Translated as: Excellent! Fantastic! Great! All three adjectives could certainly be used to describe another hugely successful event with our friends in the German city of Karlsruhe. Again we took two plays to be performed at the two separate theatre spaces in and around Karlsruhe.
This time we shared a coach with the Karlsruhe Friendship Club run by a chap called Arnie. They were going to Karlsruhe at the same time and to travel together was deemed a cost saving exercise. Being of an older generation they like to stop over in Lille to break the journey and we acquiesced with their arrangements. There was a delay on the Eurostar train journey and this had the knock on effect of delaying our arrival at the hotel Ibis in Lille. However the Lace Market folk still found time to enjoy an evening meal at a bistro in a nearby shopping centre. The following day we continued on our journey without any issues and met our hosts at the bus station in Karlsruhe. After some worry, Alan Price, one of the cast in Hay Fever travelling independently, was found waiting for the coach at the train station! A few phone calls later he was returned to the fold after his mistake.
Cast of Hay Fever
As usual our German hosts were incredible in their friendliness and generosity and Linda Croston’s team at Die Käuze enjoyed mountains of delicious local food each day. Larissa and her team kept us all fed and happy despite her father Carl being very ill in hospital at the time.
I had the interesting experience of being hosted by a wonderful old lady called Ursula Roth. She lived on the fifth floor of a block of flats which I often had trouble finding as they all looked the same, didn’t speak any English, had a dodgy front door key, was very nervous about me staying with her as she thought we would have difficulty communicating and she was ill from the early stages of stomach cancer. From the moment I started to speak a little German we got on great! She made me huge breakfasts in the morning, spoke clearly and I leant so much German in her company that when I left she called me her ‘second son’. Bless her.
Monday morning saw another official welcome at the Rathouse for the Lace Market Theatre and our travelling companions, the Karlsruhe Friendship Club. As the Reiseleiter I was very proud to represent our group and particularly proud to do our presentation partly in German.
Cast of Satin 'n Steel.
Satin and Steel by Amanda Whittington played for three performances at the Die Käuze theatre in Waldstadt and Hay Fever by Noël Coward played three times at the Jakobus theatre. Both plays were ecstatically received by the German and English audiences. Incidentally, Markus Künstler tells me that the phrase from Coward’s play, ‘Will you lean on the piano in an attentive attitude? It’s such a help.’ has now become folklore at the Jakobus theatre. They joke that they may well include it in every play that they do.
This time I was with the group at Die Käuze and the two main evening performances were a sell out. The audiences loved the singing, the humour and irony of the piece. Although from a few puzzled faces I do think the Germans did struggle with the strong Nottingham accents portrayed. A few tears were shed over Alison’s handling of the scene with Mum’s ashes. Many thanks also to the Hay Fever crowd for taking the early morning tram to see Satin and Steel’s 10.30am show. It was hot weather even at that early hour.
Our group at Die Käuze made a pilgrimage to the Jakobus theatre one night to see our friends perform Hay Fever on an improvised set and it worked brilliantly. The cast were on top form despite the baking weather and put tons of style and energy into the play. Max was hilarious in his role and the audience gave them several curtain calls at the end.
Jakobus Theatre. Karlsruhe.
Most of the early part of the week itself was taken up with technical preparations and rehearsals in unfamiliar spaces in readiness for the performances themselves. In between times we enjoyed the delights of the city itself including the parks and woodlands of Karlsruhe, all bathed in beautiful warm sunshine. The bars, cafes and shops got a look in too! Not only did we go for a bite to eat but most of the group got bitten too by the bugs in the grass. The Karlsruhe chemists have now sold out of Fenisten gel.
After all the performing was over we were treated to a coach trip to the typically Germanic town of Bretten and spent some time relaxing in the old market place enjoying a cool pils and great company. For lunch we ate at a superb hilltop venue called Steinsberg. Again, lovely food including local asparagus in a creamy blue cheese sauce. From the top of the tower at the venue we saw fabulous views of the vineyards and nearby town. It was alright going up the tower but coming back down the very steep and worn wooden steps again was quite another matter!
Friday saw us making our own entertainment and I know that a group of the younger members went on a bike ride through the Black Forest and others simply hit the shops. The baking weather was still very close and I spent some time at the Zoo and enjoyed an ice cream or two. Later that afternoon the weather broke and there was a dramatic thunderstorm and refreshingly cool rain.
On the Friday evening there was a superb farewell party with gift presentations, some lovely food, plenty of drinks and a chance to relax and enjoy the company of friends. There was also some very funny entertainment in the style of a short pantomime sketch and some singing around the piano with Markus on the keyboard and Helen leaning against the wall in an attentive manner. It helped him. Apparently.
At some ridiculously early hour on the Saturday morning everyone and their hosts gathered at the bus station to say our 8am farewells and Auf Wiedersehens. I must admit that I did get a bit moist eyed as we all hugged and kissed and shook hands. All the English parties got on board, our hosts waved us off and we heard, en route, that the Karlsruhe Friendship Group had had an equally good time with their hosts and were praising Alison and Neil for their performances in Satin and Steel. I don’t think they got to see Hay Fever.
Enjoying some French food in Lille.
The long journey back through three countries gave us all an opportunity for an overnight stop at the same Ibis hotel on the outskirts of the city of Lille. After freshening up a group of us went into the city via the slick metro system for some food and fun and we spent a very pleasant time in a French Bistro. French food, French wine and great company! What a way to end the week! Fab!
Courtesy of Vance the coach driver we all arrived safely back in Nottingham mid afternoon on the Sunday. Many of us just wanted to stay in Karlsruhe and have the experience last forever and there were ideas flying around of maybe doing some of our future plays there in German or at the very least something by a German writer. Hold that page.