Costumes… and some observations

And so we have arrived: production week.  I feel surprisingly relaxed about things.  I don’t know if it is because I have mellowed; at one time I would have been in a state of high nervous tension at around this stage.  But I seem to be able to adopt a far more que sera attitude nowadays.  It is, after all, only a play.  And looking at events around the world does lend a greater sense of perspective.

I arrived early (I may be more relaxed, but I still need time to pace and think.)  But as the others began to arrive, so did the rain, with heavy grey clouds on all sides.  And this is at a season when, so I have often been assured, it does not rain.  Huh!  We retired to the classroom, and waited for the rest to join us.

Binyam and his wife Beza turned up bearing bags with various costume items.  Beza had made costumes for both sets of twins, and though they may have been a little bright and shiny for my taste, but they were traditional in style, and certainly served the purpose of conveying the twins’ similarity.  The Prince too had a splendid embroidered cloak, but everyone else was in their normal modern garb, so I tried to put across to Binyam that they all needed to look as though they existed in the same world.  I was not expecting Beza to magic up costumes for everyone, but thought it likely that they could manage for themselves items with a more traditional feel. And, though I could not be sure what Binyam was saying, it seemed the message was conveyed, and that they would bring in such items tomorrow.

With the sun having come out and dried the terrace, we returned there to rehearse some of the physical scenes that they were not yet getting right, and then attempt a run-through.  They almost remembered the structure, with just the one big glitch, and in general I was pleased – It was an improvement on Saturday.  Still no flats, more costumes to come, no sound… but all that for tomorrow.

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Some other observations.  I have realised that I may have given a slightly misleading impression of Addis Ababa.  Understandably, I have focused in my more general blogposts upon those aspects of life here which are different, more exotic – the poverty, the traffic, etc.  But Addis is not a medieval throwback.  Sure there are battered taxis and minibuses, and occasionally herds of goats, but there are also modern saloons, pick-ups, SUVs, just like everywhere else.  And there is a clear middle-class, smartly-dressed office-workers and the like.  They may not be paid as much as they ought, but that’s a normal situation too.

But Ethiopians do like to pride themselves on their exceptionalism.  They are the only African nation never to have been colonised, and they have a proud and ancient history, with a civilisation roughly co-existent with the Greeks.  And, as I discovered today, their own unique way (I think) of measuring time.  I had had my suspicions of something of the kind, with frequent confusion as to when rehearsals were starting, but today I was told of their own clock, which starts when they and the sun rise, in other words six hours behind ours.

I knew already that their calendar was different too; I had been here for their new year in September.  But what I didn’t know is that they have thirteen months; twelve of thirty days each, and then a religious holiday for five days (during which, apparently, they are not paid… though they do still have to pay rent.)  And actually, when you think about it, both ideas have a modicum of sense.  Having every month the same length is a sensible way of organising things, instead of our confusing mish-mash, explained by a rhyme.  And why should our day start in the middle of the night, when most people are asleep.  Regrettably, I can’t see the rest of the world changing, however sensible it might be, but Ethiopia seems quite happy to tread its own path.

  1. Pamela Blair

    The time difference is interesting. In Swahili-speaking equatorial countries (at least, Tanzania), the word for dawn and dusk is “saa sita” or six o’clock, since the sun always rises and falls at that Europeanized hour. I don’t know what it was called before the European colonizers arrived. As for Ethiopia’s claim to never being colonized, wasn’t it at least occupied by the Italians during WWII? I looked it up on Google and it was made a colony in 1936. See below:
    The King of Italy (Victor Emmanuel III) was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia and the Italians created an Italian empire in Africa (Italian East Africa) with Ethiopia, Eritrea and Italian Somalia in spring 1936. In 1937 Mussolini boasted that, with his conquest of Ethiopia, “finally Adua was avenged.” So I wonder what Ethiopians mean when they say it was never a colony.

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