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My First Villach Blog – Die Brucke – Il Ponte

April 13, 2010

Have just returned from Villach. As always thanks are owed to so many people – lovely Villach companions, Emma, Tash and Liz, Gerald Groechenig for organising the symposium, Ruth and Susan for all their work behind the scenes in the UK, the warmth and friendliness of the folk from la Baracca and Toihaus, Helga Gruber’s tireless efforts on our behalf, the enthusiasms of Prof Hanne and the learners from Potsdam – really my whole experience of the Dandelion project has been one of human warmth and positivity – and just sorry that Rachel was not with us to share this final symposium but it was a delight to get to know Liz.

And thank you to the blue sky and the sun and the snow topped mountains!

Blue sky and mountainsI was also very grateful to another Helga – who was our tireless translator throughout the symposium. This was a tough job as she was attempting simultaneous translation for the 4 of us and, inevitably, it was not possible to follow everything that was being said as translating on the go like this with no pauses is a tough challenge. As a result I think much was lost in translation which, to some extent, explains the paucity of my notes. Despite this lack of coherent notes I will share my impressions of a few things.

Firstly I was very excited to get to see the outcome of the collaboration between Toihaus and La Baracca on their production the Bridge “Die Brucke – Il Ponte”. As Tash and I had been at some of the rehearsals for this in December – and knowing that the process had not been an easy one (how could it be? two countries, two very different styles of work, an interesting but challenging subject – a piece of work created in this way was never going to pop up fully formed over night) – we were eager to see what had emerged. So it was really exciting to discover how everyone had pushed through all these ‘problems’ to create a coherent but elusive, dream like piece of theatre in which the bridges were many – bridges between two languages, physical bridges, bridges between colours, between hot and cold, between people. As the piece had developed over a period of time in, I suspect, a rather staccato fashion, the task of melding everything into a coherent whole was a challenge and Valeria Frabetti thanked the choreographer who had come in during the final stage and found a physical language for the whole production. The flow that this created was a noticeable and welcome development from the earlier improvisations.

The company made an interesting decision. Accepting that the content of the production was ‘difficult’ they created a back story to place the theatre performance in context. Thus the actor started off with the audience outside the theatre space in the foyer, a blue river of cloth by their feet and told them the story of a river and the two lots of people who lived either side of it, the warm (red/orange) people and the cold (blue/indigo) people  and how they distrusted each other and threw stones across the river which would fall in the water below.

Waiting by the blue river

One day the water receded and the children saw the stones and they built a bridge so that they could visit each other, for the children were not part of the adults arguments. (This is the gist of the story – it was spoken in German and Italian and I speak neither). The man telling this story remembered being told this story when he was a child and every night he dreamed about making bridges. Through this simple storytelling narrative we were given the key to identifying with the more abstract episodic style that followed which was both aurally and visually absorbing.  The company had experimented at different performances, sometimes having the storytelling at the beginning and sometimes doing it without and had, I think, decided that the production benefited from having it . And we watched the production twice – the first time the children were sat on the floor and they really listened to the story and when they went in to the space they were a lively and engaged audience. At the later performance for some reason the audience were all stood up in a crowded bunch and were thus less attentive to the storytelling.  I think this was a mistake as they seemed to be a less absorbed audience but that could also have something to do with performing at 4.00pm when everyone (including me) was a little bit tired.

Anyway I enjoyed the performance. It was intelligent and intriguing and targeted a wide age range though not really, I would say, the very young. There was a group of young adolescents in the first audience and they seemed to really enjoy it. The text of the play was spoken in both languages so some parts were in German  and some in Italian. I was thinking that we were all sat there having different experiences as some spoke both languages, some neither and some just one. Thus I guess we will all have carried away different impressions but this was, in any case, a multi faceted theatrical experience.

I will end my first blog with a photo for Tash!

For Astrid and Otto - so this is what Mummy gets up to!!

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