Monday, 8 December 2014

A history of the water

More flotsam from the devising process for shunt's "The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face". The first line is taken from Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" which was meant to be one of the show's sources, and which opens a little further down the Thames. The final line is from Charles Kingsley's "The Water Babies", which was meant to be the other source. The rest is based on the timeline of Greenwich history that's pasted along the railings leading to the jetty upon which the show was performed.


A history of the water

This too has been one of the dark places of the earth.

The first stirrers are giant mammals. Facilities in those days were scarce or non-existent.  They wait for the intended replacements. Finally they sink.

A new gang.

When asked if they had come together, if anyone had been there to ask if they were together, they would have said yes. The first crude attempt at an apparatus is made. The size of a small shrine, it has no moving parts. They wait for the intended replacements.

A new gang. More stirring.

There are cesspits filled with fish. A waterside wall encloses the Northern settlement, protecting it from sea-faring marauders. Forests are managed. Straight wood is generated by planting trees close together. Curved wood encouraged by planting trees far apart. Hundred-metre-long fish traps span the water.

A new gang.

More stirring. The first wharf is recorded. A new apparatus is attempted, in the shape of a bridge, but the builders do not allow for the flow of tides so “bridge shooters” must be employed to navigate the rapids. They wait for the intended replacements.

A new gang. The beginnings of encroachment.

Waterfront property increases. Building into the water becomes commonplace. Water-bearers wear pointed shoes stuffed with moss. Pilgrims cast metal badges into the water.

A great frost.*

A new gang.

Another apparatus is attempted.  Water is pumped through pipes made from a series of hollow elm trunks. There are fewer than twenty public taps and it is forbidden to approach them with a weapon. “Plashy places” are avoided by the strategic placing of cloaks. A mermaid is discovered, a comb in one hand, a looking glass in another. A plague. More stirring. They wait for the intended replacements.

A new gang.

They live on boats to avoid the plague. Shipping thrives. Gibbeting sites are marked out where bodies of pirates are hung in chains until three tides have passed over them. Further encroachment. There is a five pound reward for any information concerning what’s happened to all the swans. A time-ball is installed. A certain flush with every pull. A man walks underwater for twenty feet wearing a soft apparatus covering his face, with two small bull’s eyes to see.

Its eyes are the colour of a peacock’s tale.

* Tissa David's animation for PBS' "Simple Gifts" (1977) - a passage from Virgina Woolf's "Orlando" narrrated by Hermione Gingold. That's some classy programming, PBS! I'd love to know if Sally Potter saw this before making her own adaptation.

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