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Beijing is a fantastic city – very different to Guangzhou. It’s much ‘lower and wider’ with a great sense of space and much less pollution. The hotel is lovely and although we’ve still got coaches to the theatre, it’s only about 20 minutes walk so lots of people are taking the opportunity to walk, although crossing the road in China is quite something else – you really do take your life in your hands as the traffic lights seem to mean nothing; green is for go, but then, seemingly, so is red!

On Sunday night the British Ambassador threw a reception for us at his residence – it was a fantastic evening and a great opportunity for everyone to dress up and relax. Unfortunately there were no Ferrero Rocher but the gin measures were wonderfully generous!

The National Centre for the Performing Arts (where we’re performing in Beijing) is the most incredible building – breathtakingly beautiful, absolutely enormous, a complete maze inside, and armed with almost impenetrable security. No-one is allowed inside without a security pass, and the the Stage Door (outside and inside shown below) is unlike anything we’ve seen in the UK!

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Even the audience aren’t allowed in without a ticket and once inside have to go through airport-style security. We’ve had endless fun trying to get sponsors and various other VIPs into the building for our FOH receptions; they will only issue security passes to those on the Company list (and no replacements for lost cards!) so for all those who don’t have a ticket, we’re reduced to borrowing passes from dancers, wardrobe staff or anyone else we happen to pass in the corridor! Just getting from backstage to FOH is a mission in itself! Add to that the fact that the foyers don’t open until 6.30pm and it’s a recipe for chaos – people are queuing round the block from about 5.00pm but somehow it all seems to come together in the end.

The backstage facilities are incredible and it’s so nice to be in a warm theatre at last (not least because it’s so cold outside!). However, the communication difficulties continue and it’s been another challenging week for the technical department. As usual, they’ve triumphed in the face of adversity and the shows have been looking really fantastic – and the audiences have been very appreciative. It’s great to have the Sinfonia with us now too – I think everyone is looking forward to tomorrow when we get to hear Romeo as it’s meant to sound!

The ‘lost property list’ for the tour (so far – passports, wallets, keys, phone, shoes, gloves) took an eventful twist at the start of the week when my bag of washing went missing at the theatre for 48 hours. Luckily it eventually came to light; otherwise I’d either have had to find time for some shopping, or managed the rest of the tour with just three pairs of socks and underwear!

Having three performances of Beast has finally allowed some time for sightseeing and this week I’ve managed a trip to the Great Wall at Simatai and a quick visit to the Forbidden City. Both were completely spectacular, photos to follow. The stretch of wall at Simatai is one of the most precipitous sections and to see such a huge construction in such a remote and rugged setting is quite amazing. We only managed a small section of the Forbidden City but that too is quite incredible.

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We’ve also been sampling a bit more of the local food – a real find has been a fantastic ‘local’ Chinese restaurant just behind the hotel which has become a bit of a favourite with the Company. As well as fabulous food, the staff are wonderful and have a penchant for taking photos of Western visitors to adorn their walls. Siân [Morgan, Company Physiotherapist] and I went there for lunch today and they seemed convinced that we’re married. I’ll see if I can scan a copy of our photo which is already up on their wall!

Anyway, I’ve probably wittered enough now – I hope all’s well in Brum; only another 8 days and we’ll be back in the UK!

More soon!

Paul [Grist, Company Manager]
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