A drum, some Beckett, some machines and a bit of slow-motion mayhem

posted in: Hotel Lessons | 0

I had brought a drum back from Lebanon, from the summer my wife Val and I volunteered at a school for Syrian refugees there, with the intention that I would learn, or be taught, how to play it.  But it has remained, unused, gathering dust in a corner of our bedroom since then.  So when I discovered that Roji was a percussionist, I brought it in so that it could be put to use. 

But before there were enough people to make it so, I decided to use the time while Roji and Hamed were the only ones there to give them the first page or two of Godot, a little edited, for them to work on.  Their English is very good, and they are both natural performers, natural clowns even, so this is perhaps a good vehicle for them.  And if the experience of the asylum-seeker is anything, it is waiting, so there could scarcely be a more relevant play.  And they made an excellent start.  We read through it, I explained those words they did not know, gave them an idea of the tone of voice implied by the text, and we blocked it out.  And at the end of the session they ran through it again, this time with a bit of an audience.

But between their two run-throughs, we had acquired some more participants, so I used an idea I have kept in reserve for a week or two, especially since it was much enhanced by the use of the drum.  It was “machine” type work, building up rhythms, first with sounds , then a word in their own language, then in English, then a sentence in English, in each case running through a repeating cycle.  And in the final attempt, an accelerating rhythm, which was really effective.

I should explain that, with the Home Office once again taking over our usual space, we were in the dining room entrance, a space which acts as a sort of informal lounge.  It does mean that we have to share it with children rampaging around on scooters, people passing through on their way to eat, and others sitting around, whiling away the time, staring at phones.  It does allow us to impact a wider group, and on this occasion we attracted the attention of a Kuwaiti man and his daughter, who happened to be sitting near us, and was persuaded to join us.  He spoke virtually no English, only Arabic, so this did pose some challenges, but he was cheerful enough, and both of them joined in with the machine idea (though, as is common here, when a phone call came through, he had to leave the group to take it.)

In addition, we had the return pf Fahime, who has been missing for a week or two, plus Bahar, the girl who came last week, plus another Iranian young woman, another newcomer (sorry, can’t recall the name) who seemed to enjoy the work.

We tried out some slow-motion ideas at this point, in my attempt to do some work that is purely physical.  There is no real method to my choice of work.  I usually have an idea or two that I might use, but it very much depends on who turns up (and at what stage) so I am forced to be flexible (or, more often, to draw on my limited repertoire of ideas.)  Nonetheless, it was a good class; we made some progress, and there was lots of laughter. 

Some moves too, towards finding an alternative space, more open to a wider range of participants, less dependent on the whims of the Home Office.

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