Stu Mayhew – on photographing GDIF

Hi and welcome to my GDIF2016 photo blog !

My name is Stu Mayhew and I am an amateur photographer based in Greenwich where I help run Aperture Woolwich Photographic Society – one of the oldest camera clubs in the country. I have been photographing the Greenwich +Docklands International Festival for many years now and it’s always an honour to be asked back. In the build up to this year’s event I have been bust charging camera batteries, getting my memory cards sorted, cleaning lenses and dusting off my trusty GDIF Press and Media vest!

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The first event of this year’s GDIF took place at the Queen’s House in a specially commissioned show marking the 400th anniversary of this beautiful building right in the heart of Greenwich. The show consisted of digital projection onto the facia of the building, dance, music and narration by Sir Ian McKellen.

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I arrived at 8PM to allow myself plenty of time to talk to crew and production members about vantage points and so on, as well as to catch up with other GDIF photographers who I only get to see once a year. I spoke with Rebecca Brower, the costumes and scenic designer, and enquired into whether I could shoot the event from a platform on one of the lighting towers. A quick word with one of the riggers and I was up on my lofty perch with a perfect view over the whole crowd and production area. I set up my tripod, got my cameras (I shoot with two, a Canon 5D and a 6D) and watched the crowds gather below me. As dusk fell into night the show began – the front of the Queen’s House transforming in front of our eyes – the projections were amazing and there were dancers and a performance by Sharon D Clarke –  the whole show was transfixing. The finale was a cascade of pyrotechnics with fireworks shooting into the night sky. As smoke drifted over the audience a huge cheer went up and GDIF2016 was under way. I think it was one of the best opening nights of the festival that I can remember.

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Arka Photo Blog – Stu Mayhew

So I had spent an enjoyable, if occasionally wet, day in Canary Wharf it was time to get home and charge my batteries. My camera batteries naturally ! I made the short trip from where I live in Shooters Hill down to Artillery Square in Woolwich where Teatr Osmega Dnia would bring and end to GDIF 2014 with Arka.

GDIF2014 Arka by Theatr Osmego Dnia ; Photo by Stu Mayhew

GDIF2014 Arka by Theatr Osmego Dnia ; Photo by Stu Mayhew

This Polish theatre group began their performance amongst the large gathered crowd, winding their way up on to the main stage. It looked like a wedding celebration but was soon interrupted by a military invasion symbolised by fire eating men who being wheeled through the square on wood and metal contraptions spitting flames high into the night sky, drawing cheers and gasps from everyone.

GDIF2014 Arka by Theatr Osmego Dnia ; Photo by Stu Mayhew

GDIF2014 Arka by Theatr Osmego Dnia ; Photo by Stu Mayhew

Meanwhile the stage had turned into a scene of huge burning windows , silhouetting the crowd. This large flaming structures were then moved through the crowds and the scene was strange yet beautiful to behold.

GDIF2014 Arka by Theatr Osmego Dnia ; Photo by Stu Mayhew

GDIF2014 Arka by Theatr Osmego Dnia ; Photo by Stu Mayhew

The performance is about war and refugees being displaced from home. It was quite a moving piece and visually captivating. GDIF has really discovered Artillery Square as a great performance venue and bring the Arts right into the the center of Woolwich has to be applauded, there is always a really big, highly appreciative crowd and tonight was no exception

GDIF2014 Arka by Theatr Osmego Dnia ; Photo by Stu Mayhew

GDIF2014 Arka by Theatr Osmego Dnia ; Photo by Stu Mayhew

As a huge ship gently sailed into the crowd the show ended and the curtain was closed on GDIF 2014. It is a real privilege to be apart of it, in my own small way. Over the years I have met many of the performers and photographers and its nice to see old faces. A massive effort goes into to bringing such a prestigious event to Greenwich Borough and long may it continue.

GDIF2014 Arka by Theatr Osmego Dnia ; Photo by Stu Mayhew

GDIF2014 Arka by Theatr Osmego Dnia ; Photo by Stu Mayhew

If you live locally and enjoy photography or want to learn how to get more out of your camera then visit http://www.woolwichphotographic.com and find out more about Greenwich’s award winning camera club!

See you next year

Stu

Inside Out

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 9.15.38 AMLucian Msamati

Artistic Director, Tiata Fahodzi

For a mostly building based company like Tiata Fahodzi, the making of Hamba, our first outdoor show, has very much been the ultimate ‘back-to-basics’ challenge. The bricks, tricks and mortar of theatre buildings offer a degree of certainty: audience there, actors here, share a drink over there.

Outside on the street you are literally and figuratively at the mercy of the elements; yes, there are codes and understood rules of engagement but there
is no guarantee that they are espoused and respected in the same way by everyone else.

The fundamental need of the performer in this zone however is the same: to demand, engage and hold the attention of an audience. So how do I move someone to
tears as they run to catch the bus or chat or daydream? For us the answers began with questions from within: what makes you stop/ turn your head/ pay attention/ engage in the park/street/bus/motorway tailback etc.? When a car backfires or tyres screech, we react viscerally. There is something unguarded and honest in it.

In other words, the more honest and unapologetic the subject or object is the more likely we are to pay attention. The Proscenium Arch of a theatre justifies our  great and magical games of complicit make believe; doing so in your local park or high
street demands that you justify yourself! In other words the concept of certainty has to come from within.

This was our cue to buckle down and tell the story honestly, openly, enthusiastically and with integrity. Storytelling, make-believe and theatre existed long before the West End. Architecture, technology and lyricism never trump the truth: a good story, told with invention doesn’t need a huge budget to work. Now is our time to be honest and courageous and hope you are transfixed!

Catch The Legend of Hamba one more time tonight (Thursday, June 26) at 8:30 at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as part of Global Streets

Q&A with Tiata Fahodzi Artistic Director Lucian Msamati and actors Ery Nzaramba and Anniwaa Buachie

Palessa Mokoena
Assistant Producer
Tiata Fahodzi

We’re so excited to be on tour this summer with our first outdoor performance The Legend of Hamba. I decided to ask some of the cast (Ery Nzaramba & Anniwaa Buachie) and our Artistic Director Lucian Msamati (also director of Hamba) a few questions about the process.

What really IS the main difference in performing outdoors vs indoors? Have a read below for some helpful hints and insight into the outdoor festival world, and some secrets to the Tiata Fahodzi creative process!

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 What’s been the key difference in preparing for outdoor performance and indoor performance?

Ery Nzaramba (Actor)
For me the challenge has been pushing my physicality past the norm; the over-the-top acting, and even the clown acting – telling a story without words, so precision is key. And because it’s an outdoor performance it has to be bigger than big. So it’s a physically taxing show.

Anniwaa Buachie (Actor)
Vocal energy! When performing outside you are not in a confined space and have to find ways to combat the city noises – Aeroplanes, police sirens, trains, traffic etc. So vocal energy is even more important. You need your voice to be rooted and free from tension to capture your audience’s attention.

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 What do you enjoy most about the process?

Ery:
The challenge and opportunity to learn and grow as a performer.

Anniwaa:
The not knowing. Being able just to play and experiment. Every day is different, I discover different things each time I have performed Hamba.

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What did you find the most challenging/ enjoy the least about the process?

Ery:
The sheer physicality of it – you have to learn to pace yourself and still give it your all.

Anniwaa:
Nothing!

Lucian Msamati (Artistic Director of Tiata Fahodzi and Director of The Legend of Hamba)
 The biggest blessing for me was also the biggest curse. There is a mixture of excitement and trepidation when creating a piece from scratch. You may spend a whole day working on a brilliant scene or moment only to discover when you put it all together that it is not serving the story or that it is not working!

Whether people love or hate it is out of your control; but you can control the quality and solidity of your story or approach. And that as I said is the most life-affirming, exciting, butt-clenchingly, terrifying thrill of the job.

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The Legend of Hamba is an abstract and physically demanding piece, what was the most demanding aspect of the preparation as an Actor / Director?

ERY:
Letting go of my inhibitions. Accepting to make the fool of myself or look unflattering in front of others during the devising and improvisations in rehearsals. Then the idea of performing outdoors in front of people who maybe don’t care…

Lucian:
As an actor in my own right, I know that when slip-ups happen, or when the team has an ‘off-day’ etc. there are ‘running repairs’ you can fall back on/ kick in to, to keep things ticking over. 9.85 times out of 10, unless there is a glaring problem or issue, the audiences don’t know any better. As a director however, I find it excruciating watching the team do their job. When it comes down to it, for me it is like teaching your child to ride a bike. You run alongside, you encourage, you instruct, you comfort them when they fall off, build up their confidence and then… you let them go off and compete in the Tour de France! Once the signal comes to start, it’s all, all in their hands ( or feet). All you can do is sit back and hope to goodness you’ve given them enough to be the best.

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Your first performance at Brighton was very well received, what difference does an audience make to an outdoors performance?

Ery:
The audience is the missing link, they make the show. In Brighton our main lesson was that what we’d devised “worked”. And all the fears I had about performing outdoors – the idea of performing in front of people who don’t care revolts me, and the idea of begging for their attention revolts me even more – vanished. If your show is interesting, you won’t have to beg for attention. So it’s all about the quality of the show, not its location.

Anniwaa:
When performing in a theatre, it is clear where the audience will be sitting. But with an outdoor performance, audiences can be sitting  anywhere! You could also be performing for audience members who happen to be peaking through their curtains!

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How did the unpredictable British weather affect your performance?

Ery:
Brighton was very windy…except in the Royal Pavilion Gardens where we performed, and very rainy…except the times we were performing.

Anniwaa:
I think the unpredictable British whether adds to the mystique of the piece.

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 Lastly: give me one word to describe Hamba?

Ery:
Big.

Anniwaa:
One word….mmmmm can I give to works instead? – COMPLEX

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Check out The Legend of Hamba during Greenwich Fair and Global Streets!

Greenwich Fair, June 22
Global Streets, June 23-26

Sit Back, Hold Tight!

A blog written by Sarah Blanc, Artistic Director of Moxie Brawl, a fresh and currently all-female dance theatre company. ‘Sit Back’ evokes the spirit of the 1940’s through music, text and dance, this new dance theatre piece recalls the role of women at times of war.

photo by Bruno Rodrigues

I believe dance is for everyone so making and presenting work outdoors gives me a great opportunity to reach as wide and diverse an audience as possible.

Last year Moxie Brawl won the Gone In 20 Minutes 2013 Jury Prize following performances at over 5 festivals in the UK. Since then we have gained the support of Watermans, investment from Arts Council England and producing support from Candoco Dance Company (with whom I have been an Associate Artist for over 3 years).

Being part of GI20 was fantastic as we were able to learn how to adapt our work for the outdoors in a supportive way, gaining feedback along the tour. It was such an invaluable experience. I am excited that this year we have been able to develop the piece further with the help of all partners and festival presenters.

We used our 2 weeks of development time in the studio to go into more detail for certain sections of choreography and revisit costume, props and even the British Trollyebus Museum as part of our research.IMG_8473a

We worked with Mark Smith of Deaf Men Dancing to help make the piece more accessible for Deaf audiences and those with hearing impairments.

We have just returned from our first performances at Fetes Tour de la Blanche in Issoudoun, France and it is exciting to see audience reactions to our work and seeing it all come to life!

As a choreographer I have been so privileged to work with some gorgeous performers for Sit Back. First up is Lucy Starkey whose character Alice during the piece gets accepted to the Women’s Volunteer Service. Katie Cambridge, new to the moxie line up, plays Agatha whose fiancé is away at war and constantly dreams of his return. Josephine played by Kimberley Harvey is the most maternal of all the characters, constantly looking after everyone but during the piece she receives some devastating news. Winnie, played by Jenny Reeves, is younger more innocent and with her Dad being away in the war working as a doctor, she wants to follow his footsteps and study medicine.

It has been such a great few weeks and we are more than buzzing to get this show on the road. Looking forward to seeing you along the way at GDIF and hope for you to meet Alice, Agatha, Josephine and Winnie- four trolley bus clippies working in London of 1942.

Hold Tight Please!

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Show time:

Sat 21 June 14:05, 17:10
Sun 22 June 13:15, 15:00
Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, SE10
FREE (Runs approx. 20 mins)

Click here to watch the highlights of Sit Back at Gone In 20 Minutes.

Behind-the-Scenes with Light the Fuse Theatre Co.

Full Stop Blog
By Light the Fuse Theatre Co.

Travelling around on buses is part of being a Londoner. Whether it’s the night bus at 2am with half a box of chips and the music still ringing in your ears or a desperate dash to grab the bus to avoid being late for work at 8.48am – we all have bus stories to tell. And that was where we started at Light the Fuse in thinking about stories for Full Stop. We soon realised that the star of this show was the bus stop itself. It’s an incredible place for people watching, random encounters and strange occurrences. The huge diversity of people that frequent a bus stop in a twenty-four hour period is mind-boggling.

Did you know that there are 19,500 bus stops in London and 90% of Londoners live within 400 yards of one!

So we decided to make a show about that. In twenty minutes. No pressure.

With three performers and a lot of running about we jump from the midnight revellers to the warring Mums, laden down with shopping and gunslinger fantasies, ticking off each hour until midnight returns again. We meet the little old lady who visits the bus stop every day, not to get on the bus, but to appease her murderous whims. There are the teenage dinosaurs, all screeching and antagonistic, the ultra competitive office workers and the couple that could have been. 

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The bus stop is an incredible crucible for human emotion: the frustration of time, the pressure of city life and the possibility of romance all in one identifiable location. It is archetypal. This meant getting the look of the bus stop right was key, so we went to the experts. Theatre Royal Plymouth create sets for productions across the UK and the world. Recent shows have included Book of Mormon, Miss Saigon, The Full Monty and obviously Full Stop

Although petrol buses have been used in London since 1904 bus stops didn’t appear till after the First World War.

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We wanted the set to look as much like a real London bus stop as possible (with a few cleverly hidden extras). When the audience spots it by the Cutty Sark, in the middle of a town square, halfway up a field, we want them to double-take and for a moment question why there would be a bus stop out there. It’s such an iconic symbol that we take for granted every day, but move it from its natural location and suddenly it becomes a space full of potential.

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Full Stop is not just about the reality of waiting at a bus stop, its about the fantasies and dreams we all have while we wait. The moment of getting eye contact with a fit looking stranger, sheltering under it when there is a downpour, vying for the bench. All these moments spark a surreal journey based around a real London landmark.

Full Stop (web resize)

Mimbre Joint Artistic Director Lina Johansson on ‘Bench’

Lina Johansson – joint Artistic Director for Mimbre, shares a little window into the process of creating Mimbre’s new performance Bench, coming to Greenwich+Docklands International Festival in London on 21-22 and 24th of June.

Photo by Mimbre

Photo by Mimbre

 

The idea for Bench started like a small simple idea – a set made as a park bench – allowing us to plant the show in the reality of where it is performed; in a park, a street or a square and use the theatre of our public spaces to inspire us for a series of sketches.

Photo by Marco Berardi

Photo by Marco Berardi

I knew I wanted it to reflect on the way we are among other people, and the way other people view you when in public. What assumptions do you make if you see a woman sitting on a bench on her own – do you assume she is waiting for someone? Do you think she is lonely? Who do we meet if we allow ourselves to be friendly to strangers? What do you see if you allow yourself to sit down on a bench and watch the spectacle of the street playing out in front of you?

Photo by Marco Berardi

Photo by Marco Berardi

Working with physical choreographies and using a devising process means that you don’t know from the start exactly which story it is that will carry through and have a resonance with an audience. The beauty is that stories starts to emerge that I didn’t even know myself that I wanted to tell.

Photo by Mimbre

Photo by Mimbre

Alcina Mendes created a beautifully, warm main character and Rebecka and Silvia explored a charade of different personae; flowing choreographies, dreamy fantasies and some very silly characters bringing some laughter and lightness.

Photo by Mimbre

Alcina Mendes; Photo by Mimbre

 

The acrobatic training is as of course always a big part of Mimbre’s rehearsals, with an hour long warm-up and strengthening session each morning and time for practising the acrobatics tricks both in the rehearsals and in the weeks in-between rehearsals; to find new tricks and to keep existing ones safe. For Bench our acrobatics coach Adrian Porter and my joint Artistic Director Silvia Fratelli trained up our 2 new Mimbre members; Alcina Mendes and Rebecka Nord. Finding trust, safety and confidence with the new tricks is time-consuming but is part of the physical language we use for our shows and I am as always enjoying the exploration of the ins and outs of where the physicality meet the theatre, the thrill versus the story, the physical versus the emotive impressions.

Photo by Marcos Avlonitis

Photo by Marcos Avlonitis

Through Alcina’s careful exploration of the main character the first rough run-through held a lot of loneliness and sadness. Impressions of how being surrounded by other people can sometimes make you feel more lonely then if you’re just on your own. Which led us to look for scenes of belonging, of happiness and celebration, to compliment without taking away from the atmosphere found. This led us to discuss friendships and belongings, what it is that drew us into circus and performance and what that world symbolises for us, and we used some of these conversations as inspiration for our celebratory and warmer finale choreography. As part of the rehearsal process we did several informal sharings where we invited friends and colleagues to see the material we had created so far and we also did a preview/premiere of the shows at the Crossing the Creek event at Laban Theatre and Greenwich Dance – who commissioned the show – in April.

Photo by Marcos Avlonitis

Photo by Marcos Avlonitis

Everything changes as soon as you put it in front of an audience and it helps me as a director to see it through other eyes (I normally watch the audience more than the performers at these occasions). Seeing the audiences reaction, hearing people’s feedback and get a little bit of distance to the rehearsal room gives a clearer view of what work is still needed or any structural changes to how the show hangs together.

Photo by Mimbre

Photo by Mimbre

From this we have decided on some dramatical changes and Bench is now getting ready to go off on a tour in it’s appropriate setting – around various outdoor theatre festivals around UK and Europe and of course coming to Greenwich+Docklands International Festival in London in June. I am very excited about allowing the show to take on it’s own life and paths, for me a show only really exists once audiences have had their chance to start to influence the shape of the performance and the energy of the performers and I am looking forward to see how it will be further influenced by the lovely audience at GDIF.

Photo by Mimbre

Photo by Mimbre

Last but not least a big thank you to the great artistic team who helped to make Bench; guest choreographers Natasha Khamjani and Anna Llombart who brought some fresh and different flavours to our movement. Michalis Kokkoladis for designing a genuinely old and knackered looking Bench that in reality is super sturdy and can be flatpacked! Ted Barnes who as always have woven a stunning musical score for us, binding all the different paces and atmospheres together. Last but not least, designer Kasper Hansen and maker Sophie Bellin who sourced 20 costumes for the different characters that the performers are changing between through the show….

Photo by Mimbre

Photo by Mimbre

A shed load of ideas: behind the scenes with Haywood Hix

WORKS
A blog post from Haywood Hix (established 2013)

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A shed load of ideas

Earnest companions, overalls, invention, a pet cat, everyday objects, ramshackle engineering, precise timing, deadpan comedy and a catapult of faith, in this chain reaction of a show.

A collaboration between performer Jon Hicks and artist Mark Haywood.

Created last year,  and performed at Out There Festival in Great Yarmouth.

Lot of stuff

Lot of stuff

This year we received Arts Council funding to further develop the show and make it able to tour, we have half a dozen gigs this summer and are looking further ahead to a the possibility of a full tour next year.

It’s a complicated show, with this domino effect chain reaction machine.

Ball run balance

Ball run balance

We’ve  looked at a lot of different reference, Fischli and Weiss, Mouse Trap, Rube Goldberg inspired machines…

Goldberg is the sort of US Heath Robinson, all about these “home made”, complex, chain reaction machines made to execute relatively simple tasks.

Not funny plank

Not funny plank

Both of us art college trained, with Fine Art degrees, we built the props, customised the shed and created the machine with a lot of head scratching, debating and failure before  success

Mark and I have known each other a long time and have a shared history of propmaking.

The shed and props remain based in Norfolk.

Shed on trailer

Shed on trailer

Since April:

Mark  found a fantastic local trailer maker who is interested in the show, enthusiastic and aside from attaching our shed to a custom built trailer, he made a new roof opening system with gas filled pistons, which I don’t quite understand.

Set for a show

Set for a show

The machine we made last year has been consolidated, new in places and improved.

We’ve really tried to make sure we can control the machine more, have more choice about when it will work or not, but it’s a complex and temperamental thing.

Wheel barrow delivery

Wheel barrow delivery

We had 4 days of rehearsals, last week which was exciting, we have Matt Rudkin of Inconvenient Spoof back with us directing. we’ve kept a lot of last years show, added some new stuff, tried out new things, thrown some out, kept some in.

Matt Rudking trying it out

Matt Rudking trying it out

In rehearsals we’ve focused on nailing down a very choreographed routine and making sure the visual gags pay off.

Watering can

Watering can

We also have a new crew member on board,  Joe Mulcrone, who is there as roadie, stage hand, technician and understudy performer. Recommended by Matt Rudkin, he has been great.

He tried a run off the show in rehearsals with Matt and will definitely do a day of shows on tour.

Joe (new recruit) trying it out

We are off on a short tour this summer, Norfolk and Norwich festival was in mid May, shows went well, it was great to get it out there live again.

Lot’s of issues came up of course, but we felt it went well., we’re excited about the tour.

Can this be funny?

Things will inevitably change in the machine and the show as we tour around, but I think they will be small and gradual, the domino effect seems to not only be integral when setting off the machine but in the tweaking and engineering of it and the show too.

Last tweaks before a set off

Last tweaks before a set off

GDIF2014 Highlights and Trailer

Turning the World Upside Down

See the world from a different angle and immerse yourself in London’s festival of shape shifting, perception changing, free outdoor performance.

From the top of Greenwich Park Hill you can look out on one of most spectacular views of the capital – a city of stories. GDIF 2014 invites you to experience these familiar streets and public spaces as they’re transformed with astonishing free performance from around the globe.

From gravity-defying aerial choreography to global stories of war and peace; encounters between the living and the dead and a house turned inside out; from a pop-up desert island to a flying ship; this summer the magic of outdoor theatre will reinvent the everyday and encourage you to look at the world anew.

highlights_blog

Full programme highlights details at www.festival.org. Join us 20-28 June!

GDIF2014 Directie & Co. Site Visit

539042_10151106009941380_927651790_nBy Emily Thomas, Projects Administrator at GDIF

Sophie and I are busy pulling together the arrangements for GDIF2014 and recently organised a rain-soaked site visit with a Dutch company performing as part of Greenwich Fair. Yvonne van den Akker is one of the two directors of Directie & Co., whose show Laundry XL will visit GDIF this summer. This all-female performance weaves together elements of dance, theatre, visual art and, ironically, a bit of water. This is our first site visit with an artist for this year’s festival, and for me being new with GDIF, a great opportunity to walk the various festival spaces and start to imagine the physical reality of the festival amidst these months of planning.

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I used to work on the Watch This Space Festival at the National Theatre, where Theatre Square in front of the building was our foremost site for the festival. Having such a choice of sites is still quite a novelty for me and we discussed with Yvonne a number of possible spaces for staging the performance, which has a processional element. The next stage will be to piece together the rest of the Greenwich Fair programme to see where all the elements best fit, so we can maximise each show’s potential. It’s a bit like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Watch This Space 2011 courtesy of the National Theatre

Watch This Space 2011 courtesy of the National Theatre

Yvonne had a whistle stop tour in London, leaving and returning to Amsterdam in the same day. A brief but productive visit, and I hope that the company’s next visit in June will be sunnier for her.

Laundry XL by Directie & Co. (Photo by Cies de Vries Fotografie)

So while it is nice to now be back in the cosy, dry GDIF offices, for me this has been a very welcome introduction to GDIF2014. I feel that we’ve now properly met!