Monthly Archives: March 2010

Yascapi's Blog: IberoAmericano Festival de Teatro de Bogota

Something of a dream came true for me last week when I was able to attend the bi-ennial theatre festival in Bogota, Columbia. I had heard excited rumours about this festival for a while: South America’s Edinburgh, host to theatre companies from all over the Latin continent, started somewhat improbably in 1998 by the aging but much beloved Columbian soap star Fanny Mikey. This was the place I needed to be to continue pursuing the marriage of my personal passion for South America with my professional interest in theatre producing.

The 2010 festival was the first since the sad passing of its charismatic founder Fanny Mikey, and tributes to her larger-than-life presence were everywhere: theatres were named in her honour, her orange curls and wicked grin were plastered across billboards, and ebullient quotes from her life adorned theatre foyers, the most bullish of which read: “Everything in life is possible; the only thing impossible is war.”

Fanny Mikey, founder of the Bogota Theatre Festival

Clearly the international theatre world is beginning to take notice of this festival: about 50 international delegates from the professional theatre world attended the 2008 edition of the festival; this year, there were 100 of us, including 6 Brits – myself and 5 representatives of the newly established International Theatre Consortium. Bogota is an extraordinary and challenging place for a festival of this scale: at 2,640 metres above sea level, the city’s air is thinner than usual, and heavily polluted by the smog of traffic fumes that permanently clog the highways, enforcing strenuous aerobic exercise on us in our dashing from venue to venue. The city is immense, and the geographical layout of the grid system is frustratingly deceptive: streets called ‘carreras’ run in one direction and cross streets called ‘calles’ run at right angles. All are supposedly numbered, but given that absolutely no roadsigns exist, very few people, including taxi drivers, seem to know which street is which, with odd diagonal streets and occasional avenues adding to the confusion. Maps seemed to vary wildly in their accuracy, and taxis are almost always 40 minutes late, their passage constantly blocked by bumper-to-bumper traffic. Given that the festival included plenty of events at obscure venues – residential apartments, old crumbling theatres tucked away in courtyards up pedestrian sidestreets, school halls, parks, etc. – most delegates missed at least one show per day from their intended agenda, despite Columbian timekeeping meaning that most shows went up 30 minutes late, and waiting on the busy pavements of Bogota soon became a significant part of the experience.

Despite having to do battle with the city each day, it was an inspiring adventure, and on the occasions when we weren’t in a rush, a wander through the back streets offered up all sorts of surreal delights, from brightly coloured murals, to mountains of fresh strawberries sold by the scoop from a barrow, to dozens of tiny theatres hidden away between shops and houses.

I was of course delighted and secretly rather proud that Teatro de Los Andes’ new show – a South American version of The Odyssey – went down so well (rousing standing ovation from an almost full house) and am hoping that its warm reception might add momentum to my campaign to get this fabulous Bolivian company’s work to the UK (see my first ever blog post on the subject). Other highlights for me included work by Chilean company Teatro En El Blanco: they presented two shows in Bogota – Diciembre, which I didn’t manage to get to see but which is coming our way in the summer care of the Edinburgh International Festival, and Neva, a weirdly comic piece about the death of Anton Chekov. Los Santos Innocentes by Mapa Teatro was a powerful piece of work (using fantastic documentary film footage, two venerable marimba players and a team of actors) about the surreal annual festival in an isolated Columbian town in which King Herod’s slaughter of innocent children is commemorated by drag queens running through the streets whipping passing victims. The site-specific piece El Autor Intelectual from Colombian company La Maldita Vanidad was also worth a watch: we peered voyeuristically from an external courtyard through a living room window into an apartment where three siblings argued over whose turn it was to look after their ailing mother, with tragicomedy inevitably turning to tragedy as the stakes got higher and higher. And an honourable mention must be made of the enjoyably bonkers show A Dentro La Casa A Fuera from Colectivo Inedita: no one seemed to have much of an idea of what was going on in this piece but it certainly ticked the ‘memorable and delightfully bizarre’ box, and what attendance at a Latin American arts festival would be complete without just that?

I could have stayed twice as long and was sad to miss the Cien Dias trilogy in particular, in which three separate directors tackle the dystopian subject matter of a world in which no murders take place, except for the one assassination prescribed each 100 day period by the state, with the murderer and victim selected by public ballot. I have heard good things about part one of the trilogy from those lucky enough to have stayed a day or so longer than my schedule allowed.

As ever, I had to sit through my fair share of the bad during the week in return for the reward of the good – only a few theatrical frogs ever turn obligingly into princes upon kissing, I find – but I quite enjoy the gamble in pursuit of discovering something new and wonderful. I do admit, however, to being grateful for the occasional interval at which I could slip out discreetly in pursuit of a glass of Malbec when it all got too taxing.

So all in all, a stimulating, invigorating, delightful week; put it in your 2012 diaries now.


Created in Birmingham » Theatre: Tomorrow night is PILOT night

There’s a PILOT night tomorrow – an evening of ‘new, untested shorts from some of the UK’s most exciting theatre companies’. AE Harris are housing and Kindle Theatre are hosting. It’s only a fiver so get down by 7.30pm for this little lot:

The line up will include performances from Needle & Thread Theatre’s continuing project The Story Exchange, a brick built Ziggurat from The Resurrectionists, a comic twist on a Greek myth from The Company Project, a public pillory from Mark Butcher, an operatic performance from Kirsty Lothian and the dulcet tones of Greg McLaren from Stoke Newington International Airport.

The evening will be fanfared by the City Sings Trumpeters and serenaded by The Mellow Peaches


© chrisunitt for Created in Birmingham, 2010. | Add a comment |

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Birmingham Hippodrome Blog: Mandy Rose, Press & Public Relations Officer on Birmingham Hippodrome’s on-going commitment to ‘Going Green’.

Did you know that Birmingham Hippodrome is the most popular single theatre in the UK?   We present more than 320 performances every year and, as at the end of this March, will have welcomed over 510,000 patrons through our doors in the last 12 months.   That’s a lot of people!   Plus, there are 90 full and part-time staff, nearly 400 casuals and some 60 volunteers.   And don’t forget the visiting companies with casts that can easily range from 200 people to just one performer.  

So with rising concerns over the environment, recycling and ‘Going Green’, we’ve been quite active in making sure that as much waste as possible is recycled and that our emissions are reduced where we can.  

We are very proud to have recently won an ISO award for our ongoing commitment and work on improving these areas and reducing our carbon footprint.   In fact we are the first theatre in the UK to be certified to ISO 14001 and listed on the QA register.   This is an international standard award for Environmental Management systems, now the most widely awarded EMS certification.

We have already changed the way we process our waste, our recycling has increased in the last 12 months by an incredible 110% and modifications to the theatre’s utilities mean that we have reduced gas and electricity usage by 30% in the last 5 years.

This is how we do it:-

  • Glass and Plastic recycled saves an average of 580kgs of Co2 per month Cardboard is baled, compressed onsite, and collected every 2 weeks for recycling (instead of 2 skips every week going to landfill)
  • General waste is compacted and collected every two weeks for recycling, reducing our carbon footprint (instead of emptying one skip five times per week which then went to landfill)
  • Administration: reduction of print consumption by 10% by more efficient use of email and double-sided copying.
  • Introduction of low energy lighting, sensor taps and hand dryers
  • Recycling bins located backstage and in administration
  • Waste that cannot be recycled is sent to Tyseley Incinerator in Birmingham, which produces enough energy to power 40,000 local homes
  • Ongoing work includes reduction of the theatre’s water usage

In 2006 we were awarded an interest free loan by The Carbon Trust which enabled us to reduce our energy bill by £17,500 per year through energy improvement measures.   And in The Building Controls Industry Awards 2007 the theatre won the Energy Management Award for maintaining auditorium comfort levels whilst reducing energy usage.   On top of this, proceeds from our coffee sales are donated through Cool Earth Charity.   So far we have already sold enough coffee to support 7 acres of endangered Amazonian rainforest, which will lock in an incredible 1,800 tonnes of CO2.

We feel we are making real changes at the Hip and are proud the awards reflect the theatre’s ongoing commitment in helping to make the environment just that little bit better for everyone.


Jane Packman: Positivity resolution

This week I started a new part time job at mac, there is lots of training and organisation to be done before we open to the public on 1st May. My colleagues and I have been on a course called Train the Trainer - about making and delivering training to your team. At the end of the week I received praise on my training course - how refreshing to just be told that you do something well!

For the last two years I have been making work-in-progresses and taking critical feedback to progress my work - this has entirely been sought, but being given such straight-forward and positive commendation in my new job got me thinking about how much criticism we receive and expect to be able to take as artists.

I have always believed very strongly in constructive criticism and debate, and have always heavily analysed my own and others works. I'm now wondering if perhaps we all need a bit more of a boost rather than a critiquing. Most theatre artists analyise their work quite thoroughly themselves - perhaps my "I enjoyed this but..." approach isn't actually needed.

And so to test this out, I resolve for the next six months to give all my positive feedback on work, but not my negative (unless explicitly asked for), I will apply this across all art forms, even when I go to the cinema I will aim to highlight what I liked. I may get bored of not negatively critiquing, or maybe I will find a new and positive way of influencing how work develops. Whatever the outcome I am looking forward to supporting fellow makers and telling them what I DID like. I'll let you know how it goes...

Jane Packman: Positivity resolution

This week I started a new part time job at mac, there is lots of training and organisation to be done before we open to the public on 1st May. My colleagues and I have been on a course called Train the Trainer - about making and delivering training to your team. At the end of the week I received praise on my training course - how refreshing to just be told that you do something well!

For the last two years I have been making work-in-progresses and taking critical feedback to progress my work - this has entirely been sought, but being given such straight-forward and positive commendation in my new job got me thinking about how much criticism we receive and expect to be able to take as artists.

I have always believed very strongly in constructive criticism and debate, and have always heavily analysed my own and others works. I'm now wondering if perhaps we all need a bit more of a boost rather than a critiquing. Most theatre artists analyise their work quite thoroughly themselves - perhaps my "I enjoyed this but..." approach isn't actually needed.

And so to test this out, I resolve for the next six months to give all my positive feedback on work, but not my negative (unless explicitly asked for), I will apply this across all art forms, even when I go to the cinema I will aim to highlight what I liked. I may get bored of not negatively critiquing, or maybe I will find a new and positive way of influencing how work develops. Whatever the outcome I am looking forward to supporting fellow makers and telling them what I DID like. I'll let you know how it goes...