Strands must come together…

Typical day starts at 8am with the creatives meeting, when the schedule which has been carefully crafted by Guy, with input from all departments, is ‘modified’, to take account of what’s possible, given the current state. Yes, the strands are coming together, but not necessarily in the order that was originally planned.

Like this

Acrobatic aristocracy, Yan Yan Zhao – loves to play, “…make it something worth coming to see… right?” Her strands are coming together nicely.

…there are so many strands –

The flying rig, which in and of itself would be more than enough of a gag for most shows, has layer after layer, winches, travels and drops – pushing the technology and the ability of the programmer, right to the edge.

The motorised motion control stage platforms… now called Earth, which form and reform (millimetre perfect), around creatures who mount and dismount blind in time with the score.

The video screen proscenium wall… which creates the glacial backdrop, forms the scenery, and splits to allow through passage of hefty mammoth family on chord cue.

There’s more of course… but you can imagine, that any one of these mentioned stage effects, might sometimes take just a tad longer than was originally allotted.

And then there’s me… who gets so carried away in a Scrat movement workshop, that I loose track of time and cause a schedule pile up.

But it’s all taken in good spirit and the spreadsheet gets adjusted once more.

 

 

Day off…

Looking for the slot

Woken at the same time, not by my alarm, but by the pile driving cranes which inhabit the rubble heap next door… roll over, doesn’t work… pillow over head, doesn’t work… Radio 4’s Today programme, drift back to sleep… have odd news story dream…

[My mattresses motors fire up and it drifts out from beneath me, hovers as if to say goodbye and then shoots through the letter box which has suddenly appeared under the mirror on my hotel room wall, while I – float like a magic trick, above the space it left, my bedsheet draping down. A light flashes and directs my look to the symbol of an empty meter which has appeared in the mirror, next to a polite Dutch woman, who informs me, with that air stewardess smile, that further mattress taxes are due, as I seem to be having more rest than is allotted.

“OK, ok, it’s worth it for another hour”… I swivel my legs over the mattress void, toes find carpet… good, seek wallet, take out card, now where’s the slot, “No sir, cards are not accepted… it is cash only and, due to the current economic crisis this room presently faces, there is a premium.” Look in wallet… it’s Ok, I have some Euros, put two in, look at meter… no difference? Put on glasses and read small print explaining charges. Two trillion required!]
There will be no easing here, quantitative or otherwise… might as well get up. And yes, I am now properly awake, though grumpy. Throw on clothes and head for coffee in the hotel restaurant.
Their closing.
A day off yes, but not a day of rest methinks.

End of the first week…

Ici Ice Age – Live!

Debra Brown, Jacques Heim, Yung Biau Lin (check their Cirque credentials if you’re wondering)

I am applauded by those I consider genius… whose artistry has fired imagination.

‘Were there at the beginning, with skill that broke the prison of the dullard.
I call them fools and liars of the first order (the highest accolade).
They congratulate me on my propensity for play and allow me trusted space.
With each new student they send to my curtained cave, I spend a sweaty hour,
by the end – each is different, which allows me the title… Teacher.

More tomorrow…

I keep thinking that I’ll write more tomorrow, as today was such a big day… that 6:30 will come fast and that surely, I’ll be better able to type full thoughts, not just this odd collection of half descriptions… but I think it’s unlikely, so here’s a nice picture, which will have to suffice.

How to roll a rock up hill

Everyone has a story…

Getting a leg up in the industry

I’m beginning to get to know, but it’s tricky… I’m dull, and have no ear for Chinese.

However Yan Yan Zhao speaks very good English, lives now in Vegas, puts on shows all over the world. She’s the daughter of a very famous chinese acrobatic family… a dynasty you might say, and I’ve seen her before. Back in 1987, I’d been invited to LA for an audition (didn’t go well), but the trip was made worthwhile, as I got to Cirque du Soliel for my very first time – on Santa Monica peer… she was the girl on the bicycle. Marvellous! A show that made me want to run away to the circus, even if it meant sweeping the floors.

Guess I’m a rather slow runner… it’s taken me twenty five years to get here. And I’ve not been asked to sweep the floor yet.

 

Getting to know…

Inside the costume I’m largely unaware of much except how we’re shambling about… but apparently, from outside it looks amazing. Though we still haven’t successfully managed lifting the 400lb sucker with style and grace.

When not grunting on the inside, I’m seeing strap acts, aerial, ring and even eight Chinese acrobats in polar bear suits stacked and riding a ball, beautiful skaters cutting fine choreographed lines and spectacle that has emerged from minds of that can be accounted artistic genius.

And very generously… their letting me play, in their circus.

looking out from my performance position

Ball control…

My legs could never do this

More of the same except of course, it’s not… yes the same as yesterday and the day before, in terms of things that I did, busses that I waited for, no dinner at the end of it – but in comparison with other peoples days…?

There is amazing talent around every corner (in the proper sense of those words) Olga for instance, slavic and shy… she’s been rehearsing her moment as Scratte, she brings her olympic standard gymnastic floor exercise to our warehouse on this Utrecht industrial estate.
I could go on, but not tonight. Over time, I hope to have the umphh to write all of their stories, but for now, just the one picture.

Early stages…

Fitting up

Today we put people into costumes and tried out configurations determined remotely over these last months by individuals thousands of miles apart, based on decisions made for practical and corporate reasons. You might well imagine that this would turn into a nightmare… it didn’t. Long yes, and tricky, requiring patience and lots of running around… but I thought it went pretty well. Though saying that; there’s no way, we can sustain these hours across months of performance. Hope it finds a rhythm soon.
No time for dinner tonight, though I did get a lift back to the hotel, rather than waiting on a dark street, in an industrial park, for a number 37 or 38, which might have stopped running by ten-o-clock. Arghhh… the glamour of theatre!

Unpacking…

I now have a Dutch social security number… no matter from where you hale, no matter your specific talent, you still have to queue to satisfy bureaucracy… but thanks to this – I’ll be paid, weekly, for months, to the degree where it should make a difference.

That unhappy looking Chinese girl, the one about eleven year old daughter Ely’s size, the one who wouldn’t/couldn’t say boo to a goose… she’s a wushu expert. Don’t mess with her… you’ll end up in bits. And the reason she looks unhappy… she’s the only girl in a group of kung fu boys. Following their queuing for bureaucracy, they were taken to a chinese supermarket today… it’s an agreed part of their contract (though paid least with most talent), where they bought provisions, returning to the hotel with trolley loads, enough for all and all for €51.

What remained of the morning was spent enjoying watching Guy work with Alice. She does it well under his direction –  his pointers are generous and helpful, a natural clown, able to use his body to express regardless of language. She is determined to make it work… though I think that the rigours of this schedule will result in blister on blister, till callous forms… she’ll accept that as a reasonable price.

I helped Aaron and Amy from Michael Curry Studios unpack the creatures this afternoon… it got better and better, as by turns, the front was unscrewed and lifted away from each travel crate, and there, revealed, true to Ice Age, was Sid, Diego, Crash & Eddie, Buck and of course Scrat… utterly recognisable, wholly endearing and, let’s not forget – commercially successful.

Then Peaches, ‘Wow’ adorable! Eyes as big as saucers, perky tale that swings when she trots… Just the right height for children. A winner!

Ellie is big and gorgeous… her great butt will swing (calf bearing hips). We put her together… crank her to full height, add inflated legs, bolt on trunk, connect cable controls… she is magnificent. 200pounds of foam and fur, steel and genius.

And, last thing tonight…
Manny (400pounds) emerges, a little shy at first – similar in physical structure to Ellie, but of a different scale.
We go through the same process, but now have to over-reach, to tighten the bolts. Having cranked him up, I stand before him and am caught in a moment of contemplative silence… If I can perform him, this will be awesome!

Todd

A room with a view…

 

Another outlook

I’m in a Utrecht hotel, surrounded by Chinese acrobats, doing the most amazing flips between fag breaks. They’ve just been given the lecture about not cooking in their rooms… I saw several furtively glance down at the bags they’d secreted. It’s going to be noodles at midnight.

Just had a bit of a shock… I was introduced to this very gorgeous French girl, ‘Nice in spandex on Ice’, thinks I. Nope – she’s playing Sid. Now in my head, this doesn’t compute… hey-ho – the magic of theatre.

I’m told, that tomorrow, I get to unpack the crate that contains Manny and can begin the learning. Part of which will include, how to utilise the special lever, fixed at my groin level… which when pulled vigorously, will lift the weight bearing undercarriage – permitting me to step from the ice up onto the stage truck… I’m sure there’ll be more on this!

And, I’ve been made aware that some of the potential weight has been removed by the use of inflated sections. Very clever – so long as I don’t get a puncture mid performance… now there’s a picture in my head of the mammoth spiralling across the rink as it deflates, with the inevitable accompanying fart sound, and my being left in view of the 16,000 audience with a flaccid skin, big ears and a trunk.
It has begun.

Embarking…

Not sure which one is me… maybe all?

Everywhere I look, there are things to deal with.

The closest I can come to emotionally addressing the enormity of this adventure, is to liken it to a voyage… A Toddysey.

 

Booked my flight today and unearthed my dance supports. Sadly, the bronze one I saved from my twenties, is no longer up to the task.

Need to start assembling provisions…

Tea – goes without saying, but a years supply?

Tunes – trusty ipod will serve… gone are the days of choosing the few favourite tapes to play till they stretch on a sony walkman.

Sense of humour – I hope that it doesn’t get damaged in transit.

 

Last night, as family were otherwise engaged, I stood on the lawn and watched the universe.

A moment of pondering…

In vision, a shooting star fired and went out above me – its journey now complete.

From my vantage, the river dominates sound – as, in ageless tumbling, it continues to cut a path.

And, as if to support my resolve – the owls called their farewells from the woods under Nattadon