Double acts

posted in: Hotel Lessons | 0

I met up with Hamed and Roji (and were later joined by Aisha) in Oxford.  Major focus was to catch a production being put on at the Old Fire Station, Oxford’s arts centre, of a play called Mohan and Peter, recommended to us by Matilda.  There were various connections with our own work – the fact that it has a cast of two, that it deals with the experience of being a refugee, that it makes a lot of using physical theatre.

But this was also an opportunity for Roji to visit Oxford.  We did not have a lot of money, but had time to kill before the performance, and at least something of Oxford to see.  It was cold – this was February, after all, so we went to the Pitt Rivers (which was very warm) and spent a while there, haphazardly looking at some of the exhibits.  And then, venturing outside once more, we took an extended walk around the city centre, admiring buildings from the outside.  We did almost visit the Bear pub (with its collection of ties), but it was too busy and crowded, so ventured instead into part of Christ Church meadows.

Eventually, we killed enough time to decide it was time to go to eat, so went to the the Swan and Castle, in the old prison complex, a Wetherspoons pub, and therefore pretty cheap.  Roji particularly enjoyed thius, watching the people, soaking up the culture, enjoying a beer or two, as well as a (pretty insubstantial burger.)

I thought at first that we would be almost alone in the theatre – we were a little early, true, but there was almost no-one about.  But actually, when at last the doors were opened, there was a fair attendance.

The play featured just two characters, a Sudanese refugee and his friend from Newcastle, on an imaginary trip to Sudan, to explore life and culture there through a variety of means – lots of mime, some well-chosen props out of a box, some inventive characterisation of other people they met, especially a variety of women.

I think the others enjoyed it more than I did; ultimately, I found it a little thin; I am not sure what they were trying to achieve.  But they were both talented, and it showed what could be achieved with, actually, very little.

And it gave us pause for thought when it came to the Tuesday class, and our own rehearsal.  There are difficulties associated with our staging of Godot.  We certainly cannot manage the whole play, as the task of memorising a full-length play in a foreign language is considerable.  Nor do we have any other actors, so the other characters have to be cut out.  And in any case, I have serious doubts that we would be granted permission to perform it, in any official way.  We have had some thoughts about combining it in some way with the experience of the asylum-seeker, and a recent news story about people making their way across the ocean from Sweden to Canada did provoke some ideas, but there is no easy answer.

And in the meantime, we rehearsed another two pages of the script – we have reached page 8.  We followed our usual pattern, of reading through the latest addition to the script, and then adding it to the rest.  And we tried out a couple of developments – a section of the script in Farsi, an attempt to act out the first page or so off the book (ie without the script.)  As ever, it was funny, there were some good moments, and we all felt we had made some progress… but there is still something missing, some over-riding idea.

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