Mexico is big. Very big. We live in Scotland. Scotland is many things (almost all of them great) but it is not big. Or in your face. So arriving in Mexico hits you hard when you’ve just come from somewhere where poor queuing etiquette technically counts as anarchy.
We’ve just arrived and we’re off the plane, quite a chunk of our personal stuff hasn’t made it though and is still stranded somewhere in Heathrow’s legendary Terminal 5. It’s not the best start. A fifty minute wait at the back of a line for immigration is also helping to push that feeling along nicely.
All of a sudden we’re saved. A very smiley faced woman in her early twenties has our name on a bit of paper. We all look at each other. We’ve never had our name on a bit of paper before. Is that our name? No it can’t be. She must be looking for some other people from another organisation called Tortoise in a Nutshell. Performing a show named Feral. They’ll probably be wearing suits or…no wait I really think she is looking for us.
Forty minutes later we’re hammering through downtown Mexico city. Which is slightly unnerving because there’s a huge amount of traffic around. The sights and sounds are pouring in from every corner. We’ve been met by a team from the Cervantino Festival, where we’re due to perform in a few days, they’re brilliant, warm and are taking amazing care of us. “There are 23 million people in Mexico City. How many people are there where you come from?”… “I think there’s a few hundred thousand. Wait, 23 million?… That’s about four times the population of the whole of Scotland!” … “Yeah, it’s pretty crazy!” I look left and see a hugely beat up taxi speed past us. It doesn’t have a number plate just a small sign proclaiming ‘No Fear!’ in a very bold font…this is gonna be fun.
We fall pretty instantly in love. Mexico’s tourist agency uses a tag line to describe the country, ‘The Place You Thought You Knew’. It’s one of the few times where I’ve agreed with the sentiment of a tourism board. The first few days are a whirlwind of new experiences. We see whole streets devoted to shops selling the same item, the street of washing machine shops, of confirmation dresses, of toilets (that one was weird). The national anthropology museum blows my mind and then later the Lucha Libre wrestling blows it even more. We take a trip out to Teotihuacan and my history nerd brain goes into full overload, all of our lungs do too. My weak little sea level body struggles to bound up the 45º pyramid steps which are adding to the 2,000 plus metre altitude.
We do all this because some of us have managed to sneak in a bit of time off before the tour kicks off in earnest. We feel a bit guilty for the rest of the crew who are joining us later but we’re hardly left with any time to ponder it as we race around.
Soon enough though it’s tour time and we’re back on the road and leaving Mexico City to head to Guanajuato and the Cervantino Festival. Cervantino is one of the leading arts festivals in the Americas. Companies come from around the globe to perform, to be one of their number is a very humbling experience and a real privilege. Guanajuato is unlike anywhere we’ve been before. An old mining town, much of the place is now a Unesco World Heritage site. Cars snake their way through a winding system of tunnels which have been carved under the town, while above the streets are crammed with scores of people bustling between gigs, outdoor performances, talks and shows. It’s the first time we’re reminded of home.
Our performances go amazingly, we close to pack out both nights and play to something like 900 people. It feels incredible. The warmth we receive from the audience is immense and it feels surreal to see tens of people queuing at the end of the show to take their turninspecting the set.
A few days later and we’re back in Mexico city to perform at the newly open La Teatreria in The Roma Nord district of Mexico City. The theatre’s director Shoshana, along with our producing partners Show and Tell ltd, have been instrumental in organising the tour. The venue is a beautiful hundred(ish) seat studio space, it feels completely different to Cervantino but again both of our shows go brilliantly. It highlights one of my favourite things about performing Feral, it’s ability to be played in varied settings.
Before we know it we’re jumping back in a van and heading for the airport. Just as we’re leaving Hurricane Patricia is making landfall on Mexico’s east coast, it’s the largest ever recorded storm to hit the country from the Pacific. It feels a strange way to leave, to see a place you’ve quickly grown to love being battered and bruised.
All in all in twelve or so days we’ve barely scratched the surface, but it’s been an amazing experience and one we feel very fortunate to have had. Since coming home friends and family have all very kindly asked how we got on; How was the food? Did you see the protests for the 43? What were the people like? I could bang on for days about all of those things, more importantly though, if you ever get the chance, it’s definitely worth going to see for yourself.