Thursday, 12 February 2009

On The Road.

Another show is over. As the van batters down the Endless Dark Motorway of Pain, we finally drift off with our thoughts. Or rather, the one thought. 'Bed!’ Ten hours ago we were (for the purposes of this exercise) arriving fresh and relaxed - if a little peckish - at the theatre, having miraculously avoided any motorway tediousness, ready and focussed on our task - to find an Italian restaurant up to Mateo's standards.
The artists need to eat, the technicians need to begin pointing the lights in the right direction. Again, everything is going according to plan, specifically, the lighting plan mailed to the theatre some days before. The technician is ready in the Tallescope dark and begins his wrestling match with the burning lights, which seem to have a life of their own.
'Downstage... Left...OK.'
'OK? Move me on Mike.' - The jargon is not very colourful.

The singers and guitarists arrive to tease the best sound possible from the building, allowing in advance for the dampening effect of the audience. If it is a plaster-laden rococo wedding cake like one of Matcham's masterpieces, we are in clover. But some of the more minimalist halls are a little colder and even less predictable. An experienced resident sound technician is invaluable in those circumstances.
The red and blue and green Xmas deeley lights flicker on the desk.
'More reverb... A bit more volume in the monitors....' - Not quaint, but effective.
Setting the sound for flamenco is very exacting and often seems to be dicing with feedback. Requests sometimes raise eyebrows from technicians in first-time flamenco houses.
The dancers take the stage. Where are the hollow spots, the sweet spots, the dead spots? How slippery? Which light can I use to spot my turns? Where do I exit? -
"No - this is when I begin my footwork.."
The rehearsal is over. The Half Hour ticks by. The house lights go down, the audience glitters expectantly, the first beats of the opening martinete sound out, there is no escape now, the show is under way in the usual blur of sound and lights and heart and adrenalin and scrambles for the interval drinks.

British audiences are reaching flamenco in new ways. Many now come because of their YouTube discoveries rather than to relive Costa Del Sol night club memories. And there are now many more authentic jaleos from the average regional audience than ever. More Spanish people are living and working in Hull and Bristol and Tewkesbury. And more British young people are hearing flamenco. With the help of the most modern technology, one of the most essentially primal artforms is spreading and growing. Which is how it should be.

The show is over, and everyone is sweating. Which, again, is how it should be. Everyone needs more water, and time to readjust from the stage high, and to talk without the performance looming overhead, and very soon something to eat. A french musician comes to the stage door to invite us to a local club where there is Gypsy jazz until 3. We would love to, but simply can't. We have left all our energy onstage, and we have to do so again tomorrow for our paying audience. Or we have to be on planes to Madrid or Jerez.

This particular outing began a year ago with an email to a database entry, and is nearly over. This time, there were no problems. It was a typical, non-eventful, efficient day's artistic creation. Sometimes, believe it or not, things can be quite different.

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