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Passage
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Caught by seeing
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Beached
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the Suchness of Heni
and Eddie
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the Velvet Stream
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Caper
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Fragments
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A Tribute to Michael Donaghy 1954-2004
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A tribute to Niki Pollard
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Rosemary Lee – “Fragments”    
Fragments is my first attempt at writing for ResCen (2000). I tried to test the waters of where I was at, at the time of writing and this is what came out late one night. It is unedited and very much a first try at expressing myself in another medium. It was originally written to be read to the other ResCen Associates. It is written after being present at all three Mystery Plays revived by the National Theatre for the Millennium. I first saw one or more of them in the late 70s.
Rosemary Lee

Where I am at

An injury often opens an unfound door quite suddenly as if the offending blow also jolts sleeping thoughts and feelings on the shelves of memory just as it rattles the bones. They are surprisingly passionate and raw these spilt feelings as if I’m adolescent drunk on unrequited love again. Coupled with this jolt I have also re-discovered reading—and had a healthy dose of live theatre recently so this triple cathartic dose has left me reeling. Maybe I stopped reading because I found it too difficult to slip in and out of the practical world and the world of the book. The effects of “Fugitive Pieces” is still seeping through my veins as if quietly determined to enter every cell.

Reawakened thus I am disorientated and stumble around trying to find a path to follow. The Mysteries has helped me to grasp at some glimmer of a thought, a hope.

The Nativity, the Passion, Doomsday; the bedrock of my cultural history, seldom unearthed by me consciously yet it touches me on many levels.

I remember Mrs Barnes the vicar’s wife sitting me on her ample Welsh thighs and teaching us “Away in a Manger”; she wore a leek on her blue crimplene suit which bewildered me. Then the painting of a saint on his knees in front of a graceful hind the crucifix in its antlers. I wanted that painting when I was very small and got it, probably because the Quaker Sunday school teacher was so amazed at my desire. I shared my bedroom with it and soon a portrait of an old woman by Rembrandt that I asked for when I was 7 years old was added to my collection.

Those loves have never left me I realise now, the beauty and wisdom of old age and the fleeting exquisite grace and strength of a deer. Then I remember the holy festival I stumbled across in a town in Northern Italy. The priest who led the procession was so full of a radiance that I could not take my gaze from him. Was this grace? Here in the midst of grottoes and weeping statues was a presence I could not believe: or was I magnetised, smitten by this small dark haired humble man whose faith was it seemed his very life force.

But coupled with these rekindled memories is the flood of a more recent time. A time when Welfare State was at the fore, the miners were still regarded by some as the dark heroes beneath new banners, Fairport Convention lifted the spirits, Hull Truck blew me away with Bouncers and small is beautiful dripped of the tongue. The North had a pride just about welcomed in the south. The memories of old labour were worn like a mantle rather than the ghosts they are now; blinded by the dazzle of corporate power.

So here is a production of that time lovingly reproduced, a reminder of a time when men and women struggled against the tide of so called progress were admired. The ancient mixing with the seventies where medieval Britain meets the end of the Millennium.

God rose on his fork lift truck to look down on us the promenaders and his fellow players and he came amongst us with his miners lamp shining it into our faces. The actors most from the north have a rooted earthiness, they are archetypes of humanity—the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. We chat with them before the seamless beginning and they catch our eyes as they play. The play within a play within a play... I watch the audience as I watch the players and see a beauty in them all that I find hard to see so often these days. An innocence highlighted by the hundreds of twinkling cheese graters and colanders hanging from the rafters. Jesus the carpenter, Peter the fisherman, God the miner, Satan the sewer cleaner.

The Mysteries, true community plays now in the heart of London and they work just (except for Jesus who was just too understated to win our love and belief). It is truly exhilarating to find oneself part of a play, watcher and of equal status to the players, dancing with them to end each play. Here is a folk tradition come to share a bed with high art.

Though I have never read it there is a book called Contact Improvisation as a form of social dancing that is waiting to be read. Whilst discussing the world of my most joyous experiences, dancing contact and improvising, Lucia—whom I so admire, remarked what we do is folk; “that’s why I find it hard to watch real dancing.”

“Folk has a tradition of participation and reflecting of society and also has a tradition of the pursuit of excellence.”

I felt a fool somehow that this had not dawned on me before. Now on the eve of a new glitzy century as I travel the monumental Jubilee line I am ready to take on the fact that maybe what I do is folk. I do not feel the nudge of “that’s not art” grasp my shoulder any more because I don’t care. Where does that leave me, where is my home then? This idea makes me understand more clearly the dilemma I always feel between experiential work of which I am most familiar and making work to view.

Though this maybe a naff naive comment born out of my teenage years I also realise that I view my potential audience and participants as I saw them in the mysteries; as all having the potential for, well grace.

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