Tuesday, 19 August 2014

First Show in Kandy

We had two shows of Jujubee in Kandy, both organised by the Catholic community there. Father Nandana, the Parish Priest of St. Antony's Cathedral in Kandy had mobilised everyone and they had really taken care of all our needs. The famous annual Buddhist festival of  Esala Perahara was to start in Kandy in two days. All hotels were booked out so Father Nandana had arranged for all of us to stay the first night at the Fatima Retreat in Lewella. That evening, which was our only free evening, we visited the famed Tooth Temple with Sam from NTT giving us a well informed tour.

The next morning we were up at dawn to leave for the venue of the first Show - Good Shepherd Convent, Kandy.
The actors checked out the hall and set up while the morning prayers were said over a microphone. John and I didn't have much to do. There were simple switches for a row of lights and we decided to just switch them on and leave them on.

It was the 125th year of the Convent. There were streamers and decorations all over the hall. One of the most memorable/ hilarious/ sheepish moments of the entire trip for us happened just before the show. We had woken up and eaten breakfast very early and just before the show everyone was really hungry. We were told snacks and tea was organised. We found a room behind the stage laid out with delicious snacks. Samosas in one corner, and then pyramids of egg sandwiches, fish and vegetable rolls, chocolate cake, coffee and juice. Needless to say everyone helped themselves greedily. Just then one of the volunteers looked in to check if we were Ok and was obviously stunned that we had started eating. Apparently only the samosas were meant as a pre-show snack and the whole thing was laid out for after the show. We were supposed to have tea and snacks with the School Principal and the Father!! Terrible sheepishness followed.
The morning show went off pretty well. The convent girls were a little older than the ideal age group,  also a little shy and very disciplined but by the end of it, they were clapping and squealing with enthusiasm. 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Off to Sri Lanka

As soon as we returned from Bangalore it was time to pack up and go to Srilanka. And when I say "pack up" I really mean it. Jujubee had been invited by NTT to do 6 shows in Kandy and Colombo and the large and lovely props made by Aarti had to be very carefully packaged to go as check-in baggage.
We were at the airport phenomenally early as requested by Srilankan airlines and they were so helpful that we had a lot of time to spare after check-in.
While doing this sketch, I stood with my sketchbook balanced on the handrail with a double volume space below me overlooking the concourse. Just as I finished and closed my book one of my pens fell down. I looked down and could see it there but no one passed by. I decided to take the escalator down to the boarding gates as it was almost time anyway but once downstairs I couldn't find my way back to the place where my pen was. Instead the labyrinthine corridors kept twisting away from the new building into the depths of the old airport and row upon row of musty handicraft shops! Ultimately I came all the way back and got a passing official to throw up my pen but the new airport remains a bit mysterious.
The flight to Colombo was just one hour with a lovely view of the Palk Strait. On the way down to land we hit some of the worst turbulence I've encountered in my memory. Colombo was covered in low rain clouds and at one point we suddenly dropped - I felt as though my stomach was in my throat but then we were out again and all you could see was blue water and the endless green of coconut trees.
Heading out of Bandaranaike airport we didn't go into Colombo since the first few shows were lined up in Kandy. There was a sleek 20 seater bus and Sam Perera from NTT waiting there for us - we were off to the hills!

Monday, 11 August 2014

A typical week at Rangashankara

Across the road from Rangashankara is Adithya, a typical Bangalore fast food joint. It opens early for breakfast and dishes out simple and delectable food all day through. Real value for money, there's regular stuff like idli and dosai, heavenly benne masala and some Karnataka specialities like neer dosai, open dosai and ragi dosai for breakfast. Full and hearty meals for lunch and in the evening when we're all feeling peckish before the show there is Paddu (kuzhi paniyarams), akki roti and kottakadubu.
The coffee at Adithya is pretty good stuff too and needless to say we spent a large part of our extra time (and money) there.
Another regular fixture in our week in RS was a sleeping Vedanth.

Okay, granted, that does not look like him but Vedanth had just become a father 10 days earlier and little Ameya was keeping him up on night duty so literally whenever he could get a few extra minutes he would use it well. The first half of the week was less hectic, we had single shows of Giraffe every evening but over the weekend there were shows of Jujubee in the morning and two shows of Giraffe after lunch. 

Sachin and Vedanth were the musicians for Jujubee and the first show on Friday morning, that had over 250 children in the audience was dedicated to little Ameya.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Giraffe moves into Rangashankara

One of the biggest changes to the play in this run of shows was a scene inserted into the middle of the prawn factory. That had to be rehearsed and blocked before the first show on the 22nd. It came out really well and I won't say more - do catch the show whenever you next can and see for yourself.

We did a total of 8 shows from tuesday to Sunday and every morning we would assemble for Rajiv's feedback session. The backdrop for this was invariably the same - the set in the configuration of the last scene from the previous show with Rajiv taking centre stage and enthralling us with the most "outstanding moments"  from the previous day.

John and I usually toss a coin at the start of a run, to decide who lights the first show. Frome there on we alternate shows. This had become a sort of ritual that the group looked forward to as we would fight about it and make it a best of 3 tosses, and then a best of 5 and finally a best of 7. But this time, much to everyones' disappointment we had made our decision on the train!
So I got to sketch Muddanna's light booth on the eve of the first show while J had to prepare.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Touring with Perch

After a quiet 1st half of 2014, these last few weeks have been a lot of travelling and all of it with Perch. There's still more to come in the next few months and so I decided to dedicate a sketchbook/journal just for my travels with Perch. And I'm already half-way through the book!

John and I travelled by the Shatabdi to reach the rest of the cast who were already in Bangalore a few days earlier rehearsing for "How to Skin a Giraffe".
We reached in time for lunch. The cast were rehearsing at Play Practice, a new space near Bangalore university and we were looking forward to catch a run-through to brush up on our lighting cues but when we reached we found them like this :)
Just kidding. That was a short nap after lunch.... as always. But we did catch the run through and there were several small changes and edits to the play making it crisper and helping with the flow of the narrative.

The next morning we would move into Rangashankara for tech and more rehearsal.... sketches of that to follow in the next post.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

My special little sketchbook

I have a pocket sketchbook that is so small that it frequently gets lost. I stumbled upon it this morning searching for something else and found that there was an entire series of sketches that I hadn't blogged. It was from a trip to Mumbai last November. As I leafed through the sketches the memories came back clear and detailed and it struck me all over again, how lovely it is to sketch memories in a sketchbook.
I prefer it to taking photos any day. Of course photos bring back memories if and when you go through all 40 GB of them, but with the sketch, even the making of it is a memory in itself.

Our theatre group was travelling by the Mumbai Mail to stage a play "How to Skin a Giraffe" at NCPA and we were a big group scattered across two coaches. As we got in there were some people who recognised Rajiv and they turned out to be teachers from The School, KFI . It's always nice to meet and get to know people on long train journeys.

In fact, we were on the train longer than we stayed in Mumbai. It was incredibly hot and humid for November but the route was quite beautiful. We also spent a lot of time in the stations because the entire set for the play was booked and taken in the brake van. And it was sad to note that the amount of unofficial looting that goes on at the Chennai Railway station when you try to book your parcels in was far far more than at Mumbai.

I couldn't do any sketches at the fabulous Tata Theatre where we performed. Assembling the set, rigging and focussing light in time for the show was too hectic but I did a couple of sketches at the hotel. We stayed at Sea Green Hotel on Marine Drive and in the morning and late evening we walked from the hotel to the auditorium along the sea shore. It was an old hotel with a lot of charm and great big rooms with mosaic flooring. A little run down but two great views from my balcony. Turn to the left and it was Brabourne cricket stadium. And turn to the right.....

This sketchbook is a great one to have. It's really tiny and compact but opens out flat so I can do doublespreads. You can check out some of my previous posts done in this book. Its my go to book when I'm hurried or travelling light or want to sketch unobtrusively and just capture memories. Its called a Brahmabook and I haven't spotted them around in a while. I hope they still make them.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Madras High Court Heritage Walk

On Sunday morning bright and early at 8 am a large group of us gathered near the old Light house within the Madras High Court campus. The event was a heritage walk cum talk organised by Intach and the gathering of over 50 people were mostly architects, history enthusiasts, journalists or Intach members. The talk started off at the base of the Light house. Built in 1834 and faced with beautifully dressed granite it is in the shape of a large fluted doric column. It has a spiral stairway inside and a pile of firewood was lit each night at the top as a signal to approaching ships.

I was under the impression that we would walk through the building and then there would be a talk later in a hall. That's what I had understood from the invite but as it happened there were short talks about specific parts of the campus and its history right through the walk which lasted 2 hours in total. So right from the start I kept getting five minutes here and there and sneaked in these quick sketches.
From the Lighthouse we walked along the Eastern side of the main building. Sujatha Shankar, a senior Architect and Convener of Intach Chennai took over the talk at this point and started talking about the detailing and the style. The happy marriage of brick and granite that forms the building language.

The High court building took many years to build and doubtless many people contributed. But it's design is mainly credited to Henry Irwin and she spoke about how he was deeply influenced by previous works by Robert Chisholm (in fact just along the beach at the Chepauk Palace and Senate House). The High Court is generally acclaimed as one of the best examples of Indo Saracenic Architecture and we went up close to an arched opening on the east face where she enumerated the many ways in which it was a confluence of various styles.

We then moved into the East Portico. The building has entrances in all 4 cardinal directions but the East gate is currently kept locked up. Mr. Rajah, an Advocate with the high Court and part of the High Court heritage committee took over talking about the history of some incidents at each of the locations we had passed. The gate itself, which I tried to capture as a background in this sketch was beautiful 3 dimensional wrought iron work. But since we couldn't get into the building from here we walked around to the North Portico.

Along the way, we stopped at this statue of Sir Bhashyam Iyengar who was the first Indian acting Advocate General. Mr Rajah pointed out interesting trivia like the fact that the correct formal attire for an Indian like Mr Iyengar was - Silk turban, Robes, Panchakacham (dhoti) and shoes and so this is how he is portrayed in his statue

Our first stop inside the building was the High Court Museum. It has a vast collection of documents, plaques, various objects and furniture used long ago in the courts and this room at the back that is set up with the original furniture. I could only get a peek in and then we were off to the Madras Bar association Library.

Once again Mr Rajah regaled us with many historic tales and anecdotes to try and give us a picture of what it meant in those days to be a member of the Bar, the kind of people they were. Some tales of abject corruption but equally as many of high integrity and honour.

Finally we were also shown the Chief Justice Hall, a very ornate courtroom and with so many of us inside I decided to try and sketch the ceiling as I couldn;t quite look across the hall. The first chief justice was Sir Thomas Lumisden Strange, apparently a great man who was incorruptible and highly regarded,  and a huge portrait of him hangs on the wall facing the Judges, supposedly reminding them of what they need to live up to.
The ceiling itself had a geometric pattern of wooden frames holding up a cardboard painted false ceiling that looked rich and ornate. The same kind of 4-8-16 geometries were seen in a lot of the Jali work and metal work all over the building.
Intach plans on holding this walk and opening it out to all citizens every 2nd Sunday of the month. I would highly recommend it!
And on a final note - I finished another sketchbook! That's the second one to get over this weekend.