International Touring with Nocturnes

The Nocturnes touring company have spent July performing, holding workshops and giving lectures in Asia and what an incredible time they’ve had. Kicking off in Hong Kong, where the show was hosted by the brand new Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts on the site of the old Central Police Station, the company then went to Makassar to open the show in Indonesia and then on to Jakarta, performing in what is possibly the largest venue we’ve ever played. Over 2000 people saw the show over the course of the tour. Here’s how it happened.

 

Before…

 

When we tour a show internationally it’s often work that we’ve performed as part of the biennial British Council Showcase, held in Edinburgh.  Hundreds of delegates from all over the world attend in order to establish relationships with UK companies and to invite them to be part of a festival programme for example, performing and holding workshops. Nocturnes by our usual standards at least is technically a very simple show and has a touring team of just six people (three performers, two technicians and one of the co-artistic directors) which from our perspective meant it had a practical chance of touring internationally. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into this, working with local partners in each country as well as with the British Council. Even with an ostensibly simple show there are so many logistical elements involved and communication is absolutely key to everything running smoothly and meeting expectations once the company has landed.

And then there’s the re-rehearsing of the show (we hadn’t performed Nocturnes for seven months), the subtitles to prepare in each language, replica firearms and vodka bottles to be sourced locally…the list goes on!

 

During…

 

We’d been invited to perform the show at three very different spaces and were really excited by this prospect. Hong Kong has a brand, spanking new arts centre sited at what was the Central Police Station and the spaces on offer here for exhibitions, films, theatre, you name it, are eclectic, well designed and really beautiful. We were delighted to be part of the inaugural theatre season and we’re sure this new venue will go from strength to strength.

The partner we were working with in Makassar, Indonesia, an international arts network called 5ToMidnight, had found this extraordinary space which they had the vision to realise would suit a performance of Nocturnes down to the ground. An enormous, cavernous, concrete bunker of a space which in actual fact was an under-construction retail unit in a shopping mall, lent the show a lean, shadowy, menacing quality which was really thrilling. The team worked all the hours to get everything ready and the performances were a real success.

And by complete contrast in terms of venue aesthetics, tickets had sold so well in Jakarta that the show was relocated to a larger venue, a 1200 capacity theatre at the Jakarta Institute of Arts. The stage reminded us all of the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh, equally enormous and cavernous as a disused retail unit but with a highly polished, immaculate wooden stage (complete with inbuilt revolve) and velvet seats over stalls and two circles.

And what we found most fascinating was how the show felt to perform and how the audience responded in such a wide range of spaces. Our touring technicians, Andrew Crofts and Ian Ryan, had their work cut out for different reasons in each space but their commitment to getting every venue show-ready really paid off and the audience response was fantastic across the board. We all agreed that the post-show discussion in Makassar was one of the most engaged, incisive and rigorous we’d ever held over twenty years of making work.

 

And after…

 

When the three weeks have flown by and yet the company’s collective memory of Hong Kong feels like something that happened more like three months ago, it’s time to pack up the flight cases, sit on the suitcases til they finally zip shut, and go home. It’s then time for us all, ITD and each partner involved, to reflect on the project, exchange anything useful we’ve collected, be that photographs, data on audience engagement, feedback from workshop participants, there’s always a lot to capture at this stage before we all move on to ventures new.

But of course we hope that some of those ventures will be with each other, building on relationships forged over recent months, which have all grown from the seed idea germinated by the British Council Showcase. Genuinely collaborative relationships can continue years into the future and conversations have already begun.

(photograph courtesy of the British Council Indonesia Arts Team)