First shows are always a bit hap-hazard, and without an actual rehearsal, you have to expect the unexpected!
We began the show yesterday with suspiciously low volume – I had been warned that this might be the case due to potential intervention of the religious police aka Haia, or as I now understand they are less colloquially known as The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (see previous blog post).
I would like to make it clear that I have complete respect for the people’s and culture of Saudi Arabia, and as a visitor here, I’m fascinated by the differences in social and religious practices from the UK.
Anyway, as I said, my first show had very low volume, so I couldn’t hear it on stage, - I take my cue’s from the music, so it made it a bit tricky. Added to that, there were a couple of technical issues and the show was cut short because of the upcoming call to prayer.
I was also kinda surprised that the audience was partitioned for men and women, and that the audience were being held some 5 meters back from the stage. I bought it up with the organisers that some children should be let into this area so as to be involved in my show - They were worried that the kids would get too excited and be unmanageable, and indeed, there did appear to be some element of this when my show was bought to an early close!
So my show was stopped after the first two sections which seemed a shame. I am happy to honour my clients wishes, and I’m new to this country, so despite my temptation to carry on my show just a little bit longer, I did curtail myself and took my bow.
Considering what seemed to me to be a somewhat ramshackle of a first show, I was completely surprised by the kids reaction at the end – a mass of cheers, enthusiasm and photos, hand shaking and greets which lasted longer than the show!
When I eventually pulled back and took myself to the back of stage, I requested something to drink but by now it was prayer time, and all the shops shut during the 5 prayers of the day.
I also heard during this time that the organisers had received word that the Haia had arrived and hence the decision to cut my show short – they don’t want to risk any cause for the Haia to see fit to get intervene.
During my break, I was lucky enough to meet the 2 members of the Haia, who were joined by a very friendly looking policeman holding religious beads. “No music” said the wonderfully rotund and gold caped man.
And so it was decided. What could I do? I grabbed a pen and paper and tried to think how I could perform to a non-English speaking audience without music, but no time - I was suddenly being called to stage and had to just jump in at the deep end and do my best! I tried to minimise talking, and maximise the bubbles and was happy with what I’d put together ‘on the hoof.’ As were the audience it seemed, but I was left feeling a bit bemused by the whole experience! It also left me wondering why I was booked to perform here? Apparently in the other cities like Jeddah, they aren’t so strict but here in Riyadh, any music accompanying live performances is basically not allowed. MTV get’s through, but if you’re hoping to see live music here, you might be disappointed… unless you enjoy traditional Islamic music.
At the end though, it was suggested that for the next day’s performances I play my music on my ipod with headphones so there could be no risk of anyone being insulted in my show, and I can perform as usual
Again, the idea of this leaves me feeling a bit bemused, but I am more than happy to give it a go- maybe it’ll work? I’ll try it in the first show, and then we’ll take it from there.
I’ll let you know how it goes!