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On Lesbos – reaching the edge…..

March 29, 2012

I arrived in Lesbos yesterday evening and spent last night and this morning at Fara. Fara is the house by the sea where DUENDE will run a two week residential workshop this summer.

Lesbos is not a highly developed island and Fara is in an undeveloped part of it. It is 40km from Mytilini, Lesbos’ main town. It is a slow drive which gets slower for the last three kilometres, down (very) rough dirt track.

This is a place on the edge of ‘developed’ Europe. Indeed, sitting just across the water from Turkey, it is geographically at the edge of Europe. It is a place of patchy mobile reception, no shops, endless olive groves. It tastes of the wilds of Europe.

Last night I walked around and talked with Eva – Assistant Director of DUENDE and the person who lives at Fara. We talked and made some plans for the residency. We ate late, Kostas, Eva and I, and drank Ouzo and some beer. The sunny day had sunk into an early spring cold. We lit a fire.

The sky was clear and, despite a moon bright enough to throw a shadow, there were splatters of stars like the first moments of a Pollock painting. So many stars. A distant dog barked, on the edge of a howl. Standing outside the house, I could hear the sea, gently unfolding on the beach.

This morning was warm, clear. A little more planning, Greek coffee and food. Overhead a few hundred seagulls sang the song of the coastline – birds without borders, as much at home, I am sure, on the Turkish side of the strait as the Greek. I was sure I could hear a stream trickling but there was not one around. Looking up, I saw a flock of black sheep among the olive trees on the hillside. Around their necks, bells which sounded without note. A multiple gentle clanging sound which, mixing together, became the sound of flowing water.

In the olive grove next door they were harvesting. Six or seven people – of several generations – banging trees with big sticks, cutting off branches, gathering fallen olives from the netting that surrounded the base of all the trees. I’m sure there is a machine that could do it quicker, freeing the family to.. what? To sit under- (or un-) employed on their sofas while big business does the things ‘for’ them that they used to do for themselves? Is this progress?

(I am reminded of the extraordinary trilogy of novels by John Berger (‘Into Their Labours’) which charts the death of European peasant culture. Why are we so unconcerned about the death of our indigenous European ways-of-life? The cynic in me suggests that ‘tradition’ is only attractive to governments when it can be packaged to make money – through ‘heritage’, tourism or by being sold off to big-business. When ‘tradition’ actually involves people’s quality of daily existence not being measurable in purely financial terms, then it becomes something that needs a bit of ‘progress’ applying to it.)

I have slipped off-topic.

Eva and Kostas went for a swim in the sea, I sat on a rock and thought. We ate some more food and returned to Mytilini (a beautiful small town that tonight feels quite cosmopolitan).

I return to Fara on June 30th. A group of twenty of us from all over the world will live there for two weeks and explore ensemble training and performance. There will be all ten members of DUENDE and nine or ten workshop participants training with us.

Our job is to make a performance that occupies this extraordinary place. Not one that ignores it or dominates it. Not one that is intimidated by it. Not one that comments on it, or separates us from our place on the edge between earth and sky, land and sea. A performance that allows us to be fully human, extraordinarily human, together, in ensemble, within this nature.

It is a simple enough aspiration and it will be a tough process. It will be an adventure.It will demand inner strength, especially for those of us wedded to the perma-contact of mobile phones and facebook.

Eva tells me that in the summer months – the time DUENDE will be there – she seldom sleeps in the house. Usually she takes her sleeping bag to the beach and sleeps under the stars by the sea. She wakes with the sun.

This will be our home for two weeks. A magical place, but not the magic of the tourist brochure, the rougher, tougher magical reality that lies behind those images.

We’ll go to search at the edge – geographically, physically, spiritually, personally, artistically. That’s what, as artists, we do. This is not fashionable I know, but it is essential.

There are still two places available on the residency. Contact me if you are interested.
johnbritton@ensemblephysicaltheatre.com

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Liam O'Grady permalink
    March 29, 2012 7:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing. Sounds lovely – wish I was there.

  2. stace permalink
    March 30, 2012 8:19 pm

    All I will say is it sounds like your going to have to force me to leave because I’m not going to want to! X

    • March 30, 2012 8:29 pm

      Possibly a DUENDE performance in Mytilini on the last night might help persuade you…. Fara is a magnificent, wild place that I imagine it will be hard to leave after the time and the activity there…..

      • April 2, 2012 9:40 am

        Thank you for the nice words and work in nature. I am russian teacher of butoh and have some same ideas about performing in nature. Yesterday i came from other side from North Karelia near Lapland where me, my hasbant and children made a labirint from deep snow. Now we are in our toun of Petersburg trying again to stay alive in urban spase.
        To read your story about your workshop was inspiring.
        We have no oppotunity at all to come but i hug you and send the best greatings!
        Natalia

      • April 2, 2012 9:58 am

        Thank you for your comment. Staying alive in urban spaces is not easy, especially when, as now, those urban space are full of anger, fear, despair, intolerance. They are also full of hope, beauty, dreams and possibility but, in these cynical times, we have to look harder for these things.

        I hope you continue to make labyrinths in the snow, that you explore those labyrinths even when you are in the heart of the city, and that one day we can meet and share what we do.

        Warmest wishes.

  3. Aliki Dourmazer permalink
    April 14, 2012 4:43 pm

    Having lived in Lesvos, Mitilini and worked among the trees, the bushes, the rocks I am really looking forward for the Fara experience. Have created performances in the woods, allowing audiences to walk in the darkness in narrow paths in order to find the performers, to find their own journey, to follow their own instinct. I can confess that it was one of the most creative and enjoyable periods of my life.
    Where the land itself guides you into your own self, it provides stimulus to your senses and reminds you of the non-habitual but essential way of living and furthermore of expressing.

    Can’t wait to share Fara workshop with all of you!

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