Working abroad has taught Delia Hannah to go with the flow, even if it's only from a bucket
As a performer, I have been on tours to some fascinating places. So far, it is my engagements with the mega-musicals such as Cats that have made the biggest impact on my travel experiences. From musical theatre and concert tours of major cities in Australia and every corner of Asia, to remote Outback towns, like Alice Springs, in a 2000-seat big top under the stars, 90 per cent of my travel so far has been work-related and I have been away from home for months on end.
Once the excitement of opening night passes, it's great to get out of the hotel apartment and explore the city. I love to do this on my own, especially if shopping is involved, but in more exotic places, it's also nice to go out with a small posse of work friends. Obtaining local knowledge is handy for less-obvious places to eat, shop and explore.
The pursuit of nourishing food becomes an obsession when you're touring. Cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong are so easy on the working tourist. There were some eye-opening, also eye-watering, food and culture shocks in Manila and China. If I couldn't read the menus, I just ordered three meals, with the hope that one would appeal to my Western palette.
My enduring memory of being in China for more than four months in 2009 has to be the outrageous contrasts. All of our company quickly learned to accept this fact and go with the flow. In fact our daily slogan was "How random is that", which eventually just became "Random".
The cast and crew of Cats arrived in Beijing, just in time for China's celebration of 60 years of communism. We watched the preparations in Tiananmen Square but were told that we must stay away on the day.
Cats was performed in the iconic Great Hall of the People but the entire cast was put into a mass dressing room with only a bucket of water each to take off our makeup. But then, in Chongqing we performed in a massive modern theatre which was still being built. I recall sharing a lift with an elderly lady who was hauling a wheelbarrow of wet concrete. What must she have thought of the enormous Cat People, us in our unitards and yak hair wigs?
We had a season cancellation and got to spend two extra weeks in Beijing. Two weeks to be just tourists! I went to The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace and The Temple of Heaven. I travelled in a taxi to three different parts of The Great Wall, took a bus to the ancient Madu Water Town, which is 2500 years old, and the Chengdu Panda Sanctuary. It is a dream to travel for work, and to seek out as many new experiences as possible.
Delia Hannah stars in Kiwi musical State Highway 48, on at Auckland's Bruce Mason Centre from October 15-19