tutti frutti hits Hong Kong

    Saturday 31st May

 So we are getting ready to take Rapunzel to Hong Kong:

·         Clothes for hot weather – check

·         Shoes – plenty – I like shoes

·         Passport – check

·         Boarding pass (on iphone) – check

·         Sun cream – (its going to be 32 degrees) – check

·         Lap top – check

·         Train tickets – check

All good to go. So I catch the over packed train from Leeds to Heathrow.

So far so good at the airport I wait for 3 actors, one stage manager (SM) and two cases of props.  We are due to meet at 4.30.

 4.30 wait…..

4.30 I meet with Elliot our SM with 2 cases of props -Check

4.45- meet actor one Gayle (she missed her train had to purchase another ticket) – Check

5.15 – meet two actors Alicia (she forgot something and had to go back home!) – check

 Anxiety now rising – we fly at 6.30pm gate close at 6pm.

 5.35 meet actor 3 Danny – check —– (note to self next time ensure all actors know about the Heathrow Express to get to Heathrow or that they know it’s over an hour on the tube from Euston to terminal 5!).

 We rush through customs and get to our gate. All aboard!

 We have a fantastically smooth flight

  Sunday 1st June

1.45 pm: 11 hours later we are safe in Hong Kong-   all actors and team, and props arrived – great, I can now relax.

We are met by Keiko our stage manager from ABA productions who escorts us to the hotel.

 After a rest and freshen up we set off  at 7.00pm to explore our immediate location, Wan Chi. We are 7 hours ahead here so back home its  lunch time!

 We go into a local cafe style restaurant. Armed with chop sticks we enjoy the local food, chicken fried rice for me, goose, duck and beef for the others. Simple, good and very cheap food.

 It’s still 30 degrees outside and it’s now 8.30pm. So we set off for a quick drink followed by a leisurely walk home. A day off tomorrow and time for everyone to explore.

Monday 2nd June

 Awake since 3.30 am so make it to breakfast early, meeting actor Danny filling his boots with varied array of both English and Chinese breakfast dumpling and noodle soup for breakfast or eggs and beans.

 A morning to check emails and then a stroll around the immediate location, step outside the hotel to 35 degrees of heat – it feels like you are walking in oven. To   the right; a local market – with fish being gutted  and every kind of vegetable and fruit available , plus cashew nuts and  every kind of tea, and  to my right row upon row of  shops with  addidas, Nike  and every other shop selling mobile phones, cases and  head phones.

Alicia and Gayle  our  2  female actors  have  gone off on the  wonderful cable car trip to see the big Buddha and, as I have done this before,  I  go with Danny and  Elliot to  the busy  ‘Ladies  Market ‘ a  busy market full of fake  Jimmy Choo,  Mulberry and Michael Kors bags, wallets and  purses, alongside the traditional Chinese  chopsticks and pottery, and electronics of every kind. With haggling skills at the ready we enter the fray leaving a few hours later, a few dollars lighter, and armed with goodies.

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7.00pm we meet up and head for Central station, up-market – shops and the area of cool bars.  We  walk  past Harvey Nicks, Prada,  Gucci,  and then we climb  up the steep side streets  and enter  a cavern of bars,  night life and  restaurants. We take our pick and enjoy spectacular Malay and Indian food at very good prices. A 40 min warm walk back to the hotel at midnight to bid good night.

 Tomorrow the work starts at 9am – lights to focus and set while actors wash the costume and run lines – we are excited to start!

Tuesday 3rd June

Early morning breakfast followed by a quick look around the immediate surrounding Wan Chi area. I'm convinced each day that they squeeze in another outlet into the already overfilled row after row of shops; noodle bars, shops with brands, real and fake, newspaper stands, old ladies selling plastic bags, cafes with rows of cooked ducks, squid and items that are unidentifiable to me, all line up together. Then stuck between the shops up every side street a market will spring up where you can  buy everything from fake Calvin Klein’s, to light fittings, to chicken feet – you name and it’s there. Every other shop sells electronic equipment and all the paraphernalia that goes with it cases, leads, gizmos all on offer. Just 10 min walk away towards Central is Harvey Nicks, Gucci, Chanel appealing to the other end of the market shiny and new and sitting amongst the towering high rises that wink at you from every place you stand in this brilliantly intense city.

The heat is turned up at 33 degrees today as we walk to the theatre. We are greeted by a huge banner hanging outside the theatre adverting our show. We have arrived at the Hong Kong centre for performing arts. The afternoon is spent running lines, and working with the set that has been built here. A beautiful and brilliant reproduction of our original set. It has a few variations to the original that we have to solve and a few things had got lost in translation but overall we are delighted by what the team here have created. We are warmly welcomed by Matthew Gregory our ABA producer. At 6.00pm we have to stop teching and leave the space and by 8pm Matthew is hosting us at local restaurant and we are served an array of delicious food from sizzling prawn to Peking duck to minced pigeon wrapped in lettuce leaves.  We are served by the waiters who carry the reputations of being very grumpy. They live up to their name and we thoroughly enjoy the delicious food. We have a great evening and are very appreciative of Matthews’s generous hospitality.

We look forward to the dress rehearsals tomorrow!

Wednesday 4rd June

In the theatre for 9.00am to work with the tech team to finalise the pictures, stars and lights.

 Actors arrive at 11.30 and we spend the rest of the morning adjusting bits of the show to new set positions and adapting to the space.

2.00pm actors fitted with radio mics and pre set. We do a rough tech run.

At 4.30 we run a dress rehearsal which Matthew watches. This new team have really only run this show 3 times now. So it’s still new – they do a good run and we feel we are ready for the shows the next day. …..

7.00pm we leave the theatre and find a local cafe for chicken, rice, or noodles. Danny ditches the Chinese food and has chips and ketchup which he eats with chop sticks.

 By 9.00pm we make our way home – in readiness for an early start the next day warming up on stage at 8.00am.

 Throughout the last few days sleep has been erratic with jet lag playing havoc adding in the heat makes for a cast who are feeling weary.

Thursday 5th June

Into the theatre early to get ready for show one at 9.45am, 400 school children in each show.  The shows are great and the children seem to enthuse and respond particularly to the tic tocs. They love Rafis energy and of course Nan’s building dance and Rapunzel’s hair! They engage a lot with the music. It’s delightful to see the 3 actors mingling with the children as they enter the auditorium.

The 2nd show is at 12 noon and an equally lively bunch enjoys the show, they defend Nan when the character Rafi calls her a witch.  We are pleased that the show is working.

Everyone is keen to visit the Peak (the highest spot in Hong Kong – were you can take in the whole city) so we make our way there, through the plethora of sweet shop, souvenir shops and eating places – All magnets for children.  We take the escalators to the Peak’s viewing area and we each part with £5 for the privilege – a new charge since I was last here. At the top you see the stunning view of Hong Kong  below with its 7 million population crammed into a space half the size of London, the 6 dragons (hills) loom in the distance and the harbour below separates Hong Kong from Kowloon. The tallest building in Hong Kong stares at us with is missing 14 th floor (unlucky number in HK) and climbing up to 64. The view is breathtaking and almost unreal with its towering skyscrapers, shining lights, and helipads, and all stacked together right across to the horizon like kids stickle bricks. I wonder if Rapunzel travels as far as Hong Kong or if from her tower she can enjoy such a view. Immediately below us is dense greenery like bunches of broccoli and it soon disappears into the concrete of the buildings. The day is wet and hot, and a burst of rain clears the air momentarily.  Having taken in the 360 degree view we head off to the trendy Central area for dinner with its steep streets and numerous bar and restaurants. We eat delicious food and then travel the Super efficient tube back to Wan Chi. The entire streets are alive with lights, advertising, and colourful trams that trundle up and down- it’s a city that never sleeps. Sleep is something we all need and we hope that we are able to get through one night without waking up by at 3 or 4 am as our body clocks struggle to adjust to Hong Kong time.

Friday 6th June

Sadly my last day in Hong Kong but we have 2 more shows to do today. The audience are school children in the morning and families at the 2nd show and we have two good houses. The 5pm show is very different as it’s made up of a much broader range of people and age ranges. They audiences   give the show a positive response, clicking along to the tic tocs and calling out Rapunzels age at each stage of the story. Several of the little girls are in  'Tangled'  Disney frocks and remind me that there is  a Disney world here in Hong Kong confirming  that the western influences are as much a part of Hong Kong as are  the  Chinese traditions such as  the population practicing tai chi   in the local park.  Many children come into the theatre with painted faces which they can get done in the foyer or indeed have their photo take in front of the large Rapunzle banner. Today I take time  to meet with Matthew our ABA produce and his partner Emma for lunch. We catch up and talk about possible future projects. We lunch at ROKO a smart Japanese restaurant in the huge Pacific Tower shopping complex. The very smart shops of Chanel, Gucci, Prada, line the mall with the eating places all on the ground floor.  tutti frutti is bringing our next autumn show 'The Princess and the Pea' to Kidsfest (Hong Kong / Singapore) in January 2015 and contracts are exchanged for this next partnership.

ABA productions are exemplary in their hosting of the company, with everything laid on; a wonderful tech team, a good hotel, excellent information, a lovely venue at the Hong Kong Academy of performing arts.  Each detail is considered from a full fridge of water, chocolate and snacks for the actors to enjoy while at the theatre, to delicious croissants delivered by Matthew for the actors on their opening show day. We are very impressed with how they work with us and bring full audiences to the venue. We are therefore very excited to be retuning next year and hope we can make a show that the audience in Hong Kong and Singapore will enjoy.

 9.30pm and time for me to leave. As I am met by my driver at the hotel to take me back to the airport I bid fare well to the team who have 6 more shows to perform before they leave. I’m looking forward to being home but am also sad to be leaving the fantastic Rapunzel team and to be leaving Hong Kong. The drive to the airport reminds me of the unique landscape as it towers all around. My driver tells me how he left Hong Kong to visit Canada a number of years ago but he was unable to enjoy the open  space and the fact it was too quiet with no people around- so I enquired if he liked living in Hong Kong? He made it clear he loved living here, rather like Rafi in our play, ‘happy living here, between the trees, the town and the sea.’

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