Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Pathwalking - Brecht, Berlin, Bunkers and Babel

Last October I directed a production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht in Prague as I was increasingly concerned about the rise to power of various petty dictators and hard right types across Europe and the rest of the world.  Although I genuinely wanted my audience to contemplate these encroaching dangers this play was also undertaken as a ritual study of tyrannical energy which involved embedding esoteric concepts into the costume, light, set design and blocking -  theatrical ritual tends to produce powerful and immediate effects. The end of this show is particularly disturbing when the actress playing Hitler, our ''Brechtian'' choice, removes her costume to present a chilling final speech.

If we could learn to look instead of gawking,
We'd see the horror in the heart of farce,
If only we could act instead of talking,
We wouldn't always end up on our arse.
This was the thing that nearly had us mastered;
Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men!
Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard,
The bitch that bore him is in heat again.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Bertolt Brecht

Coincidentally, the following weekend I ended up in Berlin at a conference for international teachers and took a tour through the centre  - Brandenbrug Gate, the Holocaust memorial and finally stood in the carpark atop Hitler's bunker - using this pathwalking as an opportunity to reflect on what I had learned through Brecht.  A couple of weekends after that I starred as an RAF colonel in Devil's Mountain, the cold war radar base in West Berlin, in a German TV show directed by Oliver Hirschbeigel (the director of Downfall) and filmed in an actual bunker.  The path between Prague and Berlin has continued to strengthen and this last weekend saw me in Babelberg studios in Berlin filming another German TV show, this time set in 1938.  As I was arriving I had literally just finished reading A Dream Play by August Strindberg - a work which starts with a clear evocation of Jupiter, explicitly mentions Babel, and is in many ways a pathwalking; the events, structures and characters in the dream being derived from the physical world of Strindberg at that time. All these paths have been brought together in a conflux set off by the initial ritual working of Brecht - they were all arranged individually and not planned by me to be sequential or as close together as they were - the spirits clearly moved upon the Rivers of Time*.

This conflux, a meeting point of the paths, suggests the approach to a Sefirah** itself and based on where I am in the curriculum this is almost certainly the opening of Gevurah, the Depth of the North, with its themes of power, tyranny, fear, war, judgement, nuclear annihilation, kleptocracy, and the emergence of evil. Taking a look at this crumbling, fracturing, shattering world it looks like I should speed up my weapons training anyway.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming

*Realistically this conflux must have been ''caused'' by the intention to do the ritual as there was no way for the syncs to stack up as they did otherwise - with the exception of a predetermined universe and a healthy dose of retrocausality.

**Sefirah should really not be conflated with sphere as it resembles more of a point, or vertex where the lines meet, a crossroads if you will.

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