DORSET - RAISING THE BUILDING
this morning i came within sound of the sea
for a man whose eyes till now were a bed of rock
whose hands were drier than deserts
the sea's voice drove fear up through the valley
the tributaries meandering inside me longing for outlet
shrivelled even as their own courses became straight
my demand for ocean died now the ocean approached
the clouds put up with a lot of invective from me today
not a stone lay upon the earth in its right place
the valley upheaved into a mountain and the sea froze
the hardness in me was all fluid - i cried to be melted away
i could not bring myself down into the green pastures
or lay myself out amidst fruits and believe the sun
the truth i'd been stumbling towards i hated the heart of
the sayings of those i'd killed enchanted my ears
my instinct was to turn and run inland forever
and on the morrow i went down to the sea
and stood for a long time for the waters to calm me
i let my feet root among the shingle and seaweed
and my mind bobbed on the cove's waves absorbing their rhythms
what i had come for i found looking for me - and the green
world conceiving inside me smashed through my skin
the sheer stupidity of the sea
going on and on mounting the land
it's that stupidity
as the waves attempt to make the sea wall
what is the hand that slyly digs into the dark
to take the land (and its most pleasurable
Part (iv) takes another step back, retreating out of theatre into educational drama, but in the belief that here is where the bullet was first bitten, the ebb tide turned round (or whatever!).
educational drama took the old nut
and cracked it open - it declared
we have no intention of remaking the old nut
And, as a result:
freedom was granted a space
eternity was held in a hand
Well, for a while. Slowly authorities began to realise something earth-shaking was happening, so they had to devise ways of seeming to approve but making the whole experience a safe one (safe for them, the authorities).
william whitelaw is sent in with a message
if drama will give up its arms
it will be allowed to survive
if it will agree to abide by the law
it can dance as it pleases
if it denies its subversion
it can help paint the fruit on the trees
and encourage the children to eat them
Benign manipulation is born.
now children here is a body of knowledge
and i in the name of free drama
am going to let you do as you like
and use your ideas in such a way
that you will want to go into that body of knowledge
and find out what i happen to think is good for you
to find out
(no - i'm not tricking you
look i have nothing
up my sleeve or behind my back)
and if what we find happens to make you
wiser people and better citizens
so much the better eh
and i shall tell any visitor who asks
yes it is the children's own work
remember children it is all your own work
don't keep looking at me while you're doing it
Actually that passage cuts to the quick of what it was, and still is, mostly, to be a drama-teacher. Educational drama from its beginning, with the likes of Peter Slade and others who have slipped back into the mists, never really freed itself from the delusions surrounding what was genuinely the children's own imaginations at work. The structures have not existed for children to be themselves fully and untrammelled by adult suggestion. The personal interests of the teachers, with their own views on the nature of the manna that should fall from heaven. too easily become the wishes of the children. It is impossible to be free of that corruption (if that's what it is). In a way the story-line of Through the Circle attempts to pick itself through all the brambles (of the pleasurable tricks authorities play to allow their charges to be happy at being manipulated) towards the dream of the receivers knowing exactly what their own responsibilities are in a manipulation-free situation. But this is not to say that at some point I have not played the manipulator's game in search of a more pleasing result. The role of a non-manipulator is hard to be true to.
how interesting children you've chosen the wars of
the history man was hoping you would
However, over my years as a Drama teacher, concerned to understand the nature of manipulation and to move as far as I could away from its coils, I did manage to concoct a list of what drama-for-itself was about, and, imperfectly maybe, tried to grow by it
drama is not a subject
it is not a knowledge-tool
it is not a behaviour-mechanism
it is not a pleasant way of doing unpleasant things
it is not a conditioning tablet
it is not a punishment block for awkward children
it is not a new way for a teacher to do his old job
it is not a carrot
on the end of the headteacher's stick
it is not a pourer of oil over troubled waters
it is not a provider of qualifications nor a booster for
it is not an ego trip for the teacher
it is subversive to all such concepts
it is concerned intimately
with the problems of fulfilment
with the release of people from authority
with the exploration (through practical problems)
of the possibilities of being equal and free
with what people are in themselves
and what they aspire to
with the physically imaginable world
with the unity of language and flesh
with the relationships of
people with people
and people with space
with the birth to death cycle
and the meaning of nature
with the here and now translation of myths
with looking at life steadily and seeing it whole
Although there can be a lot of laughter in the drama class, at heart drama is an intensely serious concept, pitching itself against the ready availability of entertainment-which:
supposes an extraordinary world
that ordinary can't enter
but must see through the window and gawp at
Educational drama started with big ideas, but always in the service of its young makers. By becoming drama in education, and then education through drama
neither drama nor education makes sense
in hierarchical terms
to be made to fit the system
both must be declared insane
their dreams are clipped off
(their voices castrated)
they go about in dark suits
respect their headteachers
they cannot open doors
with their broken fingers
educational drama has become drama-in-education
it has cut out its eyes and turned itself inwards
has done patch-up jobs on one or two junkyards
has bred exotic roses that bloom long under glass
it doesn't know how to move outwards
and stay true to itself
the spirit of drama is shy
it exists in the drab and the lonely
it is sick with the showmen the dressers of shit
it looks for an ordinary way amongst ordinary people
that's when its miracles come
when the colours well up from the heart
and language comes out of the mouths in deep-
So drama awaits. Clearly, by this point in the thesis,
on the side of the meek, who, in the end, are to triumph
in any world conditioned by the spirit, the
inner energies of the Drama Movement are in place
to re-inform and remotivate the dead theatrical
AEONS ERAS AND AGES
2. it dreams of - aspires to - is in awe of - envies and fears the eternal
3. all living creatures (whether animal vegetable or mineral) and aspects of life (that relate to - or are consequences of - the living instinct) are conceived are born grow mature climax decline and die in traceable (though widely differing) spans
4. the temporal registers itself as aeons which contain eras (time on a millennial scale) which contain ages which are quantified as centuries decades years months days hours minutes seconds etc
5. an aeon is beyond human effect - an era marks a shift in human consciousness so immense and deep that it alters the perceived nature of life at every level - an age marks a shift in human meaning within the overall assumptions of an era.
6. a change of eras comes about when a governing spiritual assumption about the nature of the relationship between the infinite and the temporal is overthrown in favour of a new spiritual assumption around which then accrues different structural concepts of the nature of life (and the role of human beings in relation to spiritual forces) in terms of themselves and every other living entity.
7. a change of age occurs when the governing spiritual assumption shifts a gear or is seen (through an advance of understanding) in a different light.
8. life grows invariably from the inner core to the outer surface - all change perpetrated on that surface is a consequence of the development of the spiritual assumption at its core, which itself cannot avoid the conception-to-death shift that affects all life - nothing discovered consciously is more than a limited innovation (an experiment with increasingly available resources) towards the fulfilment of the seed-intentions of the spiritual assumption currently in control.
9. each spiritual assumption (or sufficient change in spiritual assumption) creates its own underlying and overriding structure - establishing itself in both a symbolic and practical way in order to contain and clarify all the meanings and interpretations possible of its fundamental view of life and the relationships it is capable of engendering.
10. at the death of one spiritual assumption (and at the arising of another) the symbolic structure belonging to the former has to give way to that of the latter - however (living nature being what it is) that changeover cannot take place tidily or without pain - it is analogous to the shedding of one snake's skin for the next.
11. the most calamitous and dangerous times for living
entities to endure come with the changing of aeons or eras or ages when
old structures have to give way to new - but without there existing
the conscious skills to see in the changes proficiently - the greater
the change, the more painful the living process
12. we may well be at that point now
13. the release of the ordinary human spirit may require such a cataclysmic change
WHAT DOES THE INNER WALL SAY
1. each age organises itself around its spiritual assumption
2. that symbolic structure is translated by architects
3 this space-shape houses the meeting-place or assembly
4 this assembly-paradigm is then adopted
5 the more authoritarian the structure insisted on by
6 the theatre
7 its actors are not meant
But the Inner Wall of the Cathedral of OHS
1 what happens to the back wall
2 actors hone their techniques
3 the actor-in-the-round
4 in the round
This is what the INNER WALL says
nothing can stay as it was
but being a cosmic thing
and since human beings are concerned
Word And Action the practical structure
the transformative longing
cloaked in symbolic walls
of the Round's changed assembly offer
out of the New Age's dreamt-for
we imagine - therefore we can be
tackling the perennial problem head on
of the mutual suspicion
hatred and the need for each other
of individual and collective
one and the many
particular and general
the fulfilment of the group
is the sum of the fulfilments of all its members
and (to reconcile the old opposites
the left and the right of politics
in the spirit of yes AND no
without equality there is no freedom
without freedom there is no equality
with a touch of semantics
inequality depends upon uniformity
e-quantity depends upon sameness
e-quality depends upon diversity
Word And Action declared itslf as
a language-arts organisation
exploring the creative use of English
in all possible forms
a community (theatre and writing) service
all performances to be done in-the-round
and presented in the here-and-now
all its assemblies to be seated likewise
an equal responsibility company
(all jobs to be shared
or allocated evenly
so no need for consensus or voting)
an equal wage throughout
all would-be members to choose their own joining
(no previous qualifications demanded
a refusal to expect cv's)
in the light of the company's
expressed purposes intentions and limitations
all members to name their own going
hierarchy of experience was inevitable
the company did what it could
to demean the hierarchy of power
Word And Action set out to be organic
new members choosing to join
expected voluntarily to accept
the state of the company till then
and its reason for being
and to help the company to grow
by its unusual intrinsic agenda
and out of this structure
there bred a sense of its creative agenda
instant improvised and scripted
theatre drama and poetry workshops and courses
scripted work to aim
at the reduction and removal
of the power of the director
poetry to be part of performance
its workshops and courses
to range through reading and writing
and publishing to stretch
from the gathering of courses' material
to local anthologies
and individuals' collections
and local poetry magazines
in all aspects
authorities not to be deferred to
celebrities not to be encouraged
Word And Action's job
was to tap the creative roots
of the ordinary human spirit
to be available
to poverty disability
deprivation however dressed up
to the whole range of ages
it had no time
to be a community action group as well
the most important job in the world
is to physically-nourish the needy
the second is to nourish
the deprived human spirit
(both are too much
for any one organisation)
nor did Word And Action exist
to placate the authority view
of what the arts world
should properly be about
authority (painful to relate)
is more of a disease than a cure
Word And Action started
less well off and secure
than proverbial church mice
(no generous vicar with crumbs)
get out of my way i'm going through
the grey wall like a hoop round the barrel
holds in the churches the grange
the warder with the peaked cap the moustache
the kitchener eyes the pointed finger
drilling me back back against the tombstone
for this my cenotaph i have paid - am paying
my guts out for a few words' epitaph
this was the man i needn't have been
the gate is a drink when i have no more squares left
call me my lovely from the cleft in the rocks
outside over the plain where the wind howls
its intolerable melodies into the cold
and the tree is stuck up like two fingers
split by a tornado
a wild thing must
thrash and thrash amongst the lost ones
who (man's midnight) have found the gate their
stoned compulsion - you there gynt upon
the farmost crag i am your timid self
collecting the blood to join you - and brand
(my sternest dream) name the depths i must
strip down to if i'm to go your road of ice
i believe beyond the ridge the land is homely
there will be room for those i kip with here
|grass is lush meals are comfortable
breeze and lute stay in tune
lovers fumble each other by warm wall
the deepest bell of the inchcape rock
has its fingers on me - the muezzin is for
my ear only
the furies of cape horn
the scratch of the mountain goat and the
ice-deaths of tibet - through the gate
and across the plain they lie in wait for me
i must speak to them even if they do lie
the future may well turn out to be the past
the flint outside the gate the grass inside
gynt and brand my lonely bank-clerks
sycophants to money and the status quo
don't hold me back my dearest i have to go
(even if it's the dearth of all i know)
During the eighties
My two partners myself and our six children
Matthew was born on May 5th - Karl Marx's birthday
For the first four years of Jack's life
Extract from Second Shepherds' Play
Then Mak comes in wearing a big coat.
Now by the seven names
Of our Lord
Who made the moon
And far more stars
Than I can put a tag to -You Lord
You haven't shown too much concern
For me in your great plan.
I'm all at sixes and sevens
And that often causes
My brain to rattle.
I wish to God that I
Was now in heaven
Where there are no brats
Crying on and on.
Who is that whining so piteously?
Would to God
You could know my troubles.
Look at me -
A man who walks on the moor
And is out of his wits.
Mak - where have you been?
Tell us what's up.
So he's arrived.
Everyone keep an eye on his things.
He goes to take Mak's coat from him.
Watch it. I'm a yeoman -
I tell you - from the King
The self and the same.
A great Lord's messenger
So keep your hands off me.
Get out of my sight.
I'm entitled to reverence.
What do you mean - who am i?
Why are you being so toffee-nosed?
It's wrong of you Mak.
Mak, you don't have to play the saint.
That's what it looks like.
If the rogue is out to deceive us
The devil might hang him!
I'll put in a complaint.
At a word from me
I could get you all flogged.
I'll tell on everything you've done.
Mak, that's not very wise.
Now spit out that hoity-toity speech
And let it fall on a turd!
Mak - the devil in your eye.
I could give you a beating.
Mak - don't you know me?
By God I could thrash you.
Why - God save you all three!
I thought I had met you before.
What a good lot you are.
What are you getting at now?
A rogue nosing around
As late as you are
What are we meant to expect?
You - with your bad reputation
For stealing sheep.
What - me true as steel -
As everyone knows?
Oh dear. I'm feeling very sick.
It's making me boiling.
My belly's upset.
I'm out of condition.
You don't often find the devil
Dead by the roadside.
I'm aching all over. I'm ill!
As sure as I stand stone-still
I haven't eaten a morsel
For a month or more.
How is your wife?
Is she getting on well?
She lies sprawled -
Cross my heart -
By the fire.
With a house full of kids.
And she's drinking well too.
No luck for any
Other good she'll do.
She gobbles as fast as she can
And each year that comes my way
She brings forth a baby
And (in some years) two!
And even if I was more prosperous
And richer by far
I'd still be eaten
Out of house and home.
Oh she's a foul shrew
If you get too near.
No one who's met her believes
He's met a worse one.
Now do you see what I proffer?
Tomorrow at the latest
To give all in my coffer
As an offering for her soul.
There can't be anyone in this county
So wearied from waking.
Even if I got less wages.
I'm so cold I feel naked.
I must have a fire.
Worn out with walking
And having to run in the mire.
Hey - wake up!
It's no good.
I'm going to lie down here.
I must get some sleep.
I'm as good a man's son
As the rest of you.
Mak - come over here.
You can lie down between us.
And then I'd stop you
Whispering no doubt
All the things
You need to say to each other.
From my top to my toe
Manas tuas commendo
Christ's cross -
Speed me on my way.
They all sleep.........
Except Mak....He gets up and says:
Now it's time for a man
Who lacks what he wants
To steal secretly into the fold
And get nimbly to work.
Not being too bold
In case he pays too dearly for it
When the reckoning comes.
Now it's time to move quickly
But you need good counsel
If you want to do well
And you're short of the ready.
First a magic circle -
As round as the moon
Till I've done what I have to -
Let's say until noon.
May you lie stone-still
Till my task is done
Now I must utter
These few good words:
High over your heads
I lift my hand
Out with your eyes -
And perish your sight!
But I must get a move on
If things are to go right.
Lord don't they sleep soundly!
Now all of you listen.
I was never a shepherd
But I'll now learn to be one.
If the flock is scared
I'll have to grab a sheep tightly.
Watch - they're coming this way!
A fat sheep I dare say
Will bring joy out of sorrow!
If I can lift a good fleece
Well when i can - I'll repay!
But this one I'll borrow.
He seizes a sheep and runs off
through dorset hills lanes and woods
the cottage is a different world
each month (within the long-life calm)
taps idly on the grass comes next
here now the sun has had the day
as if the spirit of good living
and in this atmosphere and with
seventy- sixty- fifty-plus - the three
and this they share - much truck with daughters
they seek to celebrate the word
when fights break out amongst the teachers
and shock the cosy populace to taste
plaything political-tool pop-
fireworks feed the fancy - a great ah
and see what blossoms here - we're into
they hold the keystones of our lives
all all jumping on the flagship
inured to the needle of success
these jacks have found the beanstalk
poetry's purpose is to hit the jackpot
For some years I played that game for all I was worth. I was the
scum's CIA, the mocking redemptor of the down-and-out, the one who
could see beyond the unseeable. My territory was the gall-bladder.
There was not a human ailment, crime or sin that did not leave its
stone in that much discarded organ. The gall-bladder was the seat
of the deepest pain known to the human frame. Its deposits were so
often argued to be the symptom not the cause, as though the liver
itself was by far the greater oligarch in that part of the body-state.
I knew differently. The ripping of the gall-bladder from a sufferer's
body was to remove the only revitalising sanctum for a being's bitterness.
Bitterness inwardly denied must spew outwards, or dig deeper into
the impenetrable channels of a person's mythologically inturned landscape.
I was a great success. Detectives have always been incurable romantics.
In their born-again period, so many carried hearts, souls, eyes, mouths,
faces, brains, minds on their banners. And of course there were the
scurrilous romantics who proposed the sexual organs as their cause
celebre, and seats of evil. There was a smaller coterie that reached
to the liver or the spleen or the kidneys, as the important organs
of communication. Many foreswore the physical and went for the more
obviously spiritual. I was the first to my knowledge who attempted
to solve the deep mysteries that came his way by treating the gall-bladder
as the door into the mystic centre.
She had been my last client in my gall-bladder days. It was she who blew my reputation out of the water. She had come to me after at least six other agencies had locked their doors on her. She'd travelled through the organs in her search for a sympathetic ear. She was expecting to be murdered any day, by any one or more of a host of would-be assailants, none of whom she could put any bodily description to. She was paranoid beyond belief, convinced utterly at different times that she was being got at through her hair, her brain, her neck, her heart, her liver, her sexual organs. She was so into the specialisations of the Investigation Agencies of the day that she could outquote any of the high-flying experts. Nobody could do anything for her. Her faith in each particular organ in the brief time she averred it brought shame to the detectives themselves, whose level of self-belief gave way at a remarkably shallow level to the usual cynicisms of their trade.
Hagisia Ratchet, known colloquially of course as The Hag or The Haggis, was victim to a deep, deep disturbance. Well, her name for a start.....but it wasn't really like that. Her real name was something else. What I'd never found out. Hagisia Ratchet was her own choice of a name, adopted when she was in her forties. The only name, she said, that actually spoke to the outside what she spiritually felt herself to be within. So the name was not the cause but the result of her disorder. She was, exactly, a storm in a teacup. A porous teacup. Her diarrhoea was not simply verbal - it was her feelings that abused their container. I had no doubt, when she crossed my path in her sixties. that her soul was of good quality. In its constant outpouring though it was like the princess's beautiful yellow hair that would not stop growing, so that eventually it became the world's greatest curse.
I took Hagisia on because all the others had abysmally failed. I was riding a gall-bladder high. Spectacularly so. My previous case had rescued a fine young blonde from the lascivious clutches of her gall-bladderless guardian. That case brought me multiple rewards and, I must confess, a certain degree of guilt. However...... A few days after the sensational completion of the case, where I was able to demonstrate knowledge of the symbolism of the gall-bladder reaching back into Babylonian times - did you know for example that the first recorded removal of the organ was carried out in the Tower of Babel? - I received a hastily-scrawled letter of the old fashioned variety (more or less unknown since the collapse world-wide of the ancient postal services) shoved under the door of my office. It was during a period of heavy rain and the writing was smudged to such a degree that I could read nothing but the name of the writer (clearly) and fragments of an address. In this way I met the name of Hagisia Ratchet, but with no inclination to waste hours (days, weeks maybe) searching for the body that went with it.
I was not to escape from her that easily. Within two hours she was back inside my office, trying the door, walking straight in and leaping to sit on my desk that was of sufficient height for her to have to dangle her legs, she was that short. She introduced herself with some such doggerel rhyme:
"Private papers of the ancient Keats - or was it Yeats?", she continued, "Hullo my dear Donald Cherryman, I'm Ratchet, Hagisia Ratchet. You'll be hearing from me." And she walked out. She was so short her ears barely came up to the door-pull. The next time I met her she turned up in my home.
I'd had a miserable day, not unconnected with the fine young blonde, and had got home late. I went straight for the dry shower, spilling the medicated sweat-powder I was so exhausted; then, pulling on my dressing gown of many colours, staggered into the bedroom. Hagisia Ratchet was sitting like a naughty schoolgirl on the foot of the bed. I stared, she grinned - wrinkles rearranging themselves on her facial skin like iron filings. "I get what I want", she said. I had nothing to say, thinking all the wrong things. She was wearing worn out greenish footwear that could have been slippers on anyone else, puce half-slacks, a lemony jumper crying out to be unravelled and her hair was so thin she could have passed as bald with a few strings attached. She was already a monster.
"I am about to become an avid gall-bladder enthusiast", she asserted in a deep voice that could not be hers, but unbelievably was. I stayed stunned. I was desperate for sleep, but I had become rooted into the bedroom floor, my eyes propped open by her outrageous behaviour.
"Do you mind if I get a drink?" she boomed, bouncing off the bed and going to the drinks-tray, where she poured herself a major Serpico.
I have been scared to my marrow very few times in my life. That was one of them. She seemed not to notice. "Many people are trying to murder me and I haven't a clue what they look like. I want you to track them down and" (this with a grand actoressy gesture of the worst school) "e-ra-di-cate them!" And she did a prolonged dance on my best Laplandian carpet. "And I shall reward you in every way your dreams and vanities demand!"
I guessed then it had to be a set-up; she had to have been listening to the whisperings of some fine young blonde birdie, out for revenge. I was wrong about that too. Hagisia Ratchet had her own language and she lived in her own enclosed darkly innocent world. She was incapable of listening to gossip. She had no incoming communicative skills. Everything with her went outwards. She hopped from spur to spur of each moment. Her ideas of dreams and vanities included neither money nor sex. Money by then was becoming difficult for everyone: it was more trouble than it was worth. And sex with Hagisia Ratchet would be like twiddling a little stick inside a paper bag the size of an ocean. I came to think of her as a papier-mache creation, thinly stuck over an inner windtorn space. Her voice boomed out from a bottomless cavern, forced between the craggy jaws and teeth of her mouth.
At no time, in the months I spent working on her senseless case, did she do one thing that was not outrageous, even by the standards of the mid twenty-first century; even in the light of the great Detective Boom, of which I was one of the greatest charlatans. She could not render one piece of clear evidence for her paranoic assertions. All was gusty, uncatchable. She woke at night and there were men under the bed, whispering in a threatening way. In the street she was pursued by reflections, shifting curtains at windows; octogenarian joy-riders on electric machines intent on squashing her into the potholed ground. Not one professional in the whole Investigatory circuit found a mite of credibility in her stories; and she, gifted only with a phenomenal airy memory, went the rounds of those whose reputations hit the big city billboards and filled the leaky internet, devouring their professed organic obsessions and regurgitating them in her own manic tongue. She was desperate to be believed; to have the ghosts swept clean from her frightening midnights' innards - and not one of the geniuses she looked up to saw her as anything but the windy space she was. She was a chatterhag of the worst degree, incapable of listening or taking anyone's advice.
It was not for her sake that I agreed to act on her behalf; rather as pap to my own arrogance. She knew, long before I did, that my whole thesis of the gall-bladder played into her hands. I had a pathological leaning towards the painful, self-destructive underdog. Fat, forty, farty - and feminine: a long-time lore defined sufferers of gallstones with the four f's. Hagisia knew herself to be all-wind. By time she reached the gall-bladder in her quest for absolution from her nightmares, she was convinced she had come home. She was one big gall-bladder. Long before I managed to get her out of my house that night, I had agreed to try to put flesh to her figmentary murderous pursuers, and to bring them to solid justice. She was such a pathetic, but compelling old woman. The pale blue gash of her mouth horribly enchanted me. I knew from the start the impossibility of what I was undertaking; but I became convinced it was possible, even necessary, to trap the impossible. If her proposed murderers were real then they were fiendish. They were the equivalent of the excruciating green stones that were swirled cosmically into existence within the worst torture chamber in the human frame. Excruciating - the crux of that word is the cross. The crucible of human wrongdoing. The very implausibility of Hagisia Ratchet, her absurdity, her wanton nonsensicality: they responded to the lightheadedness of my recent successes, and gave back a sweet miasma that utterly confounded my judgment. I had the wit and the will to convert her tenth-class joke into a brilliant triumph. What a shithead I was.
1: The Procession
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