France - Chalon sur Saône


The Grooms at "Chalon dans la rue"

20/23 july 2006

We had contacted the new director of the festival « Chalon dans la Rue », Pedro Garcia, as early as January 2006.

We've already performed in this festival 3 times:

- 1993 : Fanfare tout terrain. (A Band for all Seasons)

- 1998 : La Flûte en chantier. (The Tragic Flute)

- 2002 : La Tétralogie de 4 sous. (The Threepenny Ring Cycle)

This time the conditions are different: the festival isn't a co-producer and will pay only the strict minimum.

But at least we're part of the 'in' festival, which is a definite plus.


20 july 2006

We arrive on the morning of the performance itself in order to minimise expenses. We're tired as well as being stressed.

The whole future of this show depends on this festival. If it's a success in Chalon, then it will tour a lot. If people don't like it, then we could find ourselves with very few bookings.

We don't have much time, and everything has to be ready for the appointed hour.

When we arrive at the performance space in front of the town theatre, the crowd is ready: 600 spectators are tightly packed together and wait for us with an air of concentration.

We're impressed and thrilled.

The Chalon audience is very faithful and we can always count on them to come and see our latest work.

But we're exhausted after our journey, and the show isn't great...there are a few false notes and too much tension.


21 july 2006

We're using our time here as productively as possible, and rehearse every morning from ten till one-thirty.

I slept badly last night, since the hotel which the festival has reserved for us is horrible: there is no window in my room and it's far too hot.... I end up sleeping in the cupboard!

Every performance is different from the one before since we're re-working individual scenes after every show.

We perform during the hottest part of the day, at 5 o'clock, when it's between 30 and 35°C. We have to spray the ground with water so that the audience don't burn their bottoms while sitting!

And during the show we refresh the audience with a hosepipe.

The suffocating heat is too much and our performance suffers as a consequence.

As at every performance, the crowd is densely packed.

Luckily, the show involves a change of performance space, and the second part takes place in a school-yard with some welcome shade!

Some children from a local youth club take part in the finale of the show. They are extremely lively and energetic and are delighted to be involved.

We finish the show completely soaked in sweat, but happy. This performance was better than the first.


22 july

We're playing in a place just outside the centre of Chalon, so as to avoid the hustle and bustle of the town centre (it's Saturday). An hour beforehand the crowd starts to gather in the car park where we will perform the first part of the show.

It's taken us a while to find this place and there is one major problem with our dressing room in the music school...half the musicians are safely inside, but the others are stuck outside since the door won't open...

To add to our problems one of the musicians has left his costume in the hotel!

This overheated car park isn't really the ideal space to play this show. And playing music in this weather isn't easy in any case.

The show turns out to be disappointing.

Pierre Layac (the ex-director of the festival, who has helped us a lot) is in the audience, as is Jonathan Holloway (one of our English fans, who formerly worked at the National Theatre in London). I'm embarrassed to feel that we have given a sub-standard performance.


23 july

The best show since we've been here.

We're beginning to find our feet. The weather is milder and everyone is starting to feel more at ease.

The audience (and ourselves) are more comfortable in the shady school-yard. And we get two curtain calls, which raises our spirits considerably.

It's not easy to come to Chalon with a show which isn't completely ready. At the same time it's difficult to have played it 30 times beforehand since the festival wants new shows which haven't been seen before.

Our feelings about this time at Chalon are mixed: after our triumph in 1998 and a very well received performance in 2002, the new work has taken time to find its rhythm. The heat has taken it out of us, and there have also been organisational problems.

The positive points are that we were very popular with the audiences (crowds of more than 500 people), and we had good press. We also met with lots of potential buyers (15 performances are already sold for 2007). We're going to re-work the show during the winter months of 2006 so as to be ready for a fresh beginning in 2007.


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