Our team of Wind-Up Penguin members who took part in our Romania 2013 project wrote a bunch of diary entries. Here they are – enjoy!
Elisabeth Swedlund: The First Show
We’re now a grand total of 17 students…we’ve split into two groups and devised two musical plays. Our first show takes place in a 300-seat theatre. We perform both shows consecutively for all the children of Mark Twain International School of Bucharest. After the shows, we host a mini press conference with the 12-18 year olds of the Mark Twain School. They asked us numerous questions – our aim is to convince them that they too can establish their own charity projects, that they too can be a part of their country’s social development. We think it worked – a couple of days later two teens present their project – donating toys – in front of the whole school. With this same purpose in mind, we host workshops in classrooms in the afternoon. Face-painting, balloon twisting, music and drama workshops… Our group of Guildhall School students is very versatile!
Hannah Tyler: Scoala Profesionala Speciala
I am an oboist in my third year at Guildhall and I play the frog in the Cucu’s tale. It’s our third day here in Bucharest and we are just about settled in. Today’s show is at Scoala Profesionala Speciala Nr 3. in Bucharest which is an Arts and Crafts school for Children with Special needs. We performed in the School hall in front of about 50 students plus teachers and assistants. They absolutely loved it and were so responsive to everything. It was brilliant, there was almost constant laughter throughout the whole show. They clapped at every single opportunity and there was such a good atmosphere in the room. In our show there is one main theme ‘the Cucu’s song’ and after we had finished the teacher asked us to teach them the melody, which was great and they really got involved. After getting changed out of costumes, and for me trying, but not succeeding, to get my green face paint off (I spent most of the week with a tinge of green!) we met with the head teacher to talk about the project. She was really excited about it and asked for us to come back, which was so encouraging…
Barney Medland: Wednesday 11 December
In the afternoon, one half of the company performed ‘A Christmas Wish List’ for the Association for Therapeutic Intervention in Autism. We had a relaxed morning, followed by interacting with the children of the Mark Twain School through group games and activities in informal workshops. The games we played with the children here focused on helping to boost the children’s confidence in groups and helping to make us all more aware of the space and other people around us.
Later on we departed to an outskirt of Bucharest to perform our show. A Christmas Wish List used a number of props and almost every performer had a costume change at some point. The variety of props and costumes provided a fantastic array of visual stimulants for the children watching the show and gave us, the performers, a lot of things to work with for physical comedy etc. However, on this occasion there was one prop that proved a little problematic. Instrumental in our show was a screen of some sort, behind which we could change clothes and do everything else that the audience was not supposed to see.
Unfortunately the screen that we were transporting from show to show simply wouldn’t fit in the bus that was taking us to the centre. Our enterprising bus driver solved this conundrum by rather roughly snapping the screen and we just about managed to squeeze it and passengers on board. Upon reaching the centre the screen was unloaded and manoeuvred up a narrow flight of stairs, breaking several picture frames as it went. After the great feat of strength and logistics that it took for the screen to finally reach its intended destination it was decided unanimously, and predictably, that due to the limited size of the performance space, the show would be far better served if we forgot about the screen altogether and instead changed in the landing outside. The show was the most intimate of any of the performances of the trip. The children in the audience were incredibly receptive and their enjoyment was palpable. At the moment when Father Christmas’ (Jack Holton’s) trousers fell down the room erupted with howls of laughter. As soon as the show ended we were mobbed by the children coming up to hug us! It was with great reluctance that we had to leave the centre and its incredible children.
Katie Macdonald: Busteni Concert
Six days after our arrival in Bucharest we departed for the much anticipated trip into the snowy mountainous resort of Busteni. After a long day of shows and workshops we were all very tired, but the excitement of an encounter with a mountain bear, or perhaps stumbling across Dracula on the way to the shops kept spirits high.
Once there we started avidly planning our Christmas Chimes concert for the next day. There was a collective intake of breath as we were shown a picture of the venue, which was more akin to a small Barbican Hall than the village hall we were all expecting, and therefore had to swiftly rule “jingle bell rock” out of the concert.
After hearing the likes of the Delibes’ Flower Duet and trombone concertos being practised well into the night, in true Guildhall style rehearsed flat out all day. We were extremely grateful to be accompanied by the fantastic pianists on board: Rodrigo and Jana, who did a sterling job of learning in excess of 18 pieces, all played on a Casio keyboard!
In Brasov, we were to perform in the City Hall. After a speedy run through of the programme, only cut short by the arrival of the audience, we stepped out onto the grand platform of the hall, to perform to an appreciative audience; a kaleidoscopic array of bagatelles, arias, sonatas and Shakespeare sonnets. Our preparation had paid off.
Before resuming the remainder of the solo performances, half of The Penguins got changed into their various elf costumes and frog outfits to perform for the very last time their play, ‘The Cuckoo’s Tale’. The children of the audience sat in amazement and it was the triumphant conclusion for us all to a fantastic week of children’s theatre! I’m sure that when I say that this was hands down one of the most rewarding and inspiring experiences of my life, that I speak for all of us. Every one of us was proud, not only of each other, but to be in Romania bringing happiness and joy to others, and it was a privilege to for the Wind-up Penguin theatre Company to represent The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in this way.
Jack Holton: the show must go on
By the time of the Christmas Chimes concert, most of the company’s two groups were very tired and somewhat ill! Nonetheless, the show must go on! So, during the rehearsal, the green room was full of Penguins spurring other Penguins on to give one last impinge (or push, in English) with lots of group huddles and comments like ‘You honestly couldn’t tell!’
Tom Moss’s unique style as compere in the previous concert was now complimented by the equally extraordinary talents of Charlotte Skidmore who, at this point, was too ill to sing. A simple introduction of each act would probably have done, but, as they say, ‘Penguins will be Penguins!’ and we were given one of the greatest comedy double acts the world had ever seen! Despite phlegm and fatigue all round, every performance brimmed with the same pizzazz and sincerity that made the previous concert, the two shows, as well as all of these performers as individuals, so special.
What particularly struck me was how emotional it made me to watch, for the last time in Romania, each of my friends and colleagues executing their craft and stunning me in doing so. The appreciation of how privileged I was to be able to call each of these incredible artists my friend was reaffirmed, and I remember the feeling of pride that I experienced as I sat in the front row, enjoying each performance, knowing each Penguin would deliver something wonderful as they walked on stage, feeling ever so satisfied when I saw them do so, and thinking to myself, ‘it’s rather good, what we’ve done here, isn’t it?’