Last night I had the very good fortune to see three wonderful bits of performance for the Edinburgh Fringe. I use the words ‘good fortune’ quite specifically, as these days with budgetary constraints it’s rare I get to see anything, but very thankfully, two friends had offered me complementary tickets and my life is indeed ‘richer’ for the experience.
The first was an adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando”, presented by Theatre Cryptic with Judith Williams in the leading (and only) role. Visually stunning, directed by Cathie Boyd with music by Craig Armstrong the production is a surreal travel through time as the central character seeks fame, fortune and (ultimately) love changing alliance and gender in the process. It begins and ends with the metaphor of an oak tree, an archetypal metaphor of resilience, healing, fulfilment. To plant an oak is to make a commitment for the future, as oaks grow strong, large, and mighty; often outliving humans by hundreds of years.
The second performance I saw was ‘Falling Man’ (in a double bill with ‘Decreasing Infinity) at Dance Base. Inspired by Richard Drew’s series of photographs capturing a man falling from the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks performer Tom Pritchard creates an emotive, surreal and utterly compelling piece of dance performance which begs the questions of life. Even the walls fall down upon the individuals in the collapsing building a spiritual imperative drives them to live if even for a few seconds more, by ‘falling’.
As I literally ‘uproot’ myself, 12 years of existence sold, given away and left behind, these two performances serve as a testament to what I am feeling (the power of art, eh?).
Shape shifting for survival is what we do.
It seems the world is faced with an exceptional amount of upheaval now, or so it would seem. But is it really? The premise of my entrance essay to University back in the early 90s was “all tragedy repeats itself”. At the time Aids was a great scary unknown, I likened it to the Bubonic plague. We might see the great controls exerted over ‘terrorism’ to the ones used during the McCarthy era and so it goes.
But there is a difference. It might seem larger than life, as the Somali famine looms, Syria bombs its people, Tottenham London explodes, the American economy collapses, but perhaps it’s just that we KNOW it now in it’s global entirety, because of media, where before we did not.
And I guess then, it begs the questions, what do we do with that information?
Do we decry, shake our fist, and become more secretive, hold back? Or is this information a gift, finally where we can have equal access, worldwide and honestly make a difference, for the first time in history, for the first time to stop history from repeating itself and to have empathy for all people. To bring down the walls that divide. To re-think Patriotism, Nationalism and all other things that creates ‘us versus them’.
In the Cryptic play as Orlando travels across century and land, it is the same human longing we all feel which determines his/her movements. As the individuals tragically fell from the World Trade Centre it is not their “Americanism” we see, but their drive to live.
And so a reminder for us all.
That dance of life, the hovering of cells preparing for the best outcome, biologically… and spiritually.
And so as I go through the extremely painful process of life preservation, uprooting myself from infertile soil, it is in the hope that my ‘falling’ will lead to something better. It doesn’t make it any less scary (I’m terrified), or easy (like moving bricks with a toothpick), or certain (it might all fall apart). I look forward into a shadow, a mist, with hope.
And I know so many are going through the same but as my good friend G. said to me recently, “they’re just not talking about it”.
And so I say to myself and to you, who equally might be facing this struggle, we must continue on, for this pursuit of living, changing our shape, risking everything in hope to be that person who we believe in our core, who will blossom and flourish and season the world for better.
Lots of love and the best of wishes to you
Kate E. xx