Monday, August 06, 2007

6th August
Yesterday I went to the opening of the Festival of Spirituality (http://www.festivalofspirituality.org.uk) at St John's church.
My friend Suzanne led everyone in a guided meditation in which everyone in the overflowing church held hands; a priest from Ghana spoke about two boys he knew who had been sold into slavery by their mother. She could find no other way to feed her other children.
She did it. She sold them.
And he told the story in a way that showed great understanding and compassion for her and the terrible dilemma she was in.
And this will continue to happen, he said, until we break the chains. The chains of poverty and injustice.
There was a steel chain, a heavy steel chain lying accross the front of the dais on which he was speaking. He picked it up. He held it out, and he showed it us.
We have to break the chain, he said. You have to break it. You, you, you. You and I, we have to break the chain...
And then to the Traverse to see David Greig’s new play, DAMASCUS.
It was an unfortunate contrast.
The Traverse in the Festival is always a difficult place to be. There's so much power broking going on; so many people taking pains to be seen with the right people.
In the context of the kind of issues that were being grappled with in St. John's - the theme of their Festival is "Power and Freedom: Breaking the Chains" - it seemed quite shockingly trivial and self serving.
David's play had all his best qualities as a writer: it was intelligent, perceptive, funny in self-deprecating kind of way. Warm hearted, too, and humane.
Above all, it was easy.
It made no special demands on us.
Perhaps that's why it irritated me to such an extreme and unreasonable extent.
The situation we're in is so extreme, so dangerous, that it demands huge and superhuman efforts of us.
How do we find the art forms that are equal to it?
How do we break those chains?
Not with jokes about TEFL teachers adrift in the middle east - TEFL teachers who can't speak French or Arabic and haven't a shred of emotional intelligence and half-engage in a half-baked act of adultery.
Yet for someone in the Guardian, its the best thing in the Festival so far (http://http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/theatre/2007/08/damascus_could_be_this_years_b.html)
and I wonder if my irritation is just envy, or frustration that my work no longer seems to hit the spot, or fear that I've become utterly isolated from my audience...
I hope not.
I hope I don't lose my faith - which at times seems so fragile a thing - faith in my art and in my inspiration.

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