Blogging from Germany: First Days

Here I am, in a tiny garret on Böckstaße, a totally immigrant-Turkish-Italian neighbourhood in Mannheim. A regular neighbourhood-neighbourhood like from the movies. West Side Story with people on the streets, men in shirtsleeves, eating, drinking, chatting with girls in glitter jeans and white tanks. My garret overlooks a courtyard, old roofs, gables, pink and red eraniums, stray jeans hanging out to dry much like in Bombay. Oh, and I’m listening to Abida Parveen in some sort of lateral preparation rite for a day of theatre workshop ahead.
The last time I was in Germany for Schone Aussicht and I watched plays till I was dizzy from it - stupidly I didn’t blog thinking this is something apart. Maybe it was laziness and too much Sekt. But this time – I know for sure this is all part of the Infinite Souls experience, so blog I will!

Here’s what I’m planning for the day, I’m writing it down as much to remind me as anything: A hour’s solid warm up to get European bodies ready for the sheer differentness - bent knees, lower centre of gravity, stretched inner thighs, wrist action, distilled fingers – of Indian movement traditions.

And then on to the Ramayana.

Given the state of the Ramayana in India these days, courtesy the maladroit machinations of self proclaimed Rams, Raavans and Bajrang Dalis, I am delighted to allow another Ramayana to emerge from these actors (German, Swiss, Russian & Spanish) and feel no need to “inform” them in any way except the physical. I asked earlier which Ramayana they would use and if they were adhering to any one and Anne Richter, the dramaturg, said they would be true to the Valmiki Ramayana but were leaving out the Uttarakanda. Gut.

So we will explore ways to move in masks, to transform from the prosaic to the divine, to turn one’s gaze inward, to walk, to fight, to make love. We will use walks and the ashtavadivus from Kalaripayattu, asamyutha and samyutha mudras from Bharatnatyam, Meyerhold’s Shoot the Bow etude, Navarasa exercises while eliminating the face, the four abhinayas and so on. Oh, and I’m also planning on teaching them the konokol from Steve Smith’s Vital Information! For me, he’s a great example to show the actors – a rock drummer from Journey who studies an Indian technique really closely and then makes it his own. This is the challenge; to abstain from imitative or faux-Indian practice, and instead to learn a skill, a technique with depth and clarity and then…create with it. This is the idea behind my theatre practice and pedagogical method.

My actors will begin by sweeping and cleaning the space in simple functional movements. Then two actors with lit carpura and agarbati will walk briskly around the space and put them down. Two other actors will simultaneously dip three fingers each in ground rice paste and drag these fingers down either side of the space. That’s it. Then we begin.

This morning I have all the actors (except Maike) the choreograher, Luches Huddlestone, as well as Anne Richter and Monika, a theatre pedagogue. We are working in the rehearsal space in Neckarau.


And now for breakfast. I’ve got cold pizza in the fridge, but I’m not going to do it! I’ll pick up something on the way. So off for a bath and then walk past the “best lasagne in Mannheim” family-owned pizzaria, past the little Turkish supermarkets, over the bridge, on to Damstraße and to Schnawwl. Tomorrow I’ll get my bike and phone organized and if I just figure how to hook into this Sweex network that pops up on my laptop and doesn’t seem to be HotSpot type pay for service, I’ll be super cool!

I pick up a coffee and a pumpkin seed roll (Eins stüt bitte) and go for it.

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