47 days out here. The morning was a strange and beautiful thing, where people got in touch with me and offered to help me out with this pickle I got myself into when the car was towed. I woke up still a bit upset and demotivated, but was very quickly galvanised into yoga and seizing the day. Throughout my morning I was talking with friends old and new online, and at the time of writing more than half of the ridiculous fee for the tow has come back through a gradual drip of kindness. Considering the context, that I’m an idiot with the luxury of a car and a roof who made a stupid mistake, I feel extremely fortunate.
The morning was spent with a woman who deals with a Buzzfeed channel covering issues in the Native American community. She is also an actor. She was at RADA so we have a lot of friends in common. We had a remarkable conversation that overlapped Shakespeare with the DAPL, London with Trump. One of the things that we touched on was the sheer size of America. I think about this a great deal after my experience travelling the country two years ago with Much Ado. It’s remarkable that a place this big and this diverse has a single government. And taking into account the Native American history in this land, the people running the show now are short term visitors. We know so little about the stories of the land before it was colonised. I spoke of my confusion on this, about how little the culture of the original inhabitants of this country is shared or celebrated in a way that can be accessed by a visitor. I wish the stories of coyote and deer and so forth were more widely told over here. They are the myths of this land, born from the colours and shapes and stars of their areas, and myths are always more relevant in the place where they were born. But if you kill the storyteller you kill the story.
In an oral tradition every teller has their own embellishment, and those details are lost if the teller dies without passing them on. Also a true story with a true teller can change every night, and will do depending on the circle where it’s told. The written versions we have of oral tradition stories come from one single telling that was recorded. They are only definitive in that they are all we have. There are times in the recorded Homer version we have where it feels the story could branch and the bard chooses tonight’s version based on his crowd. Whoever recorded the homeric bard gave a great gift to the world, as did Plato recording Socrates. But it’s just one version. Like Armin and Kempe the Shakespeare fools, who likely improvised and then had one version of their improv recorded in the folio. There must have been some great details of Native American myths, and indeed whole sagas that have been utterly lost over here. I’ve always wanted to travel this country and Canada, immersing myself in what remaining reserves there are here, collecting and learning what remaining stories I can, celebrating this series of ravaged and contained cultures that have had it practically demonstrated to them recently with DAPL that their concerns are of no importance.
Walking away I found myself thinking about a project I was asked to collaborate on about a year ago. It’s a one man show and it deals quite closely with Native American myths juxtaposed with English Society in the seventeenth century, through the prism of a real life story of immense hardship and resilience. It was first pitched to me by a friend and director, Alice, who I met about five years ago filming a short. The View from the Window. We picked up some plaudits and festival screenings and all that nonsense. Working with her again on a piece of theatre sounded interesting, but at the time I felt swamped and not in a place where I could commit to making it the show it should be. It’s a very big story and I couldn’t think of how it could be keyed in to what’s happening now. Thinking about it again a year or so later it feels far closer to the right project. Standing Rock has provided the answer to the all important question “why this project now?” And I think I have a better notion of the journey through it. So I want to pick it up again. Not to put too many irons in the fire. But being out of context for this length of time has given me perspective on how I can better husband my hours when I’m back in town and again surrounded by all the little day jobs and concerns of London. And also I have better perspective on what’s important to me. Like my friends. I’m really beginning to miss my friends. Don’t forget, jet lag party all day on the 19th March. Whoop whoop.