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Quite alone, apart from some ghosts.

October 9, 2011

A studio session. Quite alone. Just me and a thousand ghosts. That’s what I call an ensemble.


I was in the studio where I had spent the summer training an ensemble. Their ghosts there, still dancing, laughing, struggling, transcending.

The ghosts of the versions of the show I have imagined over these long months. They are with me too. Figures, stillborn, who will not find their moment in this show after all. They watch, accusingly, from the side of the room.

The as-yet unsubstantial shadows of those who will be in ‘Echo Chamber’. The Soldier. His wife. His child. His Officer. His friend. They turn up a little shyly like people with whom one has had long written or telephone communication but whom one has not, until today, actually met. I know these people well, yet we have not yet met. Will I like them? Will they like me? Accept me? Agree to work with me? Be me?

Ghosts of other ways of working. I am used to being in a studio alone. Often enough I will put on some music and dance, paying attention to the flow of energy and impulse in my body. Rehearsing not an improvisation but how to improvise. Spending a little quality time with my inner landscape. But this is different. Here I am making ‘something’. Making it, reflecting on it and returning to it. Remaking it. Refining it. Refinding it. Discarding it. Looking for the essential shape of a moment, trying to see what in it can be fixed and what must remain unpredictable. I have not worked like this since I made ‘The River Project’ in Australia some time last century.

Ghosts of the last century.

It’s crowded in here. Pay attention – know the difference between real ghosts and ghostly ghosts. Not everything unreal is unreal and not everything real is real. Many things are both.

I find a scene, another and a third. Not their detail, but their essential shape. It’s the first ten minutes of ‘Echo Chamber’.

Some ghosts solidify while other start to fade away.  Some will not budge. The summer ensemble are dancing with me in Greek and Australian, in Cantonese and broad Yorkshire, tinged with a little Welsh. I dance with them and they show me a thing or two.

Another scene. I write a little:

“It’s dawn. I am paused in a little tangle of trees between my home and my home. 47 Trees. I am 47 years old. I am soldier.
I can smell blood. On my fingers. In the earth. Rising as sap in the trees.
Blood and fire. The dawn is a fire above the sleeping little city.
A fire. A burning.
Blood and  burning. Everything is blood and burning.
This is the end. The start of the end. The dawn of the last day.
On and on. Round and round.
I’m heading home.
I am a soldier”

The ghost of Buchner. The ghost of Woyzeck. The ghost of the poor, long-dead man whose ghost inspired Buchner.

I’m lost in the ensemble. Voices of people I love on the soundtrack, Greek and Albanian and Cantonese and English.

Enough. I have found a shape and discovered how many things I do not yet know.

Now, in my hut, there is a fire and outside it is windy. I am alone but full of echoes.

Never alone. Always there are others. Real, unreal and mainly both.

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