A week of retraced journeys. First as I set off for Manchester to catch the last couple of days of Contacting the World – a wonderful initiative which brings together 12 companies of young performers from across the world in a year-long exchange of ideas, inspiration and ways of making theatre. It all culminates in a week long festival at Contact, Manchester, where I was Artistic Director before coming to Wales. It was fantastic to be back in the intense, slightly crazy, always beautiful explosion of Contacting the World. We sent a Welsh rep for the whole week – Gemma from Valleys Kids – and she certainly looked like she was enjoying herself. With companies there from India, Jamaica, Indonesia, the United States, Iran, South Africa, Denmark, Holland and Switzerland, as well as Manchester, London and Liverpool, she has hopefully made some good contacts for the future. Have a look at what went on at www.contacingtheworld.org

Going back in time for me, I took the train from Manchester to Prestatyn, tracing a similar journey to one that I often made as a kid growing up in Liverpool. I spent the first five years of my life in Wales, and after my family moved back to Liverpool, we would usually return to North Wales on holidays. Since moving to Cardiff, I’ve always visited North Wales from the South, but retracing the journey from North West England, the landscapes loomed from a far more familiar, yet far more deeply buried place. I remember how much I resented Liverpool when we first moved there (for all I’m a Scouse patriot now) and how the hills of North Wales, and the view of the sea from a high cliff would tug at me.

And so for Prestatyn – where most of NTW’s team have spent much of the past few weeks. The Beach isn’t our biggest project of the year, but it’s a truly ambitious one, in that we are exploring a form – pervasive theatre gaming – that has only really been around for a short time, and which isn’t usually produced as a full piece of work running over several nights. And we’ve commissioned our youngest team of artists to create the show. Arriving for a first dress on Sunday, the nerves were clearly on display – with so many unknowns in the mix, not least the weather (the show takes place largely on the beach itself, so there’s no place to hide from the rain – though don’t worry if you’ve booked tickets, we have a covered option nearby!) The show also only really works when there’s an audience to interact and play the games. The team have been doing a great job over the past few months getting local people to test out versions of the games, and six local people are also in the show running games in character as ‘the curtain twitchers’, but on the dress rehearsal night, for one reason and another, the audience who should have been testing the games didn’t show up, and so me and a few of the NTW staff were running around the beach like crazy trying to be a group of 6 people each! At the end of the dress there were a lot of things to do – equipment for games that needed remaking, parts of the script that needed a rethink. The team worked like crazy all day Monday, and for the next dress on Tuesday suddenly everything felt like it was falling into place. The first public show on Tuesday evening had a sold-out audience, glorious weather (including the most beautiful sunset in the final moments of the show) and was a wonderful combination of good fun and a genuinely touching underlying story.

It looks like this will be another fully sold-out show for NTW, so if you are thinking of coming and don’t have a ticket book now!

As for me – well the underlying theme of the show is about how you imagine and re-imagine your hometown. At the start of the show you write your hometown on a badge, at another point you shout it into the air, and at the end… well I won’t give it away; but between Liverpool, North Wales, Manchester, and maybe in years to come Cardiff, I may have to play The Beach all week in order to do justice to the many meanings of home.

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Comment by Kelly Page on July 30, 2010 at 10:57
Stunning! I have always thought my home is where my heart is, but from Canberra, Noosa, Eumundi, Brisbane, Sydney in OZ to Lllantrisant, Cardiff in Wales ... with family in London, LA, Bangkok and friends in too many places to recant ... my heart is all over ... but my message was ultimately for the people in my world who have helped build the memories of my home! If I could have sent them an NTW postcard too, with my message from the beach in Prestatyn ... I would have ...

John, if there is something that should tour the beaches of Wales, UK and further afield ... it is 'The Beach' by NTW ... the fun, new friends, and deep message we can connect to ... should be shared ... an experience for all, from where ever you call home, to where ever you live now ... building a community of friends following TJ and Charlie as they share their message with the rest of world!

Thank you,
Kelly, Eva, Valarie and Ade
Comment by john norton on July 29, 2010 at 20:33
yes - not quite sure what place i'm gonna write on that...

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