly, that is a fair amount of responsibility for a storyteller to take on. “Today, storytelling is also used as propaganda to shape people’s political views, as advertising to shape buying behaviour. So what has changed is that we now have an agenda that drives our story. We don’t narrate it innocently, unaware of the underlying thoughts or agenda. It tells us that some products and some services are better than others; it tells us who our heroes should be and who our villains are; they essentially shape the mind of the person who is listening” says Pattanaik.

Whether they use traditional or modern methods; whether they make twitter or a stage their platform, professional storytellers have carved a space for themselves. Skills you couldn’t learn in the classroom, lessons that chapters in your books couldn’t teach you, stories can. Engineering students, children with special needs, prisoners; stories can touch everyone and anyone who is ready to listen, to see and understand.

McTheatre

I’ve been trying to write this post for a few days, but kept getting lost in what I was trying to say. Now I think I have it – my thoughts are now in order.

There is one theatrical tradition that is sure to polarize theatre folk, The Musical, or to give it its proper title, Musical Theatre. People tend to either love it or hate it. It’s looked down on because its ‘populist’ or its celebrated because it is popular and draws a wide audience. I was reminded of this recently by playwright Howard Brenton when asked in an interview which art form he didn’t relate to, he said

Musical theatre. I love opera – I’ve written a libretto – but I can’t bear show music. Every song sounds the same.

I have always tended to agree with him, but while I was thinking about this I began to question why there are some musicals I do like – Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, Jerry Springer the Opera, The Threepenny Opera, The Lion King and on film, Moulin Rouge. Now this is an eclectic, if not quite odd, mix and I am aware of that, so what is it that they do that draws me too them? Why these, when I know that there are musicals that I simply don’t like and think are utter garbage (the likes of Starlight Express, for example)? Then I listened to this interview with Robert Gordon, who is Professor of Drama at Goldsmiths, University of London.

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In it he reflects on the perception of musical theatre as pure entertainment and looks at key productions that have had significant political and social relevance across its history, from the 18th century production of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera to new musical Mission Drift. It is well worth a listen. (Incidentally, Brecht and Weill based Threepenny Opera on Gay’s Beggar’s Opera and Mission Drift is, and I quote, a pioneering journey west and east across the USA in search of the character of American capitalism).

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So I went back to my list. Superstar was a first of its kind, one that embraced a popular musical idiom and appealed, therefore, to my generation. Jerry Springer is outrageous and challenged society’s religious norms (and I loved the howls of outrage it produced as well!). The Lion King is an easy one – the beautiful use of puppets was a first. The Threepenny Opera because again, it was the first of its kind, a socialist critique of a capitalist world and remains hauntingly relevant today. Moulin Rouge, ditto Superstar. That leaves me with Les Mis and I guess its appeal to me lies in its pure expansive theatricality – and I did see it in its original incarnation many years ago.

Be warned of the ‘interesting’ language in the video below!

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All of this goes someway to help me understand my diffidence to musicals, but not all the way. Then it struck me that part of my issue is that they don’t tend into fit my modus operandi as a theatre teacher. You are all aware that I see theatre a tool of challenge, change and confrontation – it should make audiences think and reflect. Most musicals simply don’t do this, so in terms of my teaching life I have simply dismissed them. There is another point I’d like to make here, but it is irrelevant at the moment so I will leave for later.

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But still I didn’t feel this gave me the full answer I was looking for. A little bit of research got me to look at the numbers of musicals on in London this summer (36) and New York (38). Astonishing! And this is just two cities. The spread of the ‘western’ musical across the globe seems relentless – I refer you back to an early post as a good example, The Gweilos Are Coming. If you compare the two listings you will the same shows again and again. I realised that this irritates me – where is the originality? On the other hand (with my global citizen hat on) why shouldn’t audiences in New York, London, Mumbai, Beijing, Shanghai and Sydney have access to these shows?

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Then I read these two articles – Does the mega-musical boom mean theatre’s bust? and Some musical theatre is still on song – and it clicked! The final piece of the puzzle. The phrase McTheatre summed up what I don’t like about the modern mega-musical. It doesn’t matter where in the world you see one of the really big musicals it will look and sound exactly the same (unless you are seeing Cats in Beijing of course, where it will be sung in Chinese). Only the original staging is unique and truly creative – all the others are just a facsimile, a direct copy, that’s how it works! I am a believer in the global village, but this kind of globalisation which strips theatre of its creativity just seems wrong. As Robert Gordon says in his interview and Lyn Gardner in her articles, there are fantastic musical pieces of inspirational social commentary emerging, but they come from small, innovative companies, with small budgets, not the mega-theatrical corporations of Cameron Macintosh and Andrew Lloyd-Webber!

So there you have it. I have managed to explain to myself why I have problems with musicals and the answer is complex. You might not agree but let us beg to differ. However, if you really do like Starlight Express don’t ever speak to me again!

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By way of a post script to this post – I alluded to this earlier – I’d like to say something about the notion of the ‘school musical’. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, there is an expectation that a school will ‘do’ a musical. However, let me be frank here, it is not because they extend or deepen learning, it’s because they are good publicity vehicles for an institution. I don’t really have a problem with this as such (actually that’s a lie, but it is my job). What I do have a problem with is that they are exclusive and limiting. The pool of students who have the skills to perform in a musical is small and excludes a much wider range of students who are excellent actors, but can’t sing. They reduce opportunities for participation. That’s not to say I don’t celebrate the students that can perform in them, because I do, and am humbled by their skills. Our last musical outing was Little Shop of Horrors (pictured above) and it was superb. But, I want public performances to impact in the classroom/drama studio and for me, musicals just don’t do that.

Paper Cuts

There is a history of shadow theatre right across the globe, stretching back centuries, as I have talked about here before. However, recently it has reached a mass audience in a new incarnation through the work of companies like Pilobolus – although I have to say, for me, once you get over the initial ‘wow’ factor it all becomes a little samey – having said that Pilobolus do some excellent other work too (see my previous post).

What I want to share today is the truely amazing work of Davy and Kirstin McGuire. Take a look:

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Modern technology has just pushed the shadow play into a brand new era.

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Icebook is their most famous piece to date and you can read about it’s making by clicking the image below:

boatbeforeafter-670x376They are about to open a new show called The Paper Architect which introduces live actors to the mix.  Here is an interesting article/interview written by Lyn Gardner in The Guardian this week:

Pulp fiction: bringing pop-up paper theatre to life

Magical and exquisitely crafted, Kristin and Davy McGuire’s miniature model universe is full of visual wonders

The 'Paper Architect' theatrical project by Davy and Kristin McGuire

Davy McGuire grew up as an only child. He lived in his imagination, warding off loneliness by building tiny houses for tiny imaginary people. Several decades on, he is still at it – but now he makes them with his wife, Kristin. Together, the McGuires construct worlds made entirely out of paper, which are then given life with the aid of projections, optical illusions and the intervention of actors.

“We never set out to work with paper,” says Kristin. “It just grew out of curiosity. We weren’t model-makers. I didn’t even know how to cut paper. We’ve just had to acquire the skills as we’ve gone along.”

The McGuires…..are just two of a modest but intriguing wave of artists exploring the creative possibilities of paper. They include Paper Cinema, who create exquisite DIY films from cornflake-packet cutouts and an overhead projector, and the visual artist Yuken Teruya, whose take on paper carrier bags can currently be seen in an exhibition called – what else? – Paper at London’s Saatchi Gallery.

Actor John Cording of the 'Paper Architect' theatrical project by Davy and Kristin McGuire

Walk into the McGuires’ studio in Bristol, where they work in the company of their dog – called Cat, but of course – and you enter a world that feels like a last outpost of a 19th-century realm of illusion and magic. Illuminated paper butterflies dance in jam jars, a row of intricately detailed Edwardian houses complete with iron railings and washing lines recall a doll’s house, and a rural scene featuring pools and weeping trees sits waiting to come alive. All of it is made, by hand, entirely from paper. An exquisite birdcage smaller than my little finger represents hours of painstaking work for the couple, who met at college in the Netherlands, where Kristin, who trained as a dancer, cast Dartington College graduate Davy in one of her pieces.

“I kept asking her: now we have developed a professional relationship, can we have a private one too?” he smiles.

Both were interested in exploring the boundaries of performance (Kristin is a former national rhythmic gymnast), but neither imagined their lives would become so intricately bound up with wood pulp. One day in 2009, Kristin shone a light behind a pop-up book, and they began speculating whether it would be possible to turn a book into a theatre show. Even the Maguires aren’t entirely sure quite how they should describe what they do, which embraces installation, dioramas, music videos, animation and performance.

“Maybe you wouldn’t describe a lot of what we do as theatre, but it’s always got strong theatrical elements,” says Kristin. Their first pop-up theatre venture, The Icebook, was certainly different – a delicate fairytale that mixed paper and animation to such cunning effect that the experience was like falling headfirst into a pop-up story from childhood. The whole thing was so fragile, it felt like a dream.

The McGuires saw The Icebook as a miniature calling card, and were surprised when it became an international hit. “We thought of it as a try-out for a bigger show,” says Davy, “but people enjoyed its intimacy.” Kristin agrees: “When you start playing with scale, it makes people look in a new way. Their focus is different. They start seeing the detail and all the small moments in the story. In a digital world, there is something appealing about something which is hand-crafted. With CGI, you can just conjure up something so quickly and easily, but when it’s made by hand you can see beauty in the tiny imperfections.”

Davy nods. “People always ask how it’s done, but we don’t want to tell them. It’s not just for commercial reasons, but because we want to keep the element of magic and surprise.”

The 'Paper Architect' theatrical project by Davy and Kristin McGuire

Nonetheless, despite the success of The Icebook, last Christmas the McGuires expanded their scale to create a stage version of Diana Wynne Jones’s children’s novel Howl’s Moving Castle at Southwark Playhouse. Undaunted by the worldwide success of Hayao Miyazaki’s 2004 animated film version, the McGuires set out to create their own take on the story of a young milliner called Sophie who must try to escape the curse put on her by a witch.

“It was a good experience, but a stressful one,” recalls Kristin of the show, which combined pre-recorded narration by Stephen Fry, live actors and a pop-up castle upon which was projected hundreds of images. The castle was acclaimed as a thing of visual wonder, but juggling all the different aspects of the production was a steep learning curve, and one that the McGuires were not keen to repeat too quickly.

As a result, The Paper Architect, supported by £37,000 from the prestigious Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust award, which aims to support theatremakers working in unusual and innovative ways, combines live action with animation. Once again it employs a tiny scale, this time to tell the story of a lonely elderly man who is about to be evicted from his studio, and who is wondering how life might have turned out differently – a melancholic piece that, the McGuires hope, combines reality and imagination in powerful ways.

“Perhaps that man could have been me,” says Davy, “if the lonely child had grown into a lonely old man. I know that character.” For all sorts of reasons, we should be glad he didn’t.

Cultural Revolutions

One of things I enjoy most about writing this blog is that I am always learning. So today I’m going to share something totally new to me, Ache Lhamo, Tibetan Folk Opera.

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Lhamo, meaning sister goddess, is a traditional Tibetan folk opera performed through a unique combination of dialogue, dance, chants, pantomime and songs. Based on Buddhist teachings and Tibetan historical figures, Ache Lhamo are traditionally stories of love, devotion, good and evil.

Lhamo has it’s roots in the masked dance-drama tradition of the Tibetan royal dynasty in the 6th to 9th centuries, but the development of Lhamo as it is known today is attributed to the 14th century teacher and self-made engineer, Thangtong Gyalpo. Thangtong Gyalpo developed a performance medium that told moral tales, based on Buddhist philosophy, in the words of the common people

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Lhamo is a day long performance played outdoors traditionally under a large circular canvas tent. Music is simple, however the cymbals and drum create remarkable atmosphere. Costumes generally imitate those of the Tibetan aristocracy, and some characters wear masks, which portray their personality with bold symbols.

Lhamo Masks

However, and not surprisingly, Lhamo now has a more political context. The role of China in Tibet over the last 60 years remains one of the biggest human rights tragedies. The suppression or tight control of most of the cultural and religious practices of indigenous Tibetans is well-known. Lhamo only exists in traditional form outside of Tibet where it has been kept alive by exiles.  The most famous centre is in Dharamsala, India, and is known as the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA).  TIPA was established in August 1959, four months after the Dali Lama fled Tibet. You can watch one of their performances here:

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There is a facsinating blog post, The Wandering Goddess, Sustaining the spirit of Ache Lhamo in the Exile Tibetan capital written by Jamyang Norbu, that tells story of the revival of Lhamo following the Chinese occupation. It is clear from all I have read that the practice of Lhamo by the Tibetan refugee community across the world evokes nostalgia for a lost existence and the struggle for a return to the Tibetan Buddhist homeland.

Meanwhile in Tibet itself it has been ‘redeveloped’ by China following the Cultural Revolution and used to support Chinese claims to Tibet. If you want to read more you can do here, in a rather scholarly paper entitled Tibetan Folk Opera: Lhamo in Contemporary Cultural Politics by Syed Jamil Ahmed.

I said earlier, the music that accompanies Lhamo is traditionally played on a drum and cymbols alone – take a look at this dude:

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Norbu Tsering, was the TIPA opera master and drummer until he sadly passed away earlier this year. Another link with past traditions lost.

Burying Brecht?

I recently came across a great way of sharing audio streams,  soundcloud.com. A lot of theatres and practitioners are using it as a way of sharing panel discussions. I have set up a sister site to this one so I can add to the diversity of what I post here. I won’t always duplicate posts or what I subscribe to on soundcloud so check it out occasionally to see what I have re-posted. You can find Theatre Room Asia on soundcloud here.

I am going to share a great one today, which is a panel discussion of German and English theatre practitioners on the relevance of Bertolt Brecht and Brechtian theatre in the modern theatrical landscape.

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To coincide with our production of A Life of Galileo, and in collaboration with the Goethe Institute in London, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) hosted a ‘Brecht Meeting’ of British and German theatre makers in March 2013.
Chaired by Mark Ravenhill (RSC playwright in residence and writer of our new English version of A Life of Galileo), we explored the relevance (if any) that Brecht has for us as contemporary theatre makers.

Has Brecht now become a familiar ‘classic’, who can be produced in the same way that we might play Shakespeare or Schiller?

Does he still present challenges that allow us to ask important questions in the making of new theatre?

Should we bury his work and move on as though he never happened?

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And if would like to, you hear an interview with the director of A Life of Galileo, Roxana Silbert, with journalist Paul Allen.

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