I'm off to Iceland for a week to do some teaching at the Iceland Arts Academy in Reykjavik at the invitation of my old friend Vigdis Jakobsdottir. We're primarily going to be looking at the artist as educator and I'm hoping the five days of workshops will give us plenty of scope to explore the relationship between the two roles.
For some strange reason it was much cheaper to get to Iceland via Norway than take a direct flight which meant a painfully early start. The flight was simple enough and I was in Oslo in time for a spectacularly expensive lunch - £9 for a beer - in the transfer lounge.
It all felt a little surreal particularly when the former Man Utd and England full back Gary Neville came running by. A stocky figure, carrying a suit, shouting back in broad Mancunian to his companion to get a move on in order to get the plane back to Heathrow. What he was doing in Norway is anyone's guess. Scouting? Visiting former team mate Ole Gunar Solskjaer? Nobody seemed to notice him at all.
Soon enough I was airborne again and heading north west across the frozen ocean towards Reykjavik, coming through the clouds just as the southern shoreline came into view.
It's almost ten years since I was last here and Iceland has since then gone through the most spectacular of financial crashes. Vigdis and her husband Jakob were working in Brussels when bottom fell out, but they returned soon afterwards. I'm fascinated to see how the crash has effected life here.
I took the bus through the familiar lava field landscape into town where Vigdis and her daughter Julia met me at the station. It's great to see them again.
We ended the day in the old theatre next to the Tjornin in the centre of the old town where Jakob's band were crooning their way through nostalgic Icelandic hits of the sixties and seventies. They were one of seven or eight amateur bands of all ages, enjoying the warm appreciation of a crowd of 200 or so. And despite the much deserved ribbing of Jakob's spotless white jacket and shiny blue winkle pickers, it was all wonderfully open hearted.
We finally gave in at midnight, but the party continued until dawn.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.