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Popped Up!

I didn't think it would happen, and I didn't realise that it had happened, until the day after. We went for a walk in Beatenberg, just beside Interlaken, and Fi said, "We've made a show!"

It's been one day at a time. In September, Misato and Felix of T42 asked me to come to Bern and make a show with them.

"What is it?" I asked.

"We don't know yet. We'll get together and make something," they said.

"Let's do it," I said.

In October I drove to Bern and moved into a room in a small house in the woods on the edge of Bern which is the home of Kathy Brunner. Kathy is a swimwear designer and she makes swimming costumes on the ground floor. She also welds, upholsters, does carpentry, and she designed costumes for dancers for many years, including T42. She loaned me an e-bike to get to rehearsals, and we started to work.

Jann Masserli, the designer, made these extraordinary screens out of honeycomb cardboard. You can wrap them into any shape, appear out of them and disappear into them. They are more than screens, they are a bit like costumes or creatures or puppets. We are making a dance show.

We spend a week improvising and discussing what we are trying to make. I improvise monologues and Felix and Misato record them on video. I churn out a variety of stereotypical characters. Felix says,

"I see them popping up. They just pop up!" I'm not completely sure what he means.

Nori and Koto, the two other dancers who will be in the show, arrive from Japan a week later. They will live with Felix and Misato. We meet for dinner, and the next day we start to work together. I guess we are a "bubble".

We visit the venue, Tojo. The director goes to shake my hand and I bum elbows. He looks annoyed. Later that day he writes an email to apologise for his behaviour. "Masks really annoy me" he writes. The next day Bern introduces new Covid restrictions and one is that Tojo must cancel the premiere. We ask if we can perform there and video the performance and they say we can.

Two weeks later Micky Mannion, our lighting designer arrives from London to join us, and we move into the Theatre. The night before the premiere Fi Clift, from Blind Summit, flies out to join us. We do a run through.

"What do you think?" I ask Fi.

"We've got some work to do tomorrow morning," she says.

We meet early at the theatre to do two hours rehearsal. Fi directs my monologues to make them more clearly different.

"This one is a Royal Court monologue..." she says, "And this one is the panto director from Extras..."

It might be last minute but it really helps.

And then we all meet to drill the music cues for the end of the show with Izumi Shuto . And we do a run through. And then a handful of people arrive and we have a premiere. There are fifteen people in the theatre in total including us and a camera crew. The atmosphere is tense and exciting and relaxed and casual.

"Ok we're going to start now" someone says, and we start.

Afterwards everyone is very positive. One of the sponsors who has come says, "It's a masterpiece!" She really loved it. I'm quite taken aback. Everyone seems to be happy. We pack up and clear out. Open a bottle of Champagne. We've done it.

And the next day I realise that it was an opening. We opened a show. I hadn't thought about this moment because we were just taking it day by day, expecting to be cancelled at any moment, and we only had a tiny audience. I hardly ever thought about the opening, an audience. This is probably how we should always work.


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