zaterdag 28 februari 2009

The first performances in the province

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Saturday February 28
Wednesday February 25 we traveled with everyone in a bus to Kampong Cham Province for our first performances in the countryside. 
It's four hours travel through a beautiful green Cambodian landscape, with rice fields and lotus ponds and palm trees.

We stay in the town Kampong Cham. 
In the afternoon the bus goes to the village where we'll play, about 30 kilometers further, through endless rubber plantages.
When we arrive it is like a miracle: the stage stands there as a strange object that has been dropped from the sky. 
We go through the usual routine, sound check, light check, etc. 

When the moment of the official start of the performance is there, most of the stools are empty, only the mats are crowded with children from zero till twelve. 
A little economy has started just outside the performance field: market stalls with fruits, drinks, etc. There are quiet a few people gathered, talking and having fun, but not going to the seats. 
And then about twenty elderly ladies with grey short hair and dressed similarly sit down on the second row. But the others still won't go to the seats.
We turn on loud Khmer music and there they are. From all sides the villagers come in, it is overcrowded, lots of people stand at the back and on the sides and cling to the gate, where they are completely out of the reach of the speakers. 
The result: during the whole performance there is talking all around in the public, a lot of noise from the children of course who are very attracted to Tonh, our monkey dancer. And when at a certain moment a coconut falls out of a tree the whole public rise to his feet and yells. 

We, the Dutch team sat in the sideline, watching all this and wondering if the actors would be able to keep some sort of concentration, which they did. 
This evening has been a culture shock for us. No such thing as respect for the actor, or no small children in the theatre, or no more public then seats. So, take the situation as it comes and don't have any ambition to control the conditions as far as the public is concerned. 
In a talk with Youk Chhang afterwards Annemarie was still somewhat insecure. Does what we do make sense, is the performance valid in the villages. He reassured us and said it was more then valid, the people who want to hear the texts can hear them and this is the way it is and will be during the whole provincial tour. 

When Annemarie had a talk the next day with the cast about their reaction they talked freely. Some of them were a bit intimidated but most of them said they loved it and it was even better then they had expected. 
So the next day we started the performance in a different, more relaxed mood. That performance was better then the first one and the public (again crowded) did discuss things during the show among each other, but they were more attentive, which could also be caused by the fact that 80 percent of the public came for the second time. 
The performance was great, the actors played extremely strong.

Sayana Ser from DCCam announced before the show started that people could pose questions afterwards. 
There was one really old man sitting on a chair with a whole lot of people around him who said that the child soldiers in the Pol Pot time were a lot more cruel then we made them be. 
And then quiet a few young people asked questions about the regime, how Pol Pot could get the power, why Khmer killed Khmer. So all about the history. Youk Chhang patiently explained a lot to them. 
When we asked why elder people did not ask questions we learned that they would never do that in front of the younger ones, afraid that they might seem stupid and lose face.
It was very good that no one mentioned anything about the form of the production or the achievement of the actors. It was all about the subject matter. 

What we learned in a talk afterward with Youk Chhang was that our doubts about the effectiveness of putting on a show in this kind of circumstances were ungrounded: it is a big family event. And like in a family people talk with one another, children play and scream. We have to let go of our urge to control the conditions of the public: like nobody outside the audience space, no children under twelve, etc. This is what it is, this is what we will get, this is what we can expect. And it is good as it is. 

In this tour the hardest job is for the technicians who have to travel a long way, built up, break down, travel a long way, built up again, and all in this heat.

Now we are back in Phnom Penh. 
Annemarie had a good talk with Youk Chhang about the radio version. This will be prepared during the summer, both in Amsterdam rewriting the script and in Phnom Penh pre producing the radio recording.
When she goes back in November she will re rehearse the play for a second stretch of the tour through the provinces and rehearse the radio version, record it in a radio studio and after that do the editing.

Yesterday evening, the cast organized a party at the house of Theary, where we were overloaded with beautiful presents from each member. 

This afternoon we'll go to Kandal Province, which is one and a half hour driving from Phnom Penh. 
The weather forecast tells that there might be showers in which case we won't be able to play, but that's what it is. 
We learned to go with the flow. No problem.

Friendly greetings Annemarie, Nan, Ferry and Richt.