The Spirit in the Dust
Writing is a solitary occupation. You spend hours, days, weeks, months, years on your own, sitting on your arse, churning stuff out, editing and re-churning, re-editing and re-re-churning, in the hope that one day the results of your efforts will be shared with at least one and hopefully more readers.
Writing for theatre at least holds out the possibility of working with other people – having the joy and frustrations of sharing the creative process. I've never done that.
However, one of the reasons I am involved in music as well as writing is having access to that shared experience as part of the primary creative activity. There is the possibility of that magical feeling that something is happening and you are playing a part in it but it doesn't come entirely from you.
Collaborating with four others on the project that became THE SPIRIT IN THE DUST has been extraordinary. It started out with Elaine wanting to work again with the Japanese dancer Yumino Seki, whom we'd worked with before in our band Afrit Nebula. She was writing music and searching for a theme to do with light and darkness, presence and mystery. Together, she and I came up with a narrative: a spirit conjured up out of primeval dust who enters the world of humanity with all the beauty and horror that that entails. I was inspired by a quote attributed to Albert Einstein:
"Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper."
Funnily enough, this is summed up in the title of our band: Afrit, a spirit in Arabian folklore, Nebula, a vast cloud of dust in space.
We started sketching out the music together with our collaborator in Afrit Nebula, Yair Katz, drummer, guitarist and altogether lovely man. We knew Yumino was keen on doing it, but the final part of the jigsaw was bringing in someone to handle the visuals, lighting and technical stagecraft that was badly needed. We turned to Hastings-based film-maker Mark French, whom Elaine had worked with before on film and music, and who had worked with Afrit Nebula before. He came up with the concept of moving images projected onto a translucent curtain that the dancer could interact with.
Once the five of us were together, it all flowed like a dream. Yumino is an intuitive and improvisatory dancer, working in the modern Japanese Butoh tradition, and her interaction with our music and narrative and Mark's projected images was stunning.
Amazingly enough, we were only able to rehearse the whole thing through together once before the day of the first performance at the Kino-Teatr, St Leonards, in September 2023. The dress rehearsal on that afternoon was hurried and curtailed by technical problems and time constraints.
And yet it worked perfectly. To our amazement we had a full house (the theatre has a capacity of about 100) and the audience loved it. It was one of the most magical creative experiences of my life.
So we're doing it again: at the Kino once more on 20 January 2024, and as part of Brighton Fringe at Fabrica, Brighton, on 23 May 2024.
Five people, each contributing their own particular skills, somehow combining to create something that was not there before. That is the spirit in the dust.