10 Memorable Tour Moments
This month I wasn't quite sure what to write about, but our very own Supremo, Himanshu Sitlani, who controls The Script via remote control from Canada deemed that since Kash and AK have talked about tours, and since QTP just returned from a tour, and because Rage is always touring, that I countdown 10 tour anecdotes. Now the nature of touring, is that you need to be there first hand, therefore most of these will be QTP shows/references since that's whom I tour with. Apologies in advance. So here goes:
- Lost in Translation
When we toured the U.S. with A Midsummer Night's Dream, the last thing I expected was for people to be unable to understand me. We had tonnes of translation issues in the cast, with the actors and musicians all coming from diverse language groups, but I was one of the liaisons with the local crew, and I prided myself on my English speaking. So here I was asking the local crew if the door that divided stage and audience was kept open since actors had entrances from the audience. Now the door is called a PASS DOOR (pronounced PARSS DOOR). But he couldn't understand me. He kept repeating, "parce -door??". Eventually I gesticulated wildly and pointed to what I meant and he went, "Oh, you mean a pass door (pronounced P-ASS Door), why didn't you say so in the first place!". So much for translating English into American!
- So...er...where is the stage then?
Another Midsummer story (sorry I spent 3 years touring with it, you were expecting what stories of Kindertransport?). This time the hell hole of all touring cities...Calcutta. I could actually just do a countdown of Calcutta stories, but this one, to be fair was no ones fault. The Dream was to be performed in the dried up water hazard of the Tollygunge Club Golf Course. Seemed reasonable enough. We arrived a few days before, put up the trussing, the lights, the set, all the necessary things only to have it rain the night before opening. Now since we were performing in the Water Hazard, all the water from across the golf course came to settle there. Leaving our musicians pit completely under water. A lot of our stage wet and even the first two rows of audience seating. A superhuman effort was made to make sure things dried out and as always the show did go on.
- Run Forest Run!
This one didn't happen to me. But I'm going to stick it in anyway because it's so bizarre. AKvarious are en rout to Bangalore. Being prudent about cost, most are traveling by train, as is the theatre way. The train gets re routed and the delays keep piling up. Meanwhile, a performance of Proof is scheduled on the day they arrive in Bangalore. The delays mean time is getting tight. Finally somewhere along the rail tracks the director, actors and technicians jump off, true filmy style and manage to catch a cab all the way. They arrive in Bangalore and at the venue exactly at show time. An announcement is made and the show goes up an hour late. The icing of all of this is the fact that while everyone is trying to get off the train speedily, the director, Kashin is busy filming all the drama.
- Bat out of Hell
Anyone who has performed at Sri Ram Centre in Delhi is aware of the bats. Apparently they live in the walls. You can hear them screech and flap about. However what is more surprising is when they come up onto stage. In 2004 we were on tour with Beyond Therapy. Zafar Karachiwala and Shanaya Rafaat are meant to enjoy a nice romantic evening in the first scene in a deserted restaurant. Suddenly a bat flies out and circles the stage and particularly the table. To their credit, neither actor flinched, and nonchalantly went on with the play. For the audience, the comic deserted restaurant suddenly became something out of a Hitchcock film.
- We interrupt this programme for a plane!
Secundrabad Club in, well, Secundrabad is a lovely location. Sprawling premises, great rooms, wonderfully colonial architecture and furniture and best of all a large outdoor performance space. All idyllic ingredients for a play....except that it is right in the flight path of Hyderabad Airport. So our one actor on stage, Jayati Bhatia, had to pause every time a plane flew over head. All in all 15 planes flew over the 1 hour 15 minute performance. No one has ever dialed a telephone for so long.
- Why are white people dancing to Bollywood?
In 2005, we happened to line produce a stage show called The Merchants of Bollywood. It was probably the most thin story I had ever come across but the dancing was powerful and so was the music. As we went into tech week in Australia, we were all a bit incredulous as to how this would go down. The producers informed us that the Indian community wasn't interested in the show since AR Rahman had performed there the week before. On opening night, as I yelled at the actors from the wings to get behind the line of the curtain for the curtain call, I peeked out into the audience - 1,800 Australians, dressed in Indian clothes were on their feet jumping and dancing. I couldn't believe. The director is a genius I thought. The show is still running all over the world. in places like Germany, Serbia, Barcelona, Romania, etc. Unbelievable.
- When Birnum Wood Came to Dunsinane
Another tour of Beyond Therapy. This time Chennai. The tech rider specified two platfroms on either side up stage of 2 to 2.5 feet high. We were assured this would be done before we got to the hall in the morning. Expecting pre fabricated platforms we walked in to the biggest shock of out lives. The platform legs were actually 2 feet lengths of a thin tree that had just been cut down. And not just four or eight, there must have been at least 20 to 25 legs for each large platform. It was an incredibly painful site.
- Is it cold in here or is it just me?
This is the most recent story on the list as it happened only a few weeks ago at the NSD festival in Delhi. Our wonderful actress Jayati Bhatia has to be on stage fifteen minutes before the play starts and then right trough the 1 hour 15 minutes of performance. No balck outs no breaks. Somewhere through the first show, round about the half way mark, Jayati suddenly got the sniffles. We watched her as she actually got a cold. Now it must be added that the room was pretty cold and while we were all covered up in multiple layers, poor Jayati, playing the ageing matriarch of a Bombay family had to be in a light chiffon saree, affording her no protection against the cold.
- Good Evening your Excellency
We have only performed for the Diplomatic core once. And that too in Muscat. It's a lovely festival at the Indian Embassy, but not without it's hiccups. Our set arrived only a few minutes before the audience was let in. Being Muscat and Diplomats, it was too hot to let them linger outside longer than the requisite period. So in they walked while we were still sawing away and trying to figure out how to keep the flats upright.
- Press Night:
This one is another Midsummer story. We were in Stratford-Upon-Avon, performing at the Swan Theatre at the RSC. In India, opening night is opening night. But in the west, opening night is the first night of previews. But the real opening night is called Press Night when all the journalists (yes plural) come. Actually the whole 300 seater house was press. Ajay Kumar, who played Puck had a most annoying evening. He complained bitterly that no one seemed to be watching the show, all everyone did was scribble in their notepads. He was tempted to actually go and see what they were writing.
Well that's it for me. If you have a fun tour story/experience, do post it.