Tai Chi Puppeteering…

From stillness, through breath, comes life

From stillness, through breath, comes life

And with life, there's movement

And with life, there’s movement

From a core, focussed and centred.

From a core, focussed and centred.

Believing makes believe.

Believing makes believe.

From whence comes story.

From whence comes story.

With protagonists.

With protagonists.

And humour

And humour


Credits to Jin Tao, Li Dong & Gou Shou -performing their creation and to Craig Leo, who gave them permission to have fun.

Broken…

A day of doing mundane back-room work for the show… no excitement of thousands applauding in the arena, no creative rehearsals with talented performers who call me teacher (in both European and Chinese languages), no discourse on developing ideas.
But ordinary things needed to be concluded.
My bag is broken after months of living out of it… daily zipping and unzipping. Nothing for it but to abandon & replace, as I don’t need more of my belongings strewn.
My new glasses are broken… though that’s because they were poorly put together by Boots, who’d stripped the thread on the right arms hinge, but sent anyway… that’s why Britain’s destined for only historical recognition.
My ego is broken… We’re to embrace yet more changes, when what we really need is time to properly enact the well considered ideas we have.

But then there’s art!
Here’s a few of the favourite paintings I spent time with in this city’s kunsterhalle…

A favourite Fuselli

A favourite Fuselli


Head for a few hours of looking at pigment daubed, knived, stroked onto canvas. Utterly inspirational.
Picasso did this

Picasso did this


I could sit in there for hours, but was again – politely moved out.
More Munch

More Munch


And I hadn’t even tried the lower floor.

Happy hours in Hamburg…

Arrived at the hotel… left bags in room and caught a bus into the centre (a long way)… wanting to see something of this great port city before dark.
Impressive in every way that a world trade centre can be. The scale of the still very active docks, the grand 19th century buildings honouring mercantile activity, the ongoing remodelling expressing Germany’s commercial success and the red light district.

I’d been looking for (and found) the Soviet sub, permanently moored as a museum piece… I spent an hour alone inside, able to touch – though with care… cast metal leaves marks in your head, see – not very far, as every square millimetre was accounted for (the ratings were three to a bunk) and smell – even after years of inactivity the stench of diesel filled my nostrils… this would have been the complete experience of those who served.

Dive! Dive!

Dive! Dive!

Herbertstrasse
Walked through this infamous street, where girls adorn windows, with silicon and plastic expanded virtue on display. And they tell me, as they beckon like barbie sirens, that, “It’s happy hour,” which means, that so long as you’re in the room before 8pm, you get it half price. Who can resist such an offer? Actually, I’d prefer real treats. Ironically – in windows of the new development over the way, city boys run on treadmills in tight shorts, oblivious to the comparison.
No images allowed or wanted, so here’s something of a similar vein from a few centuries early.

Come hither?

Come hither?


Davidstrasse
Immediately next to the most seedy, is the best restaurant I’ve come upon in Germany… or possibly ever! It rivals my long term London home, that was Villa Marias in Gospel Oak… I dreamt about it even – the effect of the wine?
Cuneo is the name of the family who gave this place it’s title. They began here in 1905 and do not need to advertise. I happen upon it, because I notice ‘like’ people entering a darkened door… of habit, I follow – and am welcomed by a lady in unpretentious cotton print dress and cardigan… I know I’m in for a treat.
Bruschetta with olives and primitivo

Bruschetta with olives and a glass of primitivo


Home made (Grandma's recipe) spinach ravioli with roasted pistachio

Home made (Grandma’s recipe) spinach ravioli with roasted pistachio and a glass of primitivo


Fegato... thin sliced, pan fried in butter with sage and primitivo

Fegato… thin sliced, pan fried in butter with sage and a glass of primitivo


There was also wonderful home made Tiramisu… with a dusting of fresh cocao that made me cough, but by then the Primitivo had got the better of me and I couldn’t be assed to take a picture.

After yesterday…

Went to the U art gallery… Ernst, Kirschner, Jawlensky were there, as was Picasso with some more of his prolific outpourings. It might bear the name, but not all Picasso’s are equal – the king should know that.

It is a famous gallery, for an infamous act: It’s the place where the cleaner mistook a piece of modern indulgence for rubbish and dutifully cleaned it up.

But there was piece that touched – it had been created as an experience for those who had not been to Auschwitz or the like, and works still.

Simple idea, beautifully done

Simple idea, beautifully done

Particularly after my hours in prison yesterday.

As you pass under the lights, with suitcase in hand, the sound of a steam train starting off begins – and proceeds – and arrives, while you walk on cutlery… that most mundane of daily utility objects.

As I tinkled through, I grasped the barbed wired and with pretentious dramatic intent left a little blood.

Some questions and half answers…

Had a better opportunity to wander – deliberately took time for myself, hoping to restore some balance – emerging from the confines of my very comfortable hotel late afternoon… How far from the experience of the ghosts I sought to meet.

I’d heard that there was a poignant memorial to the 1933-45 catastrophe here in Dortmund… The Steinwache (Stone police) prison, built into the area that would have been part of the medieval city wall. A functional police station, as you’d have in any city district, but under the Nazis, it took to darker purpose.

Staff at the hotel didn’t know of it, neither did the taxi driver, but it can be found – close to the Hauptbannhof (main train station), adjacent to the shiny cinema multiplex, with themed mexican cantina.

Overlooked and dwarfed by the cinema complex behind

Overlooked and dwarfed by the cinema complex behind

During Nazi rule, more than 66,000 people were imprisoned here.

Stone eagle sits proudly atop

Steinwache, complete with stone eagle sitting proudly atop

The door closes and sound on the inside is different…
I buy a guide for 50cents and begin my journey back.

Stairs to understanding

Stairs to understanding

The first room is for registration and in it, one of the most chilling sights: A page from the register, orderly and carefully completed.
…Date, number, name, address, reason, all entered in beautiful script by an obviously educated hand, things properly recorded in that matter-of-fact German way… no indication, that the nib was dipped in blood.

Apart from the atmosphere, which is near tangible, the thing that is particularly useful about this real memorial, is the explanation; sensitively illustrated on cell wall after cell wall, of The Why… the social, political – and most importantly – economic forces that were responsible for creating a space in which such could happen.

Germany was ruined… the punitive settlement demanded as a result of being a loser in that first of the centuries world conflagrations, was compounded by the effects of ‘The Wall Street Crash’ of Oct 1928… call it what you will, The Famine (soviet), The Depression (the west)… the economic crisis was unprecedented and global in it’s scale.
In Germany it triggered mass unemployment, from about 1.8 million out of about 28 million in 1929, to around 7 million in 1932, with a national government incapable of helping.

Would I have voted yes?

Would I have voted yes?

This created a fertile environment for radical political groups and while the official parties of the Reichstag quarrelled, the ‘Combat Leagues’ (the paramilitary wings of the various groups), fought it out on the streets. In the 1932 elections, over a hundred died and more than a thousand were injured in these running skirmishes.

In January of 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor and in March of that year, the Reichstag voted through, ‘The Enabling Act’, which shifted power directly to Hitler, who could countermand parliament and the constitution. The Weimar Republic was finished.

And so it began… The Reichstag was fired, the free press dismantled, the unions eliminated, any art not in the service of Nazi ideology was proclaimed degenerate and banned, resistance was brutally crushed, all opponents of the regime rightly feared for their lives and systematically, those considered a danger to the ‘Peoples Community’ (Volksgemeinschaft) were persecuted.

Would I have burned books?

Would I have burned books?

The grip effectively tightened.

9-10th November !938 – Reichskristallnacht… the pogroms began, 30,000 jews were arrested, 91 killed. The Times wrote at the time: “No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.”

Would I have guarded the gate?

Would I have guarded the gate?

In these walls, the ‘Enemies’ of National Socialism were gathered, registered, assessed, interrogated, tortured, murdered.
…The political opponents, the outspoken liberals, those who believed in freedom, the degenerate artists, the uppity women, the homosexuals, the deformed, the slave workers who objected, the ones who simply pissed off some SS supporter, the Sinti, the Roma and of course, by their tens of thousand – the Jews.

What badge would I have worn?

What badge would I have worn?

If they survived this place and remained in the system, the railway station was just next door, where goods trains could be loaded with all the undesirables and sent to the East.

Would I have held the gun?

Would I have held the gun?

Organisation & efficiency is the key and German’s have a knack for it…
Even the concentration camps were beautifully and scrupulously laid out.

Perfectly to plan

Perfectly to plan

When we played Erfurt, I learnt that the local Tofps company were inventive in developing crematoria for use in these camps.

And German chemists ingeniously developed the use of Zyklon B (hydrogen cyanide)… so saving on bullets and the mental anguish of the soldiers who would otherwise have been shooting the condemned.

All carefully considered and achieved with precision… the regime built a machine who’s dynamic thrust was greater than any one cog, or even piston… it became near unstoppable. Created out of need in very dark times, seen as a saviour, it denied individuality and self, and promoted absolutism.

Would I have amongst these?

Would I have amongst these?

But it was eventually stopped and I think that significant credit should be given to those within, who resisted, even when the cost was torture and death. With the allies battering at the door, the efforts to undermine from within, helped loosen the hinge.

Still standing

Still standing

I learn, that in 1945 – the day before the American forces liberated Dortmund, 300 objectors/enemies of the Nazi regime were taken from Steinwache, out into the local woods and shot… so that the evidence would be lost.

Not much space to hang a hat

Not much space to hang a hat

Dortmund Pullman…

An eye on the past

An eye on the past

This is better – Luxury!
I arrived at our hotel to find a bath, a kettle and an internet connection, all available in my room (the first such happy state in over a month)… spent contented hours, soaking, drinking tea and listening to a download of Cerys Matthews from 6 Music… top tracks, including Bob Dylan singing “lay lady lay”, an anthem from my childhood. It crept into the valleys and into my head via the battery operated radio I listened to under the bedclothes.
Bliss.
Thinking I’m ready to face the world – scrubbed off, tea’d up and chilled out, I head for the lobby desk, to see if my spare glasses have arrived… I lost the last pair in Frankfurt (this tours command: packing, unpacking, in business hotels and monster venues with no allowed private space, is causing me to leave a trail of belongings across Germany… including now; a second pair of glasses). Amos had posted a pair to arrive ahead of me… they haven’t, and I discover that I really need them, as – upon returning to my room, I spend several angry minutes pushing on the door, in an attempt to get my key to work. Then the door opens and a startled occupant kindly explains that my room is 205… as it says in bold on the fob I’m clutching, and not 203!

The me I'd like to see

The me I’d like to see

France soon…

We’ve been shown where we’ll be going over these next three tour months… the lines of our progress will again resemble the attempts of a psychotic spider to create a web.

All these places will have 1664

All these places will have 1664

An early get-out permits for a little celebrating.

Stairway of stars

Stairway of stars

Teacher…

I am in the extremely happy position of my words being enjoyed and heard by the talented performers I’m working with on a daily basis. We have developed a trust, not based on my knowing, but on my continuing to wonder.

Still on the journey myself

Still on the journey

Security…

Don't mess with my mates

Don’t mess with my mates

It has been suggested that I shouldn’t leave my bag and coat in the dressing room, while busy rehearsing, directing, maintaining, repairing, reporting or performing. Having looked at the people I share the dressing room with… I judge my belongings safe.