Have a read of what Company Member, Jack Jones got up to while Sleeping Beauty toured to Seoul, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo! Here's his final post from the Asia Tour about his time in Tokyo...
I'm writing this after one of the longest and immature sulks of my life. Have you ever told a really good story to someone with great energy and drive, full of enthusiasm and wit, only to have them turn around at the end and say, “Sorry what was that?” The thought of having to repeat the whole thing with as much energy and spontaneity as the first time leaves you momentarily aghast, gaping like a gold fish, after which you generally say, “Nevermind... you had to be there.” As tempting as it was to write a blog that simply said, “You had to be there,” I felt it might have been received somewhat icily by Nick our Audience Engagement Coordinator. As you may have already gathered I lost the entire blog when the moment after I clicked save my computer decided to have its annual nervous breakdown. Thus ensued a good hour of me trying to google ways to recover files and ignore the dread in my heart at the thought of having to write it all again. Eventually I conceded defeat and entered into a strop that lasted till about an hour ago this morning. So here goes, a second time. If it comes across as a little forced then remember that I have in fact already told you all of this, you just didn't get to read it.
Over a year after we started rehearsals Sleeping Beauty has finally taken an overdose of valium and entered into a sleep, so deep not even Leo could awaken her. These blog posts have generally been posted later than they were supposed to have been, testing the ever patient Nick in the office I'm sure (mentioned above). Whilst there have been reasons (or excuses depending on your philosophical bent) for most of them, this time I intentionally waited beyond the deadline for a particular reason. I maybe should have told Nick this but he'll find out when he draft reads this at least! I wanted to wait until the entire tour was over before writing the last entry. Firstly, I didn't want to miss the experience of the end of it all out of the blog, and secondly there is something different about writing about something that is still on going and something that is done. My apologies to Nick and all of you waiting to read this but hopefully it will be worth it!
We had a week off after Beijing and so I flew to Tokyo to spend the week in Japan. It is one of my favourite countries to tour to. I last went there with Swan Lake in 2010 and thoroughly enjoyed my time. It is full of gorgeous landscapes, great food and wonderful people. After landing in Tokyo I immediately hopped onto a night bus to Kyoto. Kyoto is the old capital of Japan, nearby to Nara which is the even older capital. I visited Nara last time I was here and it is a stunning place. The temples there are huge, along with a giant statue of the Buddha (one of the temples I visited is pictured below). This time however I stayed in Kyoto for a few days.
The first morning I rolled off the night bus at 5 am and made my way to the Bamboo Forest (pictured below). It was suggested to go early in the morning to avoid the midday crowds. I believe 6am probably counts as early, it was definitely devoid of anyone else. I never knew bamboo could grow so tall! I'd never seen anything like it, discounting the fight scene from the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Thousands of thin trunks rose at least twenty meters into the air. They say that when the wind blows the forest makes some really cool sounds but alas it was a beautiful day so there was no wind. The sunlight filtering through all the bamboo trunks made for a beautiful sight though. I also visited the Tenryu-ji temple there. The temples in Japan are quite different to those in China and Seoul.
It might be the Zen influence but they are often less ornately decorated, with less opulent colouring. More often than not they are white and brown, using the natural colour of the wood itself. The temple was surrounded by gorgeous gardens. Gardens in Japan are a major cultural highlight. Each one is a work of art, intentionally designed to delight or evoke certain moods in the wanderer. They also really like moss. This garden had more kinds of moss than I even knew existed.
The following day I visited Kinkaku-Ji, also known as the Golden Temple and the hundreds of Torii gates at the Inari shrine in Fushima (pictured as the main image to this post). The Golden Temple is one of the few extravagant temples in Japan. It's exterior is almost entirely smothered in gold. How they clean it I have no idea. The Torii gates are lined along hiking trails that lead to Mount Inari and one of the most important Inari shrines in Japan. Inari is the Shinto God of rice. The gates have all been donated by individuals or organizations, and I suppose it just got a little out of hand. I'm not sure they could fit anymore in even if they wanted to. I also ate some Shabu-shabu, named for the noise is makes as you stir it in the pot, one of the best Katsu Curries I've ever had in my life, and a substantial amount of High Chews. High Chew are the Japanese equivalent of Fruitella or Starburst (Opal fruits if you want to go old school). I'm sorry to bash the other brands but High Chew are in another league.
After all that I visited Hiroshima. I had been to Hiroshima before but it doesn't get any easier a second time. Hiroshima is of course ground zero for one of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during the second world war, the other being Nagasaki. The central island of Hiroshima is now a park. There are commemorative statues, a few ruins of buildings kept exactly as they were from the day the bomb hit, and a memorial museum. It is a very strange feeling to stand in that park, surrounded by such beauty and sounds from nature, knowing that that is exactly where the bomb exploded. The museum is a very harrowing, moving experience. It is one of the few museums in the world I believe everyone should visit once. If they did I think the world would probably become a better, safer place. The story of the day the bomb exploded is conveyed through artefacts left over from the impact. Most of these involve the clothes and toys of children used or worn on the day, bags, lunch boxes, diaries, stone stairs with shadows of men burnt into the rock by the intense radiation of the blast, mundane everyday objects that take on a new meaning when considering the loss that put them there. It brings the horror of it all to life in a very personal way. Something you can't convey by simply reading about it in a text book or even here. The reason there are so many belongings from children in the museum is due to probably the most tragic element of it all. The day the bomb was dropped most of the school children of the town were out helping to clear rubble from the streets. The town was creating paths between the buildings so that in the event of it being bombed the fire would not spread so easily to the other buildings. In the same way they do with forest fires. They could not know of course that Hiroshima had been left intentionally unscathed to better study the effects of the bomb. So when it was dropped thousands of school children were out helping in the efforts, and most were killed within minutes of the explosion. The park and museum now stands as a promoter for peace and nuclear disarmament across the globe.
I then spent the following few days near Nikko, further north in Japan. I stayed at a 380-year-old Onsen! For anyone who doesn't know, an Onsen is a hot spring water bath, usually outdoors but also sometimes inside. They have been used for centuries in Japan and are very popular across the whole country. The Onsen was among forest, beside a river and set into the mountains, quite an idyllic setting for a soak in a hot bath.
Then of course it was time to head back to Tokyo for work. We were performing at the Orb Theatre which was another one built into a skyscraper, like Seoul (pictured below).
I always love performing in Japan. The audiences are generally quite quiet during the performance itself, this is largely due to the fact that they deem it disrespectful to make noise, but afterwards they are always the most appreciative. We even ended up adding a whole other section to the curtain call. As the days went on and it got closer to the end we started counting down the shows. Suddenly it was the last time you would do a role with a certain person, then it was the last time doing that role all together. Some people's last show was the day before the actual last one as they had the final show off. I played Autumnus for the final show, which I was grateful for. The Autumnus fairy solo is one of my favourite dances to have performed on stage and I think it will be tough to beat. So as the last curtain came down on the final show everyone burst into cheers and ran around jumping and hugging each other. Only to have the curtain suddenly surge upwards again to reveal us all to the audience who were still clapping. I'm not going to lie, it felt a little awkward. I'm not even sure if the curtain was meant to go back out or not. I think one or two company members may even have been rolling on the floor at the time. It quickly went back down and we got into our rows for an extra set of bows as they didn't seem to want to stop clapping. Then upon leaving the theatre there was the most enormous queue of fans I've ever seen outside of one of Matt's shows. I'd not seen anything like it, even on Swan Lake. It took us about half an hour to get down the row of people, signing programmes and having photographs taken.
I'm glad to say that there were no screaming children on the flight back this time. There were some snazzy new windows however. We thought that they were broken at first as they didn't have the pull down visor to block the sunlight, then we discovered that they have different colour settings! You can adjust the opacity of the window itself and make the world outside go a weird shade of pink, blue or entirely black. Twelve hours, a short tube journey and a taxi ride later and I was back home in London. It always feels very odd to be back after having been away for so long. At first it feels like you haven't been here for ages, then after a day or two it feels like you had never been away at all. The whole tour begins to feel like a strange dream. Before I know it a week will be over and I'll be back at work starting the creation for The Red Shoes. But for now I am quite content, lying in bed after having just finished the first fry up I have cooked in over three months and a cup of tea. With real milk, REAL MILK!! Not the creamer or powdered milk I have had to endure in hotel rooms. Now begins the mammoth task of uploading three months of travel photos on Facebook. I might just have a nap first instead.
Well that truly marks the end of our Sleeping Beauty tour with Jack's final blog post, but you can still read his previous entries by clicking the links below: