What do you take for granted? If you’ve left home to teach overseas, what did you take for granted back home? Having left the United Kingdom (UK) eight years ago and having taught Theatre in Asia since, I’m realising now how much I took for granted the ease of access to good, live theatre. When I lived in Manchester the thought of a two hour train journey to London meant I often put off getting tickets to the hottest new production, thinking ‘next month’ or even ‘next summer’. Even the brilliant offerings on my own doorstep would sometimes drift away from me – it’s easy to become complacent when you are surrounded by great theatre from a range of companies. Having worked in professional theatre before becoming a teacher, I felt I was able to access live productions at the click of a finger.
Then I got to Asia and found that the pool of inspiration and reinvigoration was surprisingly smaller. Taking students to see live shows was so much more difficult out there: their busy extra curricular activity programmes, the language barrier hiding much from my view and yes, often the quality of what was on offer. Local theatre traditions and theories were the positive flip side to this of course – my knowledge of Noh, Suzuki, Sichuan face changers and Beijing Opera has blossomed by varying degrees. My training with local experts and exposure to live theatre in these areas has directly improved my teaching of the World Theatre Tradition and Research Presentation components of the Diploma Theatre course.
But the Diploma course also requires us to experience theatre as spectators.