Friday, 21 September 2012

Blaze of Glory

I'm struggling to get this blog post up between the intermittent internet at my parents place (all the way up in the Orkney islands) and my urge to switch off from my laptop and all methods of communication that don't involve typing of some sort. Nonetheless, i'd like to get some sort of account up about the last week or so. I had a mammoth journey to get here. Almost 24hrs all the way from the city of Bangkok across at least half of the world. So why was i in Bangkok. Well it wasn't just for the local entertainment (more fo that to come). As i've mentioned previously, i had somehow managed to blag my way onto the Blaze show. This is a straight up commercial streetdance show that is starting to do very well internationally. My role is simply for comic relief...something which i can be pretty good at. The production company is based in Holland so i had to make my way over there to begin with and link up with most of the crew. I had arrived in Amsterdam a day prior to flying out to Bangkok so ventured into the city to kill some time. I like Europe. I've been in and out of Europe a lot in recent years but i don't feel like i'm done with it so to speak. I had a mooch about the red light area, which was pretty tame at the time i was there. I always seek out a coffee and croissant in a new place, but in the dam you can get a little extra in the local coffee houses. I didn't opt for this however as i didn't think it would be a good way to kick off things with a new company. I'll come back on my own time however.
Wouldn't like to know what flood insurance is for this place
Cafe chic in the Dam

It wasn't hard to spot the other Blaze crew members while standing in line at Schiphol airport. Myself and 2 other guys are new additions to the cast whereas the rest have all worked on the show before and clearly had their cliques, but everyone was friendly enough. If i keep working with this outfit i reckon it will be a while before the gang waits for me in the airport while i wander off to get a smoothy. There is always that inherent reflex within people to stick together when one is part of something or going somewhere but you don't know each other. This is something i was thinking to myself. I as also thinking that i really have to make the effort here to get on with these guys. I'm quite used to doing my own thing. Although i've worked with companies and groups before i constantly have to remind myself not to be a rude c£$%...more and more these days it seems.

We flew via Istanbul where we linked up with the UK portion of the cast. I was querying why i hadn't been part of this lot but didn't begrudge my short expedition to Amsterdam. I've still not cracked the way of avoiding jet lag on long haul journeys. We flew with Turkish Airlines which i was a bit dubious about at first but it was actually pretty comfortable and to my great surprise the food was good. There's something about the way airplane food is presented that i like...and it's even better when the food tastes half decent. All the culinary excitement and the abundance of movies on offer kept me wide awake and sabotaged any chances of beating the inevitable jet lag.

and now a little in french parce que je dois practiquer....

Nous avons arrive a Bangkok et pour quelques membres de Blaze, ils sont alle a la repetition directement. Mais pour moi et les autres nous avons eu le temps libre. Et Il a fait chaud! j'ai adore!! Quand il est chaud partout son corps...c'est genial...c'est comme prendre une bain dans l'air chaud. C'etait excellent apres l'ete Ecossais. J'ai partage ma chambre avec une autre bboy. Lui et ses amis, ils voulaient aller voir un spectacle de ping pong! Et j'ai pense pourquoi pas? Maintenant, dans le passe temps j'avais jouer au tennis de j'etais pas mal aussi. Mais c'est fois, c'etait un jeu completement differente. Nous avons arrive a l'endroit et y avait l'odeur de sexe! L'interieur etait tres interessant a mon avis. Super trashy, super drole...mais interessant avec les lumieres, les miroirs et les boules de disco. Je voudrais savoir qui est le concepteur?? Nous nous somme assis a l'avant pour un bon vu n'est-ce pas. Il y avait de spectacle avec la femme et femme, la femme tout seule, la femme et l'homme et femme et ping pong. C'est incroyable qu'est qu'on peut faire avec le corps si on essaie assez dur...plusiers des surprises. Mais mon favorit etait l'emploi d'un (et je n'ai pas des mots pour expliquer exactement mais...) coup des flechettes avec les muscles de vagin...super habile et utile je suis sur. C'etait drole mais pas erotique. Toutes les artistes avait un regarde ennuyeux...sauf la femme avec les boules ping pong. Elle s'est amuse beaucoup. Apres un heure (je pense) c'etait suffit pour nous, et nous avons quitte pour quelque chose a manger. J'ai essaye resister dormir...mais j'ai perdu. 

The following day we all had to get up pretty early to head to the theatre. There was some confusion about whether or not breakfast was laid on for us. It wasn't, so that meant going on a bit of wander to find a coffee and some carbohydrates. This was the first day we would all be under one roof and finally see what we have all been up to in our individual rehearsals. We turn up at the theatre and it's reasonably impressive as you would expect the Thai Cultural Centre to be....
Nous raison d'etre juste pour une semaine
Entrance to the Thai Cultural Centre

Blaze in panorama
I suppose i should be rehearsing and not taking pictures
Oooft! rather a large space to fill
95% of the show is dancing. Therefore the bulk of the time is spent getting everyone up to speed. It's a big job for the Blaze dance captain Kendra. I know what it feels like and i know those cortisol levels will have been building and swirling away inside her body. But she handles it well. I've not got much time to go over what i'm doing in the show. In fact by the time the show goes up there's a host of things i have to do for the first time, live in a 2000 seat venue....such as costume changes, finding my lights and my main scene when i interact with 2 of the cast. Despite a few minor mistakes it actually goes pretty well. I have to admit to feeling quite at home playing the clown and noising up a crowd. There's no pictures of my costume here...mostly because i felt i looked a bit ridiculous. You can have crazy with a sense of logic or you can have just plain crazy. My outfit was the latter, which means it was ridiculous. I also had to insist on a hat. There are two things i need on stage if i'm not dancing and that's a microphone and a hat. Straight after the show we were ushered out into the foyer to get down with the locals. Now i know what to expect i'll be training for the next run of performances.

After showing face in the foyer we headed back to our hotel for a serious slap up feed. This was courtesy of the festival organiser, a very wealthy Indian man who's name i can't remember. Members of the Dutch embassy were also in the house as i believe the event is in partnership with them and similar cultural and business organisations. Coming fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe my networking skills were pretty tight and i managed to ply a few business cards by the end of the night. Who knows? maybe i'll have a company large enough to bring here in 5 or so years...on verra. But back to the food...oh my god i ate so much. I love a buffet. And when that buffet is crammed with prime produce i am made. Maybe it's a left over trait from there not being enough 2nds at my school dinners, but i have a tendency to pile my plate high in these situations. Basically, i ate well that night...and slept even better.
Eyes on the prize right at the back...

And we're off!
Apparently these guys were the sons of the Gypsy Kings...yet didn't call themselves Princes
Saturday night went better from my point of view. But we had less people in the audience. They still proved to be pretty rowdy. There were a couple of things i noticed during my time in Bangkok. The people there like to smile. And i found that it was easier to give a smile when you're surrounded by smiling people. When i got back to Europe and crossed paths with a fellow traveller in the airport, she smiled at me. My immediate reaction was to brush this off, ignore her and go all traditionally stoic. Errrghh...i thought to myself moments later. Why did i do that? Soon as i'm back in a colder climate, old habits reveal themselves. I did get a chance to redeem myself later when the same lady then dropped an item and i was able to give it back to included...still working on not being such a rude c£$% even when i'm not working.

Just about to do warm up
Someone left their clothes on the set

Quick change back stage

The Second thing is that there doesn't seem to be any public bins on the streets of Bangkok. This of course is a sweeping statement (...erm there's a pun in there just in case you didn't notice). I didn't go round every nook of Bangkok. But i remember having to carry empty drinks cartons and plastic bags with me all the way back to the hotel before i could dispose of them. This was because i couldn't find a bin anywhere. Being in Bangkok totally reminded me of being back in Shanghai and Beijing...the smells, the heat, the bustle and the dirt. Bangkok is dirtier though...sort it out, get some bins.

The final night was spent hitting a couple of clubs in the more affluent (and probably European judging by the number of surrounding embassies) area of Bangkok. The first joint was a complete sweat box. I guess one is never quite sure if the girls are girls or the guys are guys and who is into who when you're partying in Bangkok. But needless to say it creates quite an energetic mix when you're all packed into one space. I had to call it quits when they started playing Hanson...the old adage of when in Rome does not apply in this case.

But wow what a great week. Quite random, but pleasant. The next stop on the Blaze tour is Russia where the show goes to Moscow and St Petersburg during November. I'll have to dress differently for that one. As i packed my bags and exited the incredibly plush Dusit Thani where we stayed in Bangkok, i was hoping our accommodation in Russia will be on par...if it's good enough for Tom Jones, then it's good enough for me.

Jones...the man sees right into your soul

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Caught on camera

Suffice to say it's never nice to be caught with your hand in the cookie jar. Today the cookie jar happened to be the croissant section of a rather large tescos store. So it's like this...i love croissants or...j'adore les croissants. They are my favourite pastry above all others. This stems from a weekend passion that developed while at school and doing seeing practice every saturday at a local vets. I would get up pretty early and make my way downhill into town. En route, however, was a bakers. Not the kind of bakers you would expect to be selling french patisseries but they had them nonetheless. Best croissants i've ever had. Must have been something to do with the butter they used or whatever...but they tasted great and were so flaky. I used to buy 4, 2 for saturday and 2 for sunday while watching Rawhide. So ever since then they have formed a staple part of my diet and pretty much the first thing i put into my gob (aside form a coffee) when i go to a new place. Checked out the laugencroissant in Germany...mind trip!!! Anyway, the point is i sometimes help myself to a cheeky pastry while doing the shopping rounds. I spend enough money in tescos, i think a little give and take shouldn't be such a bad thing. Well the law of averages states that sometimes things won't work out in your favour and this time cctv did it's job and got their man. So i'm 80 pence down and wondering if this penchant is now a problem?

The visit to tescos was a late lunch outing for today's project. So to add to matters a disgruntled driver was insisting that we had managed to scratch their car when opening the door. Now i'll admit the door made contact (yes...hands up that was me also) but not to the extent where it was going to cause any damage. The driver in question got their dad on the case and, simply out of a matter of principal, kicked up a moderate fuss that ended up in a verbal stalemate. In the end hardly worth any drama, so the matter was dropped and i was happy to get the hell out of that place...hoping we wouldn't run anybody over in the process.

To round off the day we did 2 good performances of the Glitch show, which seemed to go down quite well with the local audience. Looooong day. And it can be an even longer time before people learn their place in the studio setting and when to pipe up and when to pipe down. I'm not impervious to this  trait either...but i'm learning. We all are, so patience hombre.

To wrap up, here's a video i found via the book of faces...absolutely brilliant!

I also saw this film Shut Up and Play the Hits about LCD Soundsystem's final gig as they bowed out on a high...there's a group who knew when to make some noise or keep schtum.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Competent condiment

I have very recently realised that i possess hardly any condiments in my household. No ketchup, HP sauce, Worcestershire, mustard, french dressing...nada...except for a bit of balsamic and sweet chilli. I have recently been maturing the furniture aspect of my gaff. A trip down to john lewis for some pots and pans turned into procuring and reduced from £XXX sofa bed. A quite cool sofa bed. I just want to point out that the current economic climate has claimed a furniture store victim who's name i was very fond of - "Sofa So Good". Great. Every time i walked past that place, i would take my hat off and salute it. But what i mean to say is that i've uped my furniture game and i should be doing the same in the the very least from a hosting point of view. I don't miss tomatoe ketchup. I only have it with chips and i only ever eat chips when im out. So it doesn't occur to me that someone might want some ketchup with their scrambled eggs in the morning. This is something i have to rectify.

But aside from complimentary epiphanies i have been doing what i do best and pulling funny faces while dancing about a bit. I have been doing exactly that at the Edinburgh MELA with the old codgers Random Aspekts (yes...still in the game people). Back in 2006, 4 hapless bboys got asked to make a show for kids to be presented in the Fringe at Scotland's national dance centre, Dance Base (which i can never figure out is one word or two). The result was Rock a Bye B-Boy, a dreamy tale of footwork, freezes and top-rock. Since then we have been presenting this show in various incarnations around the UK. I think the last time we did it was well over a year ago, but it's still fresh as a daisy and feels as good to perform as it did 6 years ago. The show is aimed at kids and there were plenty in the crowd who where happy to get into the "He's behind you" spirit. I had this ace bandana i picked up in Tokyo that i used in a section of the show, but it has somehow been lost. The only casualty of this 6 year run.

Fly boy Matt Foster with Tony Thrills in the background surprisingly

One of the best things about performing in the MELA is you work up an appetite and then can tuck into the abundance of great curry on offer. I think i'll be sweating dahl for a few days yet. I'll leave you with this track by Fink...perfect to digest your food to.