Yesterday (4/5/2011) was our last PWB show! 12 shows on this tour – what a fantastic run!
This show was in Kalimpong, a 2 and a bit hour journey on a bumpy, twisty, windy, wobbly road in a jeep. The show throughout the tour has always been a great unifier. It began with ideas sketched out on a giant piece of paper in a cold garage in London, followed by two weeks of rehearsing and training in the paradise of Kudle beach in Gokarna. A mass combination of energy, ideas and fun simmered in the Indian sun and matured over time to become something really special which we all feel immensely proud to have been involved with. Witnessing from its very inception how it’s evolved over time as we have become more comfortable with our characters, our skills and ourselves and really opening up to the crowd. I think we will all miss doing shows together as a team, bringing us all together with members being unwell, tired, hungry or not feeling it, and still digging in and releasing so much energy, joy and fun in such a short amount of time.
The Nuns last night (yes, Nuns) put it perfectly in a speech after the show “It is clear to us all that you’re full of life, love life and the joy of living. We are so pleased you have come here and volunteered your energy, time and skill for us.”
The school and boarding house we went to was called ST JOSEPH’s, a similar set up to EWSCT. After arriving in Kalimpong from our bumpy roller coaster ride up and down and round and round and losing and recovering our colour, we headed straight to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. Some members went for a quick shave at the barbers while some others did some speed shopping on the bustling streets. Then back in the jeep (once we found it). Kalimpong has a crazy one way type system and is absolutely heaving with jeeps of various kinds. The town itself seems to consist mainly of two busy roads with jeeps continually streaming through.
We make it to the centre and are welcomed by a young Nun who takes us to the new building built in 2009. We sit down and enjoy a nice cup of tea in china cups and saucers that would make your auntie proud. The majority of the team are acting their best Grandmother afternoon tea behaviour, along with nice accents and correct names: Andrew, David, Matthew.
Watered and fed and so to work. Around 100 children ranging from 6 to 16 are arranged in our standard PWB circle: “Gola Ba Now!” (“Circle to make!”).
Quick intro of people and props and onto an hour of intense circus fun!! Tough job, huh.
Throughout the tour we have been called many things by the children, “Brother”, “Sister”, “Daddy”, “Mummy”, “Didi”, “Uncle”, “Aunty”, “Hey hey”, “Mister”, here it was “Sir, Sir” and “Miss, Miss”. The children were a lot of fun and quick learners. My prop was diabolo and one boy in particular, Raja, was throwing and catching smoothly, managing two tricks all within an hour. A lot of potential here.
“Gola Ba Now”. Time’s up. Show time.
The football pitch is swept up, glass and stones removed. The ever resourceful Dave ties a tarpaulin off the goalpost and we have our backdrop. 100 kids and 4 Nuns and a few other workers and teachers! What a crowd!! Very enthusiastic, clapping and cheering and laughing. I have a distinct memory of seeing a young girl, maybe nine years old, watching the hoop routine with her mouth wide open and her hands stuck mid clap. Later that same girl blew Elma a kiss. The show was a lot of fun. With the cheers I think our skill levels go up. All went smoothly right up to the finale of the fire skipping rope. The last time we will ever jump this!! Quick hugs beforehand and Go!
Matt gets a whack on the head, “Oooh!” Minus a few hairs! “AHH”. The cheering is immense. The kids all start singing three cheers. Packing up usually involves surrounding the kit with ourselves and trying to make sure the kids don’t touch the fire equipment, especially the hot fire pots at the front. I chose selfishly to go and shake lots of hands, often several at the same time, as this would be our last show and I really wanted to milk it.
So into the “Green Room” (the office). We are all buzzing and comparing each other´s injuries: Livi, a cut on her toe, me a cut on my palm, Matt minus a few hairs and Eluned a swollen eye from a stray club. Singing and prayers issue from the canteen, a very calming sound.
We go up and have dinner with the Nuns, all vegetarians and no wine. Simple and satisfying. It is clear the Nuns are immensely pleased with us, the youngest is positively beaming. Another says she screamed at the head Nun when she saw us playing with fire. “Nobody is burnt, no?” “No, we are professionals”. I do love being described as a professional. A circus professional! A fire professional!!
After the meal we get taken down to the main hall canteen where all the children have finished their prayers and food and are now doing homework. We get escorted to the front thinking we are just waving goodbye and picking up our equipment. Seven empty chairs are waiting at the front. We are asked to sit and a lovely speech is given by the young Nun. A thank you song is also sung to us, and another speech about the joy of life given by the head Nun. Then we are presented with a traditional Nepalese scarf each and Matt says a thank you.
I am close to tears. Not only was it a great show, a great crowd, not only is it our last show with a fantastic group of people, but also this experience of being sung to by 100 children all so amazed and happy to see us, what an experience. I feel so privileged to have been involved with this adventure. I am close to tears.