Sète, France 2017.5.21 – 2017.6.1

gull zone

The gulls sit on the roof most nights and sleep standing up. Maybe more often, if I was not walking onto the roof patio made for humans, with take-away pizza. Not twenty feet away, turning their heads to see, they might wake up and *bawk*, *bawk*, *bawk*…*bawk*, *bawk*, *bawk*, *bawk*. Others are high pitched, in the surrounding hillside ambience you can always hear about 20 of them. They walk the streets, eat pigeons. They cry emotionally or amazed, like there is a headache that needs to be released, slowly losing control on repeat like a mob alarm. When they are flying high they are white in the dark, sometimes in flocks. And when it’s late and I sit in the dark stillness with the French door open, the louder cries seem to speak to the edge of life. It peals out higher and higher, like something has happened; a birth, a murder, a dancing fire, or a human just became a dragon, growing taller with each cry, where the action is really happening, where voices are from.


Sete is apparently good for fishing tuna. A cab driver said fishermen are only allowed one month in the year for fishing, and some can make about 30,000 euros in that time. Seagulls must not be tasty or they would be hunted here. Or perhaps they are protected. I’ve never heard of them being served. These days all vessels are tracked by GPS, apparently. Do not overfish. Recycling cans is not an option when you bring it to the centre every few blocks… so it probably ends up in the sea half the time.

cercle sexuel public sur une plage familiale

The sand on the south western side is thick of small chips, rock and shell. I found a piece of broken green glass with smooth edges. A steep surf and rough current keeps me bobbing, eddying quickly. Evening sun in May was warm enough for swimming and sunbathing. Apparently, at a certain hour, the families take their children away knowingly for the sex rings to form. One of our team saw ‘sixty’ people circle round a couple pleasuring one another. The cast and crew laugh at his story. But I enjoyed my own company on the beach, I left before anything exciting started.


This top floor flat at Rue Pierre Semard, it has a smell like my grandmother’s summer cottage. Someone has treated it with love, left it in a hospitable state, like they are welcoming a family guest. The Renauld CD is in the player, his voice lifts the mood. I had a dream here that I was staying in my Finnish aunt’s house and meeting her friends and more of my relatives I don’t know. With a place seems to bring with it different sleeping visions. You can rent the room here https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/5968529?checkin=2017-05-21&checkout=2017-06-02&location=%20Theatre%20de%20Sete%20Avenue%20Victor%20Hugo%2C%2034200%20S%C3%A8te&s=pr5xiKER#reviews

photo by Claus Buehler
It feels like a country house, the veranda gets a lot of sun, open on top with a big table enough for 5 people, facing the western hills. Just be careful on those spiral stairs on the way up (no elevator). As they turn, they actually slant to one side, and are smooth. It’s the charm of knowing you will be careful anyway, in this busy world of running around…

flooded basement, Theatre Moliere

Haunted Palace is a visual vehicle for a stream of uninterrupted new songs, the new video work of Mark Holthusen, did Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Either/Or, Lulu: A Murder Ballad. There are 2 actors, sound effects, costume changes, props. The story is loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s life, but takes liberties and makes up the unknown using his stories and poems. The show opened in Bergen, Norway, and we were in Sete, France for the rehearsals.

Onstage for the first rehearsal at the Theatre Moliere. But alas, there is no light, no sound, no electricity. The basement had flooded and they know not how long it will take to put us back online with the modern world of digitally enhanced theatre… The solution agreed was to rehearse in the tall resounding lobby with the sun streaming through stained glass. Wondering if the show is cursed, I try to keep an open mind. We run the show sitting around a long table, in proximity with one another, communicating quite plainly, I drum on the paper and table with brushes, Adrian plays acoustic guitar. So glad we did this, the ideas are naked. Our position round a table implies discussing the meaning, and feeling each other’s presence. It reminds me of ‘chair work’. When I was acting with John Shillington, before we had learned our lines, the actors talking to each other would sit facing one another so knees are touching. We would look at the line, then say everything with eye contact.


Poe rehearsals continued with power as expected, cues get moved, blocking is changed according to light cues, light cues are changed according to blocking, songs are crafted and rearranged, actors give their ideas for direction, Paul accepts the process. Soon, everyone is contributing ideas like a team, and the director, writer, visual director, musical director, bassist, drummer, sound engineer (my dear Claus Buehler bien sur!), lighting/video operator, stage manager, are ‘on a level’, speaking our minds according to a show which makes sense to us. I understand how theatre productions appreciate the visual aspect a great deal… more than sound. And sound for Tiger Lillies is challenging because…we change how we play all the time! Add sound effects, wet sends, changing of instruments, radio mics, backup plans, monitoring, and the flow of mixing is always interrupted. He did a good job rehearsing in context basically without any assistants.


Kudos to Xavier the stage manager, who was suddenly taking new responsibilities of cue sheets on top of giving cues to backstage staff, simultaneously through the show. That would terrify me. Kudos, and a pleasant kind person. Respect to Hannah Rickard, who mucked in (got to work) for costume changing duties at the last minute, as well as her various jobs as liaison, organising, tour managing, and constantly an astute and sincere joker.

video orientation test


Barbu was one decent corner bar we returned to for outdoor chit chat and work-related ideas, after rehearsals. The town is so small we all stayed in the vicinity of each other, nothing like any work location I’ve had before. You would walk home and see Mark and Peder, maybe Dav or Adrian with them. Martyn likes the caipirinha cocktail, like a mohito but not so sweet. We were like a visiting colony. And then later at the whore house bar across the road from Mac Naan kebab place (vegetarians keep away) you might see someone drinking a final beer and chatting about science fiction programmes. Claus asks in French for non-alcoholic beer and she makes him repeat himself with an ominous sweeping “EH?”. We found bank stairs on a quiet intersection to meet ideas into the night hours, meeting characters one at a time, some learning to walk again, one German lady campaigning for Macron’s regional members. She thinks Brext will be fine for Britain who has connections all over the place. I’m not so sure. Sete has an unpretentious atmosphere that is quite low key, the upper and lower classes, the middle eastern families and various groups seemingly living together in peace.


Beggars are quite friendly. It’s probably a decent place to be homeless. Police share stories with some scruffy dreadlocked young men. I give a beggar 2 euros and he is elated. Under the surface, who knows? I’m just a passer-by. It’s still a crime to be poor in most of Europe.