Rapid reflections on a fair field

When a performance is over, what remains? (Peter Brook)


’m at Mile End.  I’m standing on the edge of a cliff.  A sheer drop.  A herd of disgruntled cows is heading towards me.  Shit!  There’s nowhere to step except off the edge and now the cows have human faces.  They have the faces of John Ball and Wat Tyler.  Of Ross Sutherland and Mick Jagger.  Lovejoy.  How did this happen?  It’s 1381.  I turn back to face the sea and…

I’m at the bar at the Brewer’s Arms, Lower Dingle.  A fair field full of folk.  A pint of Butty Bach, please, Betty.  A little friend from the Wye Valley.

Cuckoos sing lhude and a billy-goat farts.  I’m sitting on a bench on a track down from The Saddle of the Malvern Hills.  I’m with a woman made of money.  We talk about a big house down below that belongs to a church.  A helipad on the roof to rescue us.  A cow-call.  A missed cue.  A performance tumbles past us like a strange and ancient instrument.  Merveylousliche.  The people are coming.

I’m slipping Schwitters into the song of the hills.  Free-style cow shouts from telegraph wires.  His Ur Sonata, fümms bö, fümms böwö mixed up in ancient noise like a home-brewed organic gin & tonic.  Enough to make you blind.  We’re learning our lines.  The bit where we talk about what money’s worth.  A man in the church yard in Shoreditch asks for 38p for a bottle of vodka.

I’m getting hitched.  In St Michael & All Angels.  Will of the land that is long and a stomach churned.  Hot pies!  Can we save the poetry ‘til after, Father?  I’ve got everything I need for a quick dash.  Scratch cards, fake fur, a contract.  Foam in my white slip-ons so they don’t slip on the cold stone.  I am False, Faithless.  I am found out.  Honest Dave can’t save me now.  I run for it.  Run for the hills…

And hurtle headlong into a projection beam.  The peasants are coming the other way.  Sing E, sing A, sing Ivy, through the streets of Ledbury.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  Spandau Ballet.  All manner of men.  When I am rich, say the bells of Shoreditch.  Selling greed with a power point.  Bloody George Osborne.  When will you pay me, Arthur Daley?  I’ll have a drink.  To calm the nerves.  Dandelion & Murdoch.

I am the devil.

Satan in a silver suit.  Dancer.  Chancer.  Bullock Prancer.  Cloak and Jagger.  You’re in Hell, young man.  Shoreditch on a Friday night.  The peasants are revolting.  We are the people.  Wir sind das Volk.  We want Piers!  We want beers!  Ah!  That’s it.  I remember now.  We’re performing Piers the Plowman.  That’s where it all started.  I’m an actor.  No more!  Ragamuffin.  Rueful repentance.  Robin Hood.  Bitelbrowed, barburlippid  and bleary eyed.  A glitch in time.  Oh, get a Job!

I’m at the bar at the Brewer’s Arms.  A pint of Proper Job, please, Betty.  The radio’s on: A collapsed lung in the Midlands.  A flea crowned in Somerset.  The whirligig of – Time, folks, please.  We’ve all got homes to go to.

A white van pulls up at Cheapside, a bloke leans out from the fourteenth century and taps me on the shoulder.  I wake up.  I’m at Mile End.

Banner image: (l-r) Michael Wagg as False, Catherine Cusack as Lady Mede & Michael Oku as Pie-seller. Photograph by Graeme Braidwood.