It´s funny how the theatre that we make can mean different things to different people. When we performed "The Victim" many years ago in Slovenia the press said Paul Levy´s play was "written on the skin of the people"
The Mexican response to "The Bell" has been similar. People are saying that it feels like it was written for them. Our artistic directors, Claire and Damian made a really good call in deciding to have Damian´s poetic script translated into Spanish and of course it helped enormously that Ben Philips, the actor who gets most of the dialogue is fluent in spanish.
On the first night, as the lights in the square and in all the houses and nearby streets went out, 3000 people took a collective in-breath as we were plunged into darkness. It suddenly struck me that we were doing a play about war and reconciliation and the building of a great bell in a country with a recent history of revolution in a plaza overlooked by "The liberty bell"- a bell that is rung just once a year on independence day.
It doesn´t get much better than this. Sure there were technical problems on the first night but they didn´t get in the way of the crowds enjoyment. The reception by the public and press was overwhelming- to the extend that a week later Martin and I are still getting recognised on the streets- a nice and unusual response for us backroom boys.
We make lots of friends. We all full in love with Sandra, the assistant to the festival director. She is running everywhere helping us translate our needs for the show, joining us in our late night meanderings and going way beyond the bounds of her job description. It´s her first job out of college and she is also one of our volunteer performers for the show. After seeing her running around like a crazy person I take her aside and tell her to slow down. She can´t do everything. She is amused by my concern but the next day she tells me she has taken my advice.
Sometime in the mist of Mezcal and Marquaritas we make friends with a couple of Mexicans who run a Hostel just round the corner from the cathedral. When they hear Martin and I are staying for another week they insist we come stay at their hostel. It turns out to be a dreamy old colonial house sporting a roof terrace with an amazing view over the downtown area.
On Saturday morning we say goodbye to the rest of the company as they head off home or to Mexico city for the workshops. For the equivalent of two pounds fifty a night each we get a twin room and settle in for the duration.
Our room looks straight out on the back of the cathedral and on Sunday morning we are woken at 7am by the loudest cacophony of bells I have ever heard. It goes on for an hour but we are happy to sleep through it. It´s comforting some how.
Sunday afternoon we take a trip to Jerez, another colonial town about an hours bus journey away from Zacatecas. All the cowboys and their families head into the town on a Sunday and wander around the streets. One of the street acts who had been performing at the Festival is their doing his show and we stop and join the crowd to watch his show. It´s a really inclusive atmosphere with young and old alike laughing and taking part. We visit the home of the national poet, Ramón López Velarde and are given a guided tour. In Spanish.
I´m enjoying learning the language. I seem to be doing quite well. I have made friends with one of the students- Fabiola who had been working for the Festival and she laughs good naturedly at my stumbling attempts at communication and corrects me in her much better english.