Fest — 8

Four hours into the train journey north and slightly west from Vienna to Berlin, and I feel reasonably confident I haven’t forgotten anything. The endless blue sky of the past weeks (all but the first in fact, which was massively wet) is being replaced by ever-closer clustering and darkening layers of cloud, though languorous enough to know it’s still summer and the heat remains. Yesterday, today, this week we all variously depart, only Ivo remains in the Festival, calming down to be a proper DanceWEB coach and workshop teacher. Giacomo went to Brussels yesterday (relieved of his Breaking Bad habit hawhaw), Mirko goes shortly, and Annina tomorrow. Nicola also still in Vienna and now the satisfied bearer of two large supermarket bags full of the contents of my kitchen shelves and fridge. As much as I would have loved to take some of those delectable curry pastes and chutneys with me, it’s simply that any comestible space freed up in my suitcase by eating was rapidly overfilled with books. Definitely heavier than when I arrived.

What have we done. then? A premiere, a second show (combining second night blues and closing night into one), both more-or-less sold out, several walk-outs in the obvious places – more from discomfort than moral outrage – an amount of what seemed genuine applause, and so far a pretty good response from all those who have talked to Ivo and the others. Both shows were at 11pm, finishing around 1am and having dinner between then and 3am, so the last four days have been on an abruptly altered rhythm. The first show was also during the apex of the heatwave, nudging onto high-30s outside, airless and hotter in. Much sweating took place and dealt mortally with the microphones.

Now that what we’ve done is public, I can talk somewhat more freely about the piece. This was in part keeping the scenes which will be talked about and which Fest will be remembered for somewhat private until we opened, as well as more generally not exposing everything that goes on each day. It seems the best way to do this is to write about the performance itself, a kind of review of the most subjective kind. I spent each show sitting vaguely where the stage manager might be if it was a proscenium stage, though not, so wedged slightly in the side of the seating tiers, keeping pace in the script with everyone in case there was a complete failing of memory and prompting was needed. It wasn’t, and there was also very little that occurred which deviated from the script.

There have been several people who came in and watched runs over the weeks, Christian while he was here, a friend of Ivo’s from Sopia came a couple of times, Guido also, Dasniya, a handful of DanceWEBers, and of course we who sat on the other side of the stage, Giacomo, Emilion, and myself. It was particularly interesting listening to the ‘WEBers who spoke with Ivo in a group on Friday night, and this got me thinking about how I conceptualise the entire work. My tasks in the final days in the practical sense have been very much of the rehearsal director kind, clearing up lines, documenting changes, giving notes, all the usual. Along with this have been many meta-conversations with Ivo about the overall structure of the work, how choices of music, character, timing can change entirely the meaning of a scene and therefore the work, all of which has given me a reasonably fine understanding of Fest.

So it felt for me, while listening to everyone talk about it, agreeing in places, disagreeing in others, surprised by new and unthought-of readings, that it would be a worthwhile project to write about the piece from a critical outsider perspective while sitting with the script in front of me and all my insider notes strewn on laptop screen. This in part also because Fest goes to Amsterdam and Brussels in the next six months and if time permits there will be a period of re-writing. Anyway, all this for a subsequent post.

We went to the Afghan restaurant up the road last night and naturally I had lamb. Also a couple of cardamom-infused coffees which were sublime though light on the caffeine. This morning the last movements of packing, getting 30+ kilos of suitcase organised along with bike (absolutely the best decision to bring that to Vienna) and satchel (seems to weigh more than bike), and off to Wien-Meidling where I saw Dasniya off only two days ago, and now pulling into Praha, just passed half-way home.

Much later. The train from Děčín hlavní nádraží to Pirna was as breathtaking as ever. Home. Unpacked, filled a whole shelf with new books, Iftar was had with water as I have no dates, then quickly downstairs to see Dasniya and a room of 15 happy Yoga & Shibari people, half of them friends I’ve not seen for months, and now fallen over in my dearly missed bed.