22 June, 2009

Singapore Arts Festival Blog #8 - "It's a Wrap"

Well, still alive. Back again, after the most wonderful time in Singapore, the most horrendous travelling both to and from, and I can tell you that one of the first things I did when I got back was to find some gum and chew the living daylights out of it. Pause to picture, if you will, hordes of tourists returning from Singapore, and suddenly freed from restrictions going wild, chewing gum, dropping litter, hochling in public and not flushing public lavvies, (all things you can be fined for over there). You can also, remember , be fined for carrying a durian fruit in the pannier of your bicycle, but I think even the most hardened criminal in this country would baulk at the thought of that one. Carry one of those anywhere and become an instant pariah. Pigs would move pointedly to the far side of the sty as you passed.

Singapore is a fantastic place, and the Festival is really great. It makes a strong case to be right up there with the best festivals in the world. The support from the government is terrific, the people enthusiastic, the setting wonderful, and I am blessed to have been given the opportunity to visit both the Festival and the country. Son & Heir loved it too. He no longer appears to despise me quite as much as he did before we went away together, so I have Singapore to thank for that as well.

I had the best time imaginable, but there is one ache inside me despite everything – Beloved Spouse wasn’t able to go after that ….woman at the airport refused to allow me onto the plane with my damaged passport. I call to mind the guy in the passport office saying to the person in front of me “Your passport scans perfectly well. What’s the problem?”. Make no mistake, refusing to take my passport was the personal decision of that woman, and because of that my wife lost her opportunity to share with me the best fortune I have ever had in my life. Yes, there is an ache. She should have been there. There is another pity – that increased age and increased girth prevented me from making that death-defying dive over the counter to wreak the havoc which has enlivened my fantasies ever since.
I hope that some of you will have the opportunity to go to Singapore and enjoy the Arts Festival. It really is worth it. I hope if you do go you have better luck travelling than I did.

Edinburgh is still the best festival in the world, but then it’s the Daddy of them all. The Festival…that’s all you need to say, and people know what you mean. Edinburgh invented the definition of what a modern arts festival is. I’ve been going to the Edinburgh International Festival for forty three years, and some of the very best things I have ever seen have been there. I think of one of Ravi Shankar’s first concerts in Europe, when I was sixteen and travelled from St Andrews on my own to see him. I think of the old Prospect Theatre Company doing King Lear in the Church of Scotland’s Assembly Hall on the Mound, when Timothy West was only twenty seven or something, with Michael Jayston as Edmund and Timothy Dalton as Edgar, and a phenomenal cast of other actors. (I’m trying to remember. Eileen Atkins, I think…oh, it was nearly forty years ago. Hey, I’m doing well to remember that many of them) Funny to think of Timothy Dalton as Edgar. In his subsequent Bond days we’d have expected him to pull a detonator out of his loincloth and blow Edmund to kingdom come. Nowadays he could probably do it after a good Vindaloo.

The artists I saw in Singapore were all terrific. Singapore's position at the crossroads of Asia makes it the ideal place, not just geographically but spiritually too, to really explore the ways in which cultures react to and inform each other. I WISH I had seen Tadeshi Suzuki. He’s really hard to get, and so seldom seen. Even without him, it was a once in a lifetime chance to get to go to the Singapore Arts Festival, and a prize beyond my wildest dreams. Thank you, Edinburgh International Festival. Thank you to everyone who made it happen. Thank you to all the delightful people who hosted us so well in Singapore, particularly to Fan Wong, who got us to eat things we would never have dreamt of. Thank you to those of you who have persisted in following our story over the last couple of weeks.

I was trying to think how to sign off from this blog. Not to look back, but instead to look forward to the events coming up this year at the Edinburgh International Festival. That Romanian Faust looks incredible, I have to say, as does the piece about St Kilda, and I am really interested in Jimmy Yuill’s take on Robert Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid. I’ll absolutely have to go and see a couple of former colleagues from Ireland in the Brian Friel trilogy, and Mabou Mines are something to look forward to. OK, it’s nearly all Theatre, but I never pretended to be objective. If I go to see the Henryson I’ll make Wullie Doanuldsen jealous, our bard from the banks of the Scunnerburn, somewhere between Lochgelly and Cowdenbeath. I ran into him again on the way back. He is in the midst, no doubt, of composing some great work, but in the meantime he offered me this. I’ll leave him the last word:

Ah’ve shairly had a bonnie week oot in Singapore,
An’ seen some things ah’d nivver see at hame in Scunnerlaw
If ye care for pianney wurks, be chooser or be beggar,
Ye’ll nivver hear them better pliyed than by Joanna MacGregor
The next nicht ah wis sae jet-lagged ah thocht that ah micht faint
Insteed ah saw a Latvian play, t’wis jist like dryin’ paint.
“The Cherry Orchard” nixt ah seen, an’ it wis awfy braw,
It had been directit by famous Lin Zhaohua
The final sicht that thrilled ma een wis Warld Famous’s “Crackers”,
But then ah hud tae go an kip, fir by then ah wis knackered
The venues fer the festival, doon by the waterfront
Ah’d huv tae say, wi’ haun on hairt, that they were brillyunt.
Sae noo ah’m hame, wi’ sichts and sounds amangst the best seen yet
An’ a’ ma freens can say tae me is “Wha’s a jammy get?”
Ah dinnae care, it’s been a time ah’ll mind fer evermore,
Ah’ll ayewis treasure memories o’ bonnie Singapore

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