One month ago today, we were presenting The Translator’s Dilemma in Germany, at a small festival of 12 companies curated by Studiobuhne Koln. Here’s a wee reflection on the fantastic week we spent there. Fasten your seatbelts, folks, it’s a long one.
when we got off the plane in Cologne, we were driven to the exquisite Rhine Hotel on the riverfront, where we had a lovely attic suite overlooking Great St. Martin’s church.Our bags unpacked, our passes on (that’s right, free tickets to every show), maps in hand, we set out to Studiobuhne for the opening night barbecue in the theatre’s back patio and garden. (Note to self: Move to Germany, the theatres come with backyards.) The opening show was three exquisite dance pieces from Dundee-based Scottish Dance Theatre, who set the bar so high that most of the rest of us didn’t even want to perform our shows. Then a party: free food, free beer, good people.
we played games with Berlin’s Invisible Playground, who create their own performance games. In Tetris Smuggling we had to sneak small colored ‘pixels’ past the ‘guards’ who could stop anyone suspicious from reaching their team’s pixel pile. Love at First Sight took us to a local park where we all had to hide so that other players couldn’t see the ID number on our pink paper headbands. If someone called out your number, you had to run to them and draw a heart in their ‘One Night Stand’ box as they crossed off one of yours. If you found the other person who had the same number as you, you’d met your ‘True Love’–extra points!
That day we also saw Glasgow-based Fish and Game‘s Alma Mater, “The world’s first piece of iPad theatre” where each individual audience member watches a film on an iPad after entering a wooden box set up in the theatre lobby, drawn into a little girl’s memory of events that happened in the same box-room.
we explored the Kolner Dom (read: cathedral to end all cathedrals) and had a brush-up rehearsal before heading to the day’s discussion, dinner and evening show. The daily roundtables about two festival shows were a great chance to give and receive feedback to each other, and I was surprised by the openness, directness and honesty of the participants involved. That night we saw Giessner-based Klusener and Greif’s Hymen an die Nacht (Hymns to the Night), an “installation for 12 light bulbs, 7 bird houses, 8 speakers, 1 drum set, 4 strips of turf roll, 3 garden gnomes and one actor.” Let’s just say they had me at the garden gnomes.
was our big day, with get in, tech rehearsal and two shows of The Translator’s Dilemma all in one day. It was exciting to finally perform the show in a university classroom–on a languages department corridor, no less. Our friendly technician, Trapp, managed to finagle us two overhead projectors (our most important prop) as the otherwise reliable technology likes overheating and shutting off,and both performances went swimmingly. Each one garnered us a round of applause and TWO encores, partly because we’re awesome and partly because that seems to be the way German theatre audiences are hardwired.(Note to self: move to Germany. They clap 3x more.)
After our second (sold-out!) show, we rocked up to the garden with a glorious entrance for a mid-festival party, dancing and blasting 90’s German pop music from our second-most important prop, a mini-boom box that had survived the flight and both shows without eating any audio-cassette tapes! Shortly after our arrival, festival directors Tim and Kobby presented us with champagne and roses. (Note to self: move to Germany. They give you champagne and flowers after performances!)
was a day of PARKOUR! as we were finally free to participate in some of the week’s workshops. Bright Night International, a Glasgow-based, parkour-inspired company showed us how to run, roll and jump on, over and around concrete blocks, stairs and any other obstacle we found in our path. Though our bodies were hot, slightly bruised, and exhausted, Amy and I left the workshop with happy souls, feeling proud of our PARKOUR! (yes, this must be exclaimed with capital letters for effect) skills, after just four hours of training.
Catching our breath that afternoon, we were treated to a delightful puppet-filled radio-play of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Wild Swans by Berlin-based Candelight Dynamite. Three actors seated at a table employed dozens of small objects and figurines they’d created to tell the fairytale of how eleven princes-turned-swans are saved from their evil step-mother by the love of their sister. I don’t know who had more fun, me or the seven-year-old boy I sat next to.
That evening we saw post theater’s C A F F E E, “a multi-media dance-theater performance on a special substance.” Massive semi-psychedelic projections and excellent dancing from five talented women. Memorable moment? A tiny spotlight focused on one performer’s naked bum, which squiggled around like a coffee bean. Hrm….
Ishbel and I did the ‘Manipulating Objects’ workshop with Candlelight Dynamite, where we practiced bringing random items to life, from action figures to bouncy balls. Who knew a remote control could have so much character?
That evening we had a double bill of Berlin-based Deter/Muller/Martini’s Undead and Delicious and Edinburgh-based Vision Mechanics’ Dark Matter. The former was “a vision of a post-apocalyptic landscape” on an all white stage with zombies, fake blood and green goo. Men-tal. Dark Matter was an eerie Gothic story set in the back garden (another reason why all theatres should have them!) after dark, where the wind began blowing our ponchos and the rain started to sprinkle a la Scotland creating an excellent atmosphere. Live sound was mixed into our headphones as we were immersed in a dark one-(troubled)-woman show.
Amy and I said goodbye our beloved director in the morning and cycled over to the Roman thermal baths. That’s right, an affordable posh spa. We realized upon leaving and actually reading the rules that we had managed to break most of them, but the only one who seemed to care was a little old woman who didn’t want us to enter the sauna without our towels. (Entschuldigung!) We did as she asked, then spent a couple hours in the indoor and outdoor pools, jacuzzis, and whirlpools until we could barely move to the showers.
That evening we were treated to Hamburg-based Mass & Fieber OST’s Fall Out Girl, an epic “Radioactive Road-show” musical that fused stories of the Radium Girls with a massive Pikachu balloon, Spiderman, and Jimi Hendrix covers in additional to original music. What two actors did with a cardboard screen, two microphones, three guitars and a zillion small props floored and entertained us in equal measure.
Next we headed outside to see Bright Night International’s Wee JAMP, which combined “dance, parkour, acrobatics, and physical theatre” as it wordlessly told the story of four childhood friends who support each other throughout life into old age. In addition to smooth moves, JAMP had a few touching moments that really tugged at the heartstrings. You can catch them at Merchant City Festival in Glasgow next month.
was spent tooling around Cologne and popping into Great St. Martin and the Ludwig museum before heading over to the theatre for our last barbecue. The closing show was a powerful piece called Leni Riefenstahl—Die Kolner Prozesse from Cologne’s very own Analog about the eponymous dancer, actress, filmmaker, photographer and sport diver. Die Kolner Prozesse was made up of five different acts that employed film, opera, comedy and dance, all exploring post-war German guilt. Sadly, there were no subtitles, as the company later explained there was too much German wordplay to be translated well.
Afterwards, there was a blowout closing night party—in the garden, no less—with more free beer and one of the theatres turned into a nightclub complete with professional break and modern dancers. We danced until we could dance no more. A superb ending to a wunderbar week!
Thanks especially to Studiobuhne Cologne and all our supporters who helped make The Translator’s Dilemma happen! We couldn’t have taken it to Germany without your love and support.