Saturday 30 July 2016

This Flesh is Mine

'To Agamemnon, Honour is nothing more than
a bone that he drops in the yard
when he gets a whiff of something
with more flesh to gorge on.'

'Through most cultures, through most of history, the arts – music, dance, painting, theatre – have not been done for the living at all, but for the dead. Indigenous performances, African performances, Asian performances are dances for the spirits of the dead- ways to commemorate, to atone and to heal. Their purpose is to say that love continues, and that any pain or sorrow around the death needs to be purged. That the lives of those remaining will only return to a position of balance when the enduring pain has been expunged.' Michael Walling

Border Crossings' two plays, This Flesh is Mine and When Nobody Returns come to London in October 2016.

For the Palestinians home is an absence, so in its absence, with its theft,language and poetry become all important to the preservation of their country. In The Cloud in My Hand the Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, wrote;

The place was prepared for his birth:
His grandfather's hill of sweet basil
With views to the east and the west.
God's olive trees rising with the language.

When first visiting Palestine, Michael Walling, artistic director of Border Crossings, was struck by this importance of culture in Palestinian life. 'Palestine is probably the most vibrant space I have ever encountered. Everyone is deeply informed about history and culture.' In April 2014 Michael worked with actors from the Ramallah-based Ashtar Theatre on a production of This Flesh is Mine by Brian Woolland. Using The Iliad as a starting point the play was set partly in the classical and partly in the modern world. In Almond Blossoms and Beyond Darwish drew a parallel between Ramallah and Homeric Troy and Walling has been happy to follow Darwish since, 'mythology allows you to address the present without apportioning blame … it permits a purer, more emotional identification with the experience of prolonged warfare.'

In the upcoming London production This Flesh is Mine will be joined by Brian Woolland's new play, When Nobody Returns. After The Illiad there has to be The Odyssey, after war displacement. The two plays will be performed under Westway near Ladbroke Grove, London, 20 October – 6 November. The cast will include Palestinian actors Iman Aoun and Bayan Shbib. Music by Dave Carey. Director: Michael Walling

'It is as if the people living here are themselves determined not to let it become in any real sense a home. For them, home sits beyond the wall, behind the checkpoint, in the lands from which they are now excluded, towns which most of them have never even seen. Many carry the keys to their ancestral dwellings with them wherever they go, as a reminder of their displacement and their aspiration to return.' (Michael Walling)

Michael directed my first play, Simple Writings, and was a major contributor to Spitting Into the Sky, a play about Dylan Thomas. You can read more about his influence on my playwrighting in 'Left Field'. Now that my memoir has been published I have offered to help Border Crossings with the promotion of these plays and with the upcoming London production. 

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Support Jeremy Corbyn

In 'Left Field' I wrote this: "Ambrose Bierce, the American wit, said that politics is ‘a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.’ This 'Politics' takes place in a box with shared rules of engagement. If, like me, you believe there is nothing ‘shared’ about our world, the only place for politics is on the streets, not in a debating chamber full of Right Honourables who barrack and ridicule each other, then go off to have cosy lunches together ... Despite my aversion to the ‘parliamentary road’ I supported Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party leadership campaign. I helped work the phones and databased the media. I have now joined the Labour Party. Perhaps this is because Jeremy offers an alternative to austerity and war, an alternative to the estate agents of New Labour. I have consistently voted for him as my constituency MP for these reasons and not because he belongs to the Labour Party. I write this on a Sunday afternoon in October after bumping into him on the street as he was cycling to visit his grandchild. He stopped to talk and asked me for permission to continue his journey! The next day he was addressing 7,000 people in Liverpool."