Saturday, August 30, 2014
Chris Goode and Olwen Fouere and my daughter's bangin' beats and my grandson dancing
So this is me the last week almost the last day of the Edinburgh Festival, when I began to write this yesterday, no the day before, I’d just come out of the Pavel Haas Quertet full of gratitude because they’d introduced me me to this amazing composer, Schulhoff, who I hadn’t heard before, and I was excited because the next day I was going to se the Trojans (not knowing I was going to leave after the first interval, unable to tolerate the thought of another four hours of that production's incompetence and tedium) but most of all because that night I was going to see my new play WHITE TED AND THE RIGHT TO DIE for the very first time (but that is another story) and right up to the first note of music being played I’d been scribbling down the opening scene for my new version of JEKYLL & HYDE and a couple of days before scribbling the opening scene of the new piece I’m developing with Chris Goode and all the while planning my trip to Brazil, and hoping JESUS QUEEN OF HEAVEN can go there and planning a trip to Manchester to discuss the revival of my ANNA KARENINA that will be happening in the Royal Exchange, and we’re filming QUEEN JESUS on Monday and so much has been happening it feels as if I began performing the show say 12 years ago all packed into the last four weeks...
And now it’s time to stop.
Stop for a moment to look out over the evening light gently softening its beautiful self over the Water of Leith and reflect, perhaps...
Reflect on Chris Goode and his MEN IN THE CITIES which I saw almost a week ago.
It’s like a baroque altarpiece of the spoken word: astonishing, amazing, virtuosic.
And like most of them glorifying queer sensibility. Only, unlike nearly all of them, doing so openly.
It was all too much for a couple of American ladies sitting next to me who started whispering most agitatedly to each other very early on, about how disgusting it all was. Men. And their penises. Having sex. And kissing. KISSING....!!
“Please shush” I whispered across to them. “Shut up!” hissed the bolder one back at me with really quite extraordinary venom and eventually left , banging her way diagonally across the stage saying “I can’t stand any more of this” and hurling a couple of “Disgusting”s in Chris’ general direction and although it was actually a real tribute to the power of what he was doing it can’t have been easy for him to take it that way at the time...
And I actually had a certain sneaky regard for her, being (I regret to say) perfectly capable of such behaviour myself and actually preferring it to the silent resigned suffering that audiences often seem to experience and then follow with polite applause.
And I so wanted her companion to join her because she was sitting next to me positively fizzing with resentment and obviously wishing she’d had the courage to join her friend... which she eventually did along with someone else when Chris had notched the emotional temperature up another fifty degrees or so, and I hoped he could see that what he was doing was working...
This extraordinary altarpiece he was constructing, about 14 storeys high by now and absolutely amazing with subclauses; and looking back on it it seems so clear that in a weird way we have been doing the same thing, him and I...
But whereas mine’s is a transwoman’s hymn to happiness, his is a gay man’s angry scream: anger at the state of the world and the part men are playing in its destruction.
I realise I should be hating all this but I’m not because Chris is entering so compassionately and so beautifully into the desperate lives he is describing and so in the process becomes....
...He himself in all his angry grief is just so intensely beautiful &
“Aren’t you just tired” he’s pleading with his dad “Just so tired of all this?”
“Can’t we just drop it? Can’t we just drop all this?”
And I know this feeling, know it all too well, it’s all so strong a part of how I felt about the world when I lived as a man
And I’m crying, crying
And at the end it’s as if he’s just given up on the whole cis-normative heterosexual world and I’m crying some more
And I go to cry in the loo half way up the Traverse stairs, not for long enough, because I find I’m crying in the bar and a couple of people ask me if I’m OK and the artistic director of the Traverse herself buys me a gin and tonic in a spirit of the kindest concern
And I am OK
Because one good thing about tears is that they almost always are OK, as are those who cry them,
And I know our different altarpieces - his so dark & intricate & gorgeously baroque, and mine pared down, presbyterian even, so full of light - are all both somehow arising from the same thing,
And I go home and my daughters are there, and that always makes me so happy.
Somehow we put on a CD compilation my younger daughter made once, years ago, “KT’s Bangin’ Beats”, and my goodness they are bangin’ and my grandson joins in the dancing and we all laughing, laughing in the wild uncontrollable joy of it all
And then it’s back to the Traverse and Olwen Fouere performing her RIVERRUN and she’s standing there, standing in the auditorium, a slight silver figure, standing like an archetype....
And I go all the way down the Traverse stairs almost to the stage because my heart goes out to her:
We worked together so many years ago with Calixto Bieito on my translation of LIFE IS A DREAM and she was Rosaura. She was an amazing vision of beauty and strength then.
And she is so still...
And we embraced in the sweetest way, and I sat in my seat weeping with gladness.
I can’t really write about what I saw. And what I heard...
The piece is taken from the last chapter of FINNEGAN’S WAKE. From the place where the river speaks. And when James Joyce wrote that book it took somewhere ordinary language could not describe.
And that’s why he wrote how he did, poor love, with all the suffering that cost him.
Because he’d reached a place near the source of all things, of life and of death and of all things and Olwen somehow channels all this with amazing focus and devotion and virtuosity and skill...
...Which all implies an intensity of concentration and will, which is there to be sure, but she also trusts utterly and allows herself to be carried by the flow.
And I’ve never seen such beauty of movement or heard such beauty of voice
And know now with such utter certainty we all belong there
And will go there at the beginning
And have been there at the end
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