Saturday, August 27, 2016

Queen Jesus, FK Alexander, and the gift of performance.



“Am I being stupid?”, One of the old ladies said as she left FK Alexander’s (I could go on singing) Over The Rainbow,  “It’s just I don't see the point of it”. 

She wasn't being angry, or dismissive, but genuinely curious.

And as I become an old lady myself I completely sympathise.

At first I couldn't see the point of it either. It was one of those puzzling live art events that don't seem to make much sense at first, but which grow in meaning and richness if you plant their little seed in your heart.

I suppose I could say to her that it was an act of love. Audience members came up one by one to have “Over The Rainbow” sung to them while Alexander looks them tenderly in the eye.

I know that impulse, and whenever I perform The Gospel According To Jesus Queen Of Heaven I try, if I can, to look each member of the audience in the eye at least once.

And I'm not sure I understand fully what the point of it is. Perhaps its like meditation, which both has and has not a point at the same time.

My meditation teacher used to say that it doesn't matter if nothing seems to be happening. That all you can do is the work.

And the performance was work: and a gift, given not just to the individual concerned but to each member of the audience in that tiny basement at the very bottom of Summerhall.

Part of the gifts was the ritual. A ritual that in the midst of a performance of auditory and visual overload gave a strange kind of peace.

Part of it, too, was the invitation to reflect on the words as we heard them over and over again. To imagine that maybe there really is a different dimension to our lives, where all the fear and uncertainty of this banal and terrifying world is somehow resolved.

It's a precious gift they gave us and it gives me comfort today. Today is the opening of Jesus Queen of Heaven in Brazil and I know that will be a demonstration tonight to try to stop it happening.

I remember all too well my fear at the hate-filled demonstrations that greeted my first performances in 2009, and I can't stop myself feeling intense sympathy and concern for Renata Carvalho, the gifted and beautiful trans-actress who is taking on my role

The political situation in Brazil is more or less the same as it was when I performed the piece there in May. A right wing clique is trying to govern through fear and hatred. Hatred directed at LGB T people in general, and trans people in particular.

Hatred sanctioned, supposedly, by Christian belief. 

In these circumstances to call the play challenging would be an understatement.. 

I lost count of all the people who came up to me after the shows to say that somehow I had given them hope and courage. 

Because then, as now, theatre matters.

And it is about creating a gift the audience. Whether they can take it or not.


How important it is that the gift be a good one. That it does not simply spread fear or outrage or despair but comes from a clear-eyed looking at the world and the ability in spite of of it all to find hope and strength.

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