Wednesday, 24 October 2012

'Ici' goes to France

I had planned on blogging each day while in France - but alas it did not happen.  I have a new found respect for regular bloggers.  However  a number of friends have asked me to put some words and pictures up on the blog about our time in France - so here goes.

(For earlier info about the Festival and Ici see blog postings on this site from September 26th and 21st)

The trip over

We left Melbourne on Friday September 21st.  Lisa, her daughter Evie and I travelled together.  Margot went a week earlier and Sian left a few days later on the Sunday.

The obligatory airport departure photo:

First stopover Singapore in the wee hours of the morning.  Like cattle being moved onto a truck bound for the sale yard we were prodded from plane, to gate, to departure lounge and finally back onto our flight.  


Introducing Evie to the importance of mid flight stretches:


We decided to break our journey in Dubai and spend two nights recuperating and having a mini holiday before France at The Atlantis Palm Resort.  Unfortunately we did not get a chance to see the old Dubai and spent the majority of our time navigating our way around the enormous hotel and hanging out by the pool.  We did a small amount of rehearsal too.

Our room:

The pool:

Pretending to rehearse!:

Arriving in Geneva

On Monday morning September 24th we were reunited with Sian at Dubai airport.  From here the four of us continued on to Geneva.  When we got to Geneva we were met by festival organiser Bronwyn Lay, poet Paul Magee, Donna O'Mara and my daughter Georgina.  It was a great airport reunion and a few tears of joy were shed!

With Donna, Bronwyn and Paul

A very excited (or delirious) Sian!:

Heading across the border into France.

From Geneva Bron drove us all to Divonne in France and we booked into our hotel where we were reunited with Margot. 

First thing - a trip to the supermarket (Casino) for food, drinks and other essentials and of course our first chance of testing our language skills.  After shopping we had quick showers and then headed to our room (me, Georgina and Donna shared the large room which would become our main meeting place, rehearsal space and meals space) for our first production meeting, drinks and dinner.

Production meeting and then much anticipated 'cheers':

Tuesday - day one of rehearsals

It rained all day so we were restricted to rehearsing and working indoors.  Georgina began her work as nanny for Evie and had to contend with keeping all activities indoors.  We had hoped to have use of meeting room within our hotel as our rehearsal room but unfortunately the room was not available so all rehearsals happened in bedrooms.  On the first morning Sian and I worked together on my French script and Lisa and Margot worked together on their French scripts.  We moved from bedroom to bedroom in order to work with someone or to work alone.  After lunch we did a full run in our bedroom.  Georgina, Donna and Evie were 'kicked out' and had to find other places to hang out.  It was a long, tiring and frustrating day due to the terrible weather, jet lag and various issues that needed to be resolved with the work.

We worked late into the afternoon and then had drinks while Georgina cooked for us.  Our evenings were spent together eating, drinking and talking.  Good times.

Wednesday - day two of rehearsals

On Wednesday I was reunited by my old uni friend Marlene de Wilde.  Marlene lives in Greece and came to Divonne to meet up with us all and to go to the festival.  It was great to have her with us and our 'party' now grew to eight.

The rain eased off a bit so we were all able to get out and about a bit which was especially good for Georgina, Evie, Marlene and Donna.

Again we spent the day in various bedrooms rehearsing; in the morning I did an English line run with Marlene, Margot worked with Donna, Lisa with Sian. In the afternoon we did a full English run and the others headed off to explore Nyon in Switzerland. In the evening Georgina cooked again for us and it was back to our room for dinner and drinks.  And yes I do appear to have on my pajama pants at every evening get-together!  

Thursday - day three of rehearsals

Today the rain stopped, the sun came out and we moved from rehearsing in our hotel rooms into the space.  

We worked with venue technician Serge and festival producer Mahony.  It was fantastic to get into the space and see where we were going to work and get a feel for the venue, sound, lighting etc.  The space is huge so we decided to present Ici at the front of the stage and keep lighting to a minimum which suited the set which comprised of two chairs.  As the work is completely text and music driven we decided very early on to keep set and props to a minimum.  With the space we  had access to a back screen and decided to light this with a burnt orange to evoke a feeling of heat, isolation and large land mass.  Most of the communication with Serge needed to happen in French with Margot, Sian and Mahony facilitating most of the conversation and translation.

Venue from the outside:

Venue from the inside:

Serge and Dan discuss logistics:

On Thursday afternoon Bron took 'ensemble loin d'ici' and Dan Kelly out for lunch.  Out first meal out and our first meal away from the hotel!  It was very exciting!  I had steak and potatoes and a glass of plonk and felt very content.  

After lunch we explored the shops and the town and enjoyed the sunshine.  For me, this was my best day - weather had turned, we worked in the space, been out to eat and had enough time to just sit and walk and explore and get a feel for the town of Divonne.  Bliss.  And we felt ready to perform.

Later in the afternoon Margot and Sian walked from Divonne to Vesancy.  Lisa and I went to the butcher and ordered my twelve sausages and did general shopping.   

We then returned to the hotel and were picked up by festival committee members and taken to Vesancy for the welcome drinks for the artists and friends.   A great 'do' and really good to finally meet the other artists performing and presenting at the festival.

Arriving at Bron and Nico's beautiful house in Vesancy


 Festival guests, committee members and friends:

Donna, Sian and Marlene

Enjoying the hospitality of Bron and Nico

Castlemaine was well represented with Pete McCracken, Terry Jaensch and Caroline Kennedy

The shows:

So Friday September 28th finally rolled around and now it was time to actually do our work and present our show.  At 8.30pm we stepped out onto the stage and presented our first show in English.  It was a relief to be finally do it and we were rewarded with applause, excellent feedback and huge respect from all that we spoke with.  Phew!

Saturday September 29th we performed in French.  I found this to be a fairly terrifying and exhilarating experience.  We decided a number of weeks before arriving in France that we would do the French performances with script in hand.  This was a wise decision - though we were very rehearsed and had a great sense of our material we all found it extremely difficult to learn the French entirely so having the script with us gave us added confidence.  I have to say that the French shows were the hardest things I have ever done as an artist - even with script in hand.  I actually had a thought on stage which was 'OMG - I'm here in France performing in French - WHAT is going on???'  Audiences were very generous with our  French and very appreciative of the effort that we had taken to perform in French.  Next time - no script in hand.

Sunday September 30th was our bilingual show - two monologues were performed in French and one in English.  This was my favourite show.  I finally felt very comfortable with the French and I think we all performed with great confidence and professionalism.  Drinks after the closing show were also tremendous!

Post show beverage.

Our little fan club - attended all three shows!

Post show party:

A few friends have asked if I will do it again - answer - you bet!  Am already planning the 2014 project.

Reviews by Marlene de Wilde:

Other photos:

The bar and foyer

Cheese, cheese and more cheese!

Tristan O'meara

Alison and Val from Biel

Bronwyn and Guillaume give the opening address

Enjoying Bron and Nico's hospitality.

Many thanks to Lisa Male-Robertson, Georgina Kelly and Steven Bird for the photos. 

Many thanks to festival organisers and committee and especially to Bronwyn Lay, Mahony Maia Kiely and Nico Clark.

And finally, many thanks to the Bardas Foundation.