posted in: Hotel Lessons | 0

A small group today, though it was good to see Abdulaziz there, from the very beginning for once, with no college commitments.  Frishta was, as she had explained, absent, so we had just the five, the ones who had been to Oxford, with just one replacement.  This did mean we were able to discuss the production to some extent; this is not a Theatre Studies class, so the analysis was fairly basic.  (Though I was intrigued that they had a serious criticism of the Juliet they saw, whom they identified as switching off when not actually speaking, a particular point I had made to them recently.

We also had a bit of a discussion as to where we should take to group from now on.  It had always proved something of a challenge to get the group moving again after a production, with numbers tending to drop rather than grow, meaning it takes something of both an effort and an act of faith to kick things off again.

As a warm-up, I took them through most of the warm-up games and exercises that the R + J cast use, most of which they seemed to enjoy.  And then, with me thinking on my feet, we tried out some improvisational ideas: one was of using various words for walking, then having each character illustrating one of them.  Another idea was to draw on childhood memories, which first each person shared with the group, and then were turned into an improvisation by having the main character switching between narrating the story and performing within it.

It was a short session, necessitated by me having to be back in Oxford in time for the show tonight.  But now that I have a clearer idea of the people involved, I can start to put together ideas for a show which fits both the people and their capabilities.  We have been given notice of a Migrants’ festival in September, so that might provide us with the opportunity and incentive that we need.

Romeo and Juliet in Oxford

posted in: Hotel Lessons | 1

Today was the big day, the expedition to Oxford to see me in action as Capulet in the Wild Goose production of Romeo and Juliet.  It had been intended for some time, but it did look very much like the group would largely have to organise themselves, in the absence of anyone else able to do that.  In particular, it meant them laying out what was for them a considerable sum to pay for their transport.  Fortunately, the tickets for the show were free, and I had also arranged for them to eat vat Damascus Rose, the vegetarian café run set up by Syrian refugee women (and incidentally the same people who had catered for my birthday party.)  But this financial outlay did have the effect of meaning Tulsi was not able to join the group, as he is very short of money )and existing on something like £9 a week.)

So it was quite an exercise in practical democracy and administration for them to research the bus fare etc (at one point, they even considered Uber, which they did think was comparable, but I suspect their research had left something or other out.)  But it was done, with me monitoring their progress via the WhatsApp group we had established for the trip.  I also met them for lunch, to make sure all was well, and so far the trip had been most successful.  First of all they had all met up, they had got to Oxford, and now seemed to be enjoying themselves.  There was a certain confusion about the food, as Neha, vthe lady I had been in contact with, was not there, but all was arranged successfully, and the food was, once again, excellent.

I then left them to renew their exploration, and arranged to meet them for the performance; once again, all was well, and they were early to claim their seats.  Of course, today would be a day when the weather intervened, so we had to relocate to the nearby church just after the start of the second half.  But actually, I quite enjoy performing in the church, and it did mean my guests were able to experience both styles of performance.  And they thoroughly enjoyed the performance, so in that sense too the outing was a success.  Fortunately, I did not mess up in front of them.

It did mean a long and late evening, with a return journey on the bus.  Not without some problems, I believe, but best of all they all got on as a group – Hamed, Aisha, Frishta, Carla and Fereshte – and had apparently had a wonderful time.  Result!


posted in: Hotel Lessons | 1

There had been a three-week gap since our last meeting, and this always raised the possibility of a lack of momentum.  Still, it was not to be helped, and actually I was pleased that we had a reasonably good turn-out, with only Thomas and Abdulaziz missing from our core group, and with Fereshte, a lady who had come to see the Kensal Rise library show, as a new addition.

However, we spent about an hour talking things through.  I had wedding photos to show them (the justification for no class last week) and obviously this provoked a lot of interest.  Then we had to make arrangements for next week’s trip to Oxford… or rather, I had to try to co-ordinate them, for they have to organise themselves for this one.  And finally, we chatted about what the future held for the group.  It is all rather uncertain, as what we do is dependent upon who turns up, and that has difficulties attached.  Dasha is pretty much withdrawing from the class, as she has all her time mapped out for her; the good news is that she has been offered an unconditional place at university in London for next term, and that her funding is assured.

(Out of interest, Frishta also has an unconditional place, but that is dependent upon her getting a scholarship, while for Aisha, she needs to pass as important English exam, as well as securing funding.)  But their lives are always confused and beset by forces beyond their control; in some ways, it is a miracle that we have survived as long as we have.

But then, with an hour to go, we got on with some practical work.  Whie waiting for numbers to stabilise, we need to focus on skills and techniques, so we used a spontaneous improvisation idea, which I call one in, one out, and requires quicjk changes from one scene to another.  As such, it was quite a difficult concept, but they made real progress, and all of them grew in confidence.  We then moved on to a prepared improvisation concept, in which I give them some starting ideas for a scene, and working in small groups, they have time to develop it.  In this case, I gave them: a journey, an umbrella, and some fruit, and one group had the inspired idea of picking strawberries, and then transporting them in an upturned umbrella.  Very clever, very entertaining.

During the class, Zeina, a friend of Hamed’s from the food bank, came to join us, to talk about a possible collaborative project, which we discussed at the end of the class.  But before that, she was happy to join in, and proved herself very capable.

Another interruption next week, because of the Oxford trip, but such opportunities are just that – opportunities – and not obstacles.