Sunday, 26 April 2009
Our disasters start as we enter the terminal building and manage to permanently slow the revolving doors to a snail's pace by repeatedly stabbing the button with a disabled symbol on it. After getting Jenny through these we discover there are no seats within 50 metres, and she's looking white and weak. We beg Information for a swivel chair, which is painfully slowly extricated from behind the desk, by which time Jenny has stopped talking. Slumped on the chair, she says "I'm going to black out" and does so, sliding off the chair into my arms so we look like some bizarre Pieta or something. A doctor is called. Blood pressure taken.
It gets worse. We're almost refused passage by the check-in staff. We're taken to the gate by a nurse (on the plus side, she's so pretty she must have a day job modelling for Armani or something). My laptop is scanned for explosives and Heather's hand luggage is minutely examined before we finally get on the plane.
I look forward to being welcomed back next year as a company.
Saturday, 25 April 2009
I've just been to Flohschanze, and I took my time getting back. I mean, I didn't yomp madly like I often do - after all, I'm not going to walk these streets much longer. There's a lot of things which I meant to write about and to remember which somehow didn't make the cut, or seemed a bit minor or irrelevant to post about, but which contribute to the whole. For example, there's a guy who runs the shop where I buy my postcards who always wears an immaculately dapper pale grey suit with co-respondent shoes. And there's a lady in Nur-bacK who knows perfectly well I don't speak German, but who chatters delightedly to me about how she's giving me a small reduction on the pretzel because it's the last one - I think that's what she says. And I have to confess that I avoid the accordion player on the Hoheluft bridge, but only because she really can't play very well.
The drunks who hang around the tube station late at night are a different calibre to English drunks - one of them wears a flat cap and what was once a tweed suit - he looks a bit like Tommy Trinder. And the phrase "sofort bleiden, bitte" which immediately precedes the tube doors closing seems to defy translation. Our next door neighbours, Marc and Sebastian, let us use their wireless broadband. "Tschuss" is probably the most brilliant way of saying goodbye ever invented. Wheat beer and Schwarzwalder ham are just as fantastic as San Miguel and Serrano, and maybe better. And I never found out how you're really meant to eat a krakauer - I mean, it can't be normal to burn your fingers every time.
I've fallen for Hamburg, and there's plenty to love. It's a charming, easy, picturesque, historical city that just happens to house a really good and well-attended English-speaking theatre. Bob and Cliff have found a winning formula, and in Geoff, Sylvia, Kai, Julian, Vera and Annika they have an amazing (if slightly off-the-wall) team. It's still a mystery why the theatre tumble dryer runs all day, every day (we think Geoff takes in washing), but long may ETH continue.
Thursday, 23 April 2009
When Paul Fields (see posts passim) was called in last year, he had a few days to get familiar with the script, but Kate Glover has had two brief rehearsals and a dress after arriving on Tuesday evening, and she went on last night, 24 hours after she stepped off the plane.
At first the audience was quite restless having someone visibly on book. The usual laughs weren't there and there was a definite tension. However, this dissipated gradually, and by the end of Act 1 (John/Ann) things were the same - but different, of you follow me. Kate's approach is necessarily instinctive, and it's a very different performance because of it. Obviously this means that our attitudes and reactions to Ann are often not as valid; are not based on as firm ground as they were.
What's astonishing is how well they play manages to work despite this pressure. Gurney's evidently a better writer than I thought, but obviously the laurels really go to Kate for pulling it out of the hat so well. She's a wonder.
Monday, 20 April 2009
And like London, there's interesting sculpture on the most overlooked and unlikely street corners. This is in an isolated position just outside the Planten un Blomen on Gorch Fock Wall. Like much of the public art in Hamburg, it's got something to do with WWII but my German doesn't run to what, sadly:It's fantastic. Reminds me a bit of "The Burghers of Calais" outside the Houses of Parliament on Millbank.
Sunday, 19 April 2009
Except they don't have a rowboat, which was our preferred launch. They only have alster kayaks which need paddling, and make it difficult for anyone to lounge effectively. Oh, well. We can pretend we're in Hawaii 5-0. For some reason, all our many years of hard-won caution desert us when we're presented with the boat, and Jenny steps in before I know what she's doing. As the Hamburgers look on, she keeps one foot in the boat whilst it drifts away from the landing stage, and she tries to walk on water with the other. This doesn't work, and she steps knee-deep in Alster water. The seafaring credentials of the English are in tatters.
The Hamburg canals all link up with the Stadtpark lake and the two joined lakes of the Aussenalster and the Biennenalster, which means you can paddle through a variety of landscapes, urban and pastoral, and get a whole new Hamburg perspective. I realise that I've crossed many of the bridges we drift under, but dodging the traffic. It's tranquil and charming.
There's a regatta hapening in the Stadtpark lake complete with Dragon boats, so we moor at a landing stage to eat cheese, bread and black forest ham, and drink wheat beer. It's idyllic, especially since the park, though packed, is almost silent at lakeside. As I've said before, there are serious problems with making a living as an actor, but the upsides can be enormous. Thanks, Heather and Jenny - perfectly lovely day.
Friday, 17 April 2009
Lately, the minuscule mistakes which we'd normally ignore suddenly seem very, very funny. And once they're funny, their comedy potential has a life beyond the mistake. I don't know if this has a name, but it manifests itself in everyone looking at the floor/walls/curtains - anywhere but in each others' eyes, at certain moments in the play. Perhaps character crash would be good, or Heather suggested fussboden moment. Anyway, it's horribly infectious.
Normally these moments appear in rehearsal, and it's usually where someone's said something filthy by accident. I accidentally Spoonerised "Jigger and Nina" quite early on, with results you can imagine, and trying to avoid actually saying that has always been a bit of an open manhole moment for me.
In the matinee today I nearly missed a line, largely because I was fascinated by a teenager in the front row. I suppose there are more offputting things for a performer than someone head-back, mouth open, blissfully in the land of nod, but I can't think of one offhand. Having said that, they were generally pretty attentive - it can't be easy, watching people who are old enough to be your parents going on about how they weren't loved as kids, whilst the sun's shining outside. I'd probably snooze a bit, too...
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
This is a plant of some desciption. I have no idea what it's called, but it is pretty.
This is some kind of Australian creeper. It made me laugh because it looks like a poo.
Ok, that's the brownie points earned. Can I come out now, Mum?
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
What is it about BA? There's this effortless ease, boundless confidence about what they do. The cabin crew are grown-ups and give straight answers. You get food and drinks. You can check in online and choose your seat (why the hell can't Ryanair and Sleazyjet do that?). And we arrived 25 minutes early. How on earth you shave 25 minutes off a 70 minute flight I can't begin to guess.
Anyway, my gorgeous kids seemed to remember vaguely who I am, and I cooked dinner for my lovely wife - well, having missed almost all the previous 9 weeks' cooking, cleaning and childcare it seemed fair. It's that spirit of give and take which keeps a marriage fresh, I find.
And then back on the coach to Stansted for a Ryanair flight back - of which I shall say only one thing. The cabin crew on a BA flight would never, never make disparaging comments out loud about the pilot's skills to passengers, no matter how bumpy the landing. Shame on you, Susanna the Purser.
Saturday, 11 April 2009
That name is a masterstroke of understatement. It is HUGE. A government bunker from the last war, it's been reinvented as a gig venue and music school. When I asked Kai, our SM, why it hadn't been dismantled after the war, he said, in his typical dead-pan way, "Well, it was designed to be totally bomb-proof. That made it a bit difficult to demolish".
Friday, 10 April 2009
Anyway, I stopped for a little while next to a skate park and watched the kids on boards for a bit - I say kids, I mean boys, as there don't seem to be any more girls skateboarding now than when I used to do it myself. I did wonder, though, why no-one was using the half-pipe. I mean, they were all using the low-level ramps and quarter-pipes but no-one was on the half-pipe, and when I was skating it was so popular you had to queue to even get on it. They all looked really accomplished, too.
As I moved off, I got a view of the top platform on the half-pipe, and realised why. There were about a dozen girls up there, reading magazines, swapping make-up and generally claiming it as their territory. Clearly none of the guys were going to even think about challenging them.
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
Or, if you'd rather not be saddled with Sam Bourne, John Grisham and Herman Wouk (!) you could always toddle along to the nearest Oxfam (mine's on Hoheluft Chaussee) and look in there. And what a bunch of smarty-pants Anglophiles we have in our neighbourhood! Or it could just be one expat with a voracious appetite - Life of Pi, Barrytown Trilogy, George Mikes' How to be a Brit (nicely ironic, that one), Ben Okri, Barry Unsworth, Angela Carter and a host of other literary fiction. I'd buy them all, but I'd never have time to read them at home!
Monday, 6 April 2009
A British actor suffered a heart attack and collapsed onstage at the precise moment during a play that his character was supposed to have a heart attack. Fortunately, Steve Dineen’s co-star Alice Selwyn realized he wasn’t faking and stopped the performance of Abigail’s Party to call for a doctor. Dineen is expected to make a full recovery, said spokesman Paul Brunton, but “it was very traumatic” when Dineen was lying on the stage, gasping. “It was almost like real life imitating art.”
And here's another corker from Worldmag.com
Missing a beat
The audience at the Musselburgh's Brunton Theatre in the United Kingdom couldn't tell, but actor Steve Dineen was slightly ahead of cue when he collapsed during the final scene of Abigail's Party. But his fellow actors knew that Dineen's character, Lawrence, wasn't supposed to collapse and die of a heart attack for a few more lines. Dineen's heart attack, it turned out, wasn't staged. Co-star Alice Selwyn quickly noticed Dineen wasn't acting and emerged from character to ask for a doctor. An ambulance arrived in time to take the veteran actor to the hospital, where he is recovering
VETERAN ACTOR! Jesus Christ on a bike, I'm 42!
Sunday, 5 April 2009
It was all very "Third Man". If we hadn't been the worse for a couple of Gluweins by that stage then maybe one of us might have quoted it.
The first signs are at the St Pauli tube. There's a group of four hammered 20-year-olds, and one of them is carrying a crate of strawberries; you know, 24 punnets. I guess he'll work out what to do with them at home. There's hordes of people getting off the tube, and it's Sunday morning. Nothing is normal about today so far.
The market itself runs from 5-9am every Sunday, and it's a boisterous affair. Follow the crowds in the grey morning drizzle and quite suddenly you're there. Dozens and dozens of trucks, sides open, selling smoked fish, fresh fish, pickled fish, fish sandwiches. And that's just the fish. Fruit (mainly strawberries today) and vegetables, tat Hamburg souvenirs, hats, fruhstuck vans and god knows what else.
Everyone eventually heads for the fish auction hall - a huge galleried affair with beer stalls and grills selling bratwurst and krakauer. The Rough Guide talks about German rock being thrashed out in here, but today it's ZZ Top (except they're not doing the difficult guitar solos). It's like Saturday night, we mooch around, thinking about sausages for breakfast (well I do) and try to talk over the noise. Heather says something to me, but at that precise moment everyone choruses "Every girls crazy 'bout a SHARP DRESSED MAN!!!" and we revert to sign language. She points outside, and she's right. This is all too much with a hangover.
I've noticed a feature of audiences here that you don't get at home, and it's to do with their enjoyment of the details of the language itself. Colloquialisms and idioms which would pass unnoticed in a native speaking audience get extra mileage here, I suppose because they have to translate and interpret and then understand. For example, Jenny (Mother) has to say that the play is trouble because "...it's chiefly to do with you-know-who." That's just a phrase to us, but the audience translate it, and then realise who she means, and it gets a huge laugh. It's odd.
Friday, 3 April 2009
Thursday, 2 April 2009
Bad enough. But tomorrow I have to go have my roots done and ask them to cut my hair in a deliberately bouffant 70's style and leave the sideburns. In German. Consequently I'm leafing through every dictionary and lexicon I can lay my hands on to anticipate every conceivable outcome.
I don't want a repeat of the occasion when I tried to check into a Spanish hotel on spec with a friend of mine, and we wanted a twin room. We didn't want to end up with a double bed, obviously, but all my useful Spanish on the topic deserted me, so I found myself asking for "a room for two male persons who are not homosexuals, please".
The Lonely Planet guide calls it an "alternative culture centre and drug-dealing hub", which is something they probably don't put in the estate agent's description when they sell neighbouring flats. Whatever it is, Geoff apparently went to a show there last year and couldn't shake the fear that the whole place was about to collapse about his ears. Just round the corner is another venue which Geoff has visited: