Would you LOOK at this! #Valparaiso #Chile

While standing in Valparaiso, you can see the two “ends” of the bay very clearly–it’s more what you might call a lagoon. It’s relatively small. But it’s an excellent harbour, and back in the 16th century it was decided on as the best spot for the new Spanish colony’s shipping. That took a long time to really happen though, and it was only when copper and nitrate were found in northern Chile that Valparaiso really got going. It soon filled with–strangely enough–British businessmen who exploited the new resources and became VERY rich. One problem: next to Valparaiso’s bay is the thinnest strip of flat land, and then STEEP HILLS. The very rich built their beautiful houses on the hills anyway, and later, elevators (!) to actually get up and down.

Then there was a horrible earthquake in 1906, the prices of copper and nitrate dropped, and all the rich folks left Valparaiso. What’s happened to the oldest part of the town since then is pretty amazing: it’s now filled with every kind of artist–most obviously graffiti, but sculptors, theatres, and dance schools too–plus amazing restaurants, hostels, and shops. I did NOT want to leave.

Photos of #Chile : #Santiago Centro

On my walk around Central Santiago, there were bells ringing from all the churches, and ladies weaving palm fronds for people as they went into mass. I’m looking forward to Easter here next week – I can’t fathom what it’ll be like.

Photos from China: Guangzhou, part 2 – Chen Clan Ancestral Hall

Among the stories history students have heard about China is how anyone wanting to work for the Emperor’s government had to take killer exams. This is one of the places where that happened. In the late 19th century all the families with the surname Chen in the Liwan district, around Guangzhou, gave money to build a place for all clan members to stay in the city when studying for their exams. The resulting building, also called the Chen Clan Academy and Folk Arts Museum, is stunning. Every surface is carved wood, brick, stone, or wrought iron. This kind of thing is my Disneyland.

Every clan had one of these “lineage halls.” This is one of the few left.

Photos from China: Guangzhou, part 1 – Shamian Island

I’m a history buff, so I’d heard of Canton. I knew nothing about it, I’d just heard that it was an important port city to the colonial British in Cathay. Cathay is China, and Canton is Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province. And I can’t believe I knew nothing about it before coming here, because it’s a Tier 1 city…meaning in terms of population and economy, China ranks Guangzhou at the same level as Beijing and Shanghai!

I stayed in a hotel on Shamian Island, which is where the British — and other colonists — set up shop; company headquarters, banks, tennis clubs. All of their 19th and early 20th century buildlings are now protected, and house galleries, hotels, restaurants, and consulates.

 

Oh my God…that WAS amazing.

Twitter has its uses. Oh yes. “Retweet this for your chance to win tickets to War Horse !” said VUE. The touring production at the Jubilee Auditorium. I re-tweeted it without a thought. And that evening after work (because I’m one of those people who puts her phone away during work hours), I got a reply that I had WON. Two tickets, to Opening Night. Of War Horse.

So I invited my Take a Bite director Amy (who’d already seen it in New York!), and I got VERY dressed up — and was shocked at how overdressed I felt on seeing everyone there. Let’s leave that for another post, hmm?

I was slightly afraid that having heard so much about this show already, having seen photos of the puppets, I wouldn’t be as moved by it…or alternatively I’d be washing my own makeup down my face.

But…as I posted earlier, it turned out to be true…this is one of those shows that is perfect.

I actually didn’t cry that much because, I think, I was just in awe.

No in-depth analysis–I believe War Horse is beyond that. But I really recall three things:

1) I normally detest title cards — it’s like I’m being told instead of shown, or, in a historical show, like this, the dates projected onscreen tell me how I should be feeling. But not so in this show. When the words “October 1918” appeared, I sighed in relief…”Thank God, the war is almost over…
2) You’d think the horses — the puppets, that is — would overtake everything. But even in the scenes where the horses weren’t onstage, I never thought: “People. Boring. Where are the horsies?” EVERYTHING about this show — the script, the acting, the costumes, the staging of this massive touring show — were all bang on.
3) No denying, this show is what it is because of the puppets. There is nothing else like them. At the curtain call, when all the human actors came out, I was applauding, but also regretting that we wouldn’t see the horses take a bow because all their operators must be onstage. Except I was wrong — Joey and Topthorn came out, and took their bows too, and the audience went nuts, because the horses were so REAL to us. Everyone who built, moved, and did the choreography of those horses…they are geniuses, every one.

I need to read the book and movie, I do. But for the love of heaven, everybody on earth, SEE THIS ONSTAGE.