25 Days three-quarters open pathways

March 31, 2010

A day with three halves.

First half. Worry about the Front of House set-up, how we’re going to receive and seat 340 people in less than half an hour. It can be done. It will be done. It will take precision planning with some allowance for unforeseen chaos. This is good. This is life. Stop worrying.

Second half: actions, do this, do that.

Whilst Katie locates and prints a small library of documents, scripts, journeys and other stuff to be distributed to various parties and components in this great living organism that is now The Southwark Mysteries…

Phone – then send press release to South London Press and Southwark News. Anna Arthur is doing our press and PR. She already got our Quest for God in The Independent and is setting up some radio and TV interviews – it makes sense for us to use our local networks to publicise the event. Frinstance…

When I called Dan Frost at SLP he was ‘quite’ interested until a penny dropped and he suddenly said: I know you! I went on one of your walks! I bought your book!’ Reckon we’re in with a good shot for some local press coverage.

And later, doing my rounds, delivering posters and flyers to some of our partners – Better Bankside, Forster – for local distribution, I bumped into Leigh Hatts, another local writer who also does inSE1, THE listing magazine for Borough and Bankside. His son James operates the online news: he it was who did us our first audioboo (more soon). And Leigh’s wife Marion is the driving force behind the St George in Southwark festival, in which we feature prominently.

Networks, at work and play… Also dropped off posters at the John Harvard library (though since it was reinvented as a multimedia fun-palace (mainly good – so some old fogey’s like your author still cry: Where are the books? *There are still some*  😉 by high-concept architects with clean straight lines and glass and no community notice board >the old unreconstructed library had two entire walls of an otherwise useless antechamber dedicated to every which kind of community activity, including posters for The Southwark Mysteries first time around, whereas now there’s a puny little square half covered with the library’s own notices). Friendly librarian says she’ll do her best to put it up before Easter.

Another drop at Cafe Riva by Borough tube station, which Pam from the community cast had arranged with John the owner. Having meanwhile rushed in & our of Sainsbury’s (not my favourite local shop – but good when you’re out of time to eat) for tuna fish cakes with and a bag of young spinach. We eat fast but relatively relaxed.

Third half: best of three good halves: community rehearsal at Edric Hall, LSBU. I walk there with my near neighbour Daisy, who’ll play Mary Seacole. It’s Daisy’s first workshop so introduce her to Florence Nightingale (Pam), Betty and the rest of the community cast. She takes to it easily and gets worked into the group Pieta, her arm round Annetta…

The highlight of a very intensive and very productive evening. First Ita worked with the women on the ritual gestures of grief and supplication, then Sarah developed their responses, before working the Sick and Infirm, the Sisters of Redcross, Mary Magdalene and Jesus into the entire Crucifixion scene. As Mary cradles the dying Jesus, the grieving women take up his cry of the Outcast God dismembered and scattered in all of  the oppressed, in all of  suffering humanity:

Pieta. GOOSE/MAGDALENE cradles the dying JESUS.
The COMPANY join her, holding him, connecting in a collective body, echoing his words in a murmur of prayer.

JESUS           I am all the death and pain of two thousand years and more.
The unidentified body washed up on the foreshore.
I am Abel slain by Cain, Esau cheated of his birth-right.
I am Stephen Lawrence walking home. Footsteps in the night.

and COMPANY     So mock me, revile me, do your damnest to defile me,
Make me crawl my crooked mile to Calvary Hill,
With sticks, with stones, with bottles and bones.
I am the last man alone with his suicide pill.

I am the Paddy navvy come to drain St George’s bogs.
The Windrush family reading the sign:
‘No Coloureds. No Irish. No dogs.’
Thalidomide, I teach my stumpy hands to open doors.
I am the child raped and murdered in the place of dead souls.

So hang, draw and quarter me, lamb to the slaughter me,
Don’t forget to water me before night falls,
With poles, with pikes, with ditches and dikes.
I am the battered bride who’s always walking into walls.

I am the bartered Child in the Slave Mart of Babylon,
The woman who died in a burning house trying to save her children.

Give me your hate, your rage, your Mob on the rampage,
Your riot on the front page of yesterday’s news,
With fingers, with fists, with blades that switch.
I am the bare light-bulb twitching in a cellar full of shoes.

(from The Southwark Mysteries by John Constable, Oberon Books)

Some tickets are still available for the Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th performances, though they’re going fast.


  1. Having the opportunity to see the scene develop was really amazing and made me feel quite emotional, I believed the sense of mourning and despair.
    Actually made me feel a bit guilty when I came on 😉

    • Yes, the scene is very moving, especially with all those women focused on a dying man. Yet your Drunk also comes to witness, according to his own blurred light and, if ‘The Southwark Mysteries’ is to be believed, then Christ really is there “in the gents” every bit as much as, or perhaps even more than, in the “holy places”.

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