A month has passed since my arrival in Chengdu and I find myself writing this from a peaceful tea house in the Buddhist Monastery, Wenshu Temple. It is my day off and I am exploring the most well preserved traditional buildings in the city. The tea houses are famous in Chengdu, along with spicy food and of course pandas. I just have the latter to experience now!
The staff at Marphy’s Playhouse are like a family and I feel honoured to be a part of it. Our leader, Marphy, is an incredible woman. Not only is she the head of a pioneering company in the capital of Sichuan, but also an inspiring teacher, mother and now friend.
I live with two lovely teaching assistants who are incredibly helpful and patient with me and my lack of mandarin!
During the week I have been accompanying the teachers to a small primary school (only 1000 students!) to observe their classes and lead coaching sessions with them. Approaching education through drama is, generally speaking, an unknown practice here so it is very exciting to be a part of a new movement in China. It has been met with some scepticism by the more traditional teachers at the school, but so far the children have really taken to their new class where we have been exploring the ancient story of Sun Wukong.
Across the rest of the week I lead different sessions in creativity with children between the ages of 3 and 12 years. I am using David’s Creative Practice, my own methodologies as well as Marphy’s own scheme work developed by Professor Joe Winston (University of Warwick) to explore this. Next week I will use music from experimental electronic artists Quantic and Bonobo to help the children create their own improvisation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar!
From October I am creating a performance installation with two Chinese performers based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This will be a playful, interactive art work, inspired by Abramović’s Rhythm 0 and Duchamp’s Etant Donne, where the children have the opportunity to control the performance. The installation will help promote the new Play House Theatre opening at the end of the year and also act as a learning opportunity for the teachers who have predominantly seen only traditional theatrical performances.
In November I will be joined by Associate Artist, Jonny Hoskins, for a week of clowning and mask work. All of us here at Marphy’s Playhouse are looking forward to seriously flexing our silly muscles!
Over and out.