Extract from Music Food of Love: Gypsy stories, a book, coming soon. When we started working at
Berlin's People's Stage(started in 1890) there was a box office head who was a hunchback; he still is head
of box office.. and watching TV one day I saw a presenter forecasting the weather: she was eight months
pregnant, not things we see in our antiseptic, sterile Mary‐Poppins‐Western world of image first. Nor the
Poor People's philosophy of Silo from Argentina we came across, which matches our Poor theatre.
Above my brother in Paris at the atelier A3 of Jim Haynes,
with him and also with a friend of his Valery, when he is not researching theatre of the poor and local history.
Jim has held parties for artists, poets, photographers,
filmmakers, etc since he left Edinburgh where he started the
first Paperback Bookshop and the Traverse.
He is also founder of the International Writers Conference with John Calder (Beckett's Publisher also of 'Calder's Bookshop' in the Cut) Jim also is author of a poetic, tongue‐in‐cheek manifesto
Workers of the World Unite and Stop Working
First published by Dandelion Press, his own, reprinted by those in need in St Petersburg after the Fall of the Soviet Union.
A virile free thinker who in youngerdays let me stay with a homeless person I was inviting to visit Berlin, scene of the first Homeless Ensemble we began at Volksbuhne, where they won Academy of Arts Award, an historic reconnecting to the roots of Volksbuhne in 1880s with theatre of common people.
Ray was once walking in the early Sixties around Baker Street when Andrew Loog Oldham started to follow him, a complete stranger, but a hunch told him to offer him a record deal on spec.
No wonder Ray went on in 1971 to make his own record 'Lend me Some of your Time'
Ray Brooks gave us free tickets for On the Razzle which he was in at the National:he referred with anguish to Tom Stoppard turning up at his door with new version to learn overnight and also angry with him for leaving the wife and mother and psychiatrist Miriam Stoppard. He also lived close to the River, though not in the pubs as much as Ray
My older brother is also something of an inspiration, working as a farmer, often even by moonlight. When I have time to visit the country I always feel a reconnection with a vital energy and recall Dylan Thomas who asking a farmer who would get up at all hours to plant crops by the right ritual or waxing moon, why, responded:
"Cos I'd be a fool if I didn't."
I'd be a fool if I didn't mention Tom and his dedication, as we city folk grow egotistical forgetting our real dependence on the seasons, fields and work of those who tend them,planting crops which may be what we should do with our instable dreams, to let them grow naturally. I often find him feeding bruised,windfall Jonagold windfall apples to pigs in the evening
From Puzzle Club remaining at the boiling point
So many characters we have come across: David Ellis who organised an event at the Horse Hospital: 'Who gets to dress the Assassin? 23rd May - 7.30pm The Horse Hospital,,Bloomsbury Writer/Performer/Curator David Ellis invites Max Decharne , founder of 'The FlamingStars' to rifle through a pre-selected rail of clothes from the legendary Contemporary Pop Wardrobe whilst extemporizing on the deviancy of Zazous,Teds,Ton-Up's,Spiv's and malcontents. plus Ellis present's an anti-lecture on being a member of the Hastings pier squad 1975 , why the only effective anti-fascist movement is a pelvic one. Tickets £5 Ellis was meat , after all , like the rest of them , a mere mess of gristle and ligaments and humours , a piece of sublunar anatomy... - Nye, ' A portugese Person ' Tales I Told My Mother'nobody gives a monkey's about the flakes from the Puzzle Club' Iain Sinclair' remain at the point of boiling , slightly cross
This is an apology in the Greek sense as in what it means to be homeless, yet live in good faith and high-spirits with a resolve to make a difference and thrive.
In an age when the faiths, the loyalties, and the purposes have been more than usually undermined, mental fatigue--or is it spiritual fatigue?--represents a large factor in everyday experience. Our cinema magnate does no more than exploit the occasion. He also, more or less frankly, is a dope pedlar,’ John Grierson adds.Speaking of spiritual fatigue relates to the reemergence of Oblomov as a character we use to show how we feel like going to bed in the face of the world’s extremes.
When not working with his wife Pru, on community projects in Wandsworth to support those in the latest depression(s!?) we might see Timothy West grasping an old umbrella, as aged longhaired Oblomov, building on the myth of someone who is fatigued by the world but refuses to give up dreaming, for our Chelsea Theatre, or Clapham Omnibus production of or smilingly suggesting: ‘ dreams can be changed from one form to another, but cannot be destroyed.’ I had quoted him a line from energy can be turned from one form into another but never destroyed as Isaac Newton put it. “He was referring to his natural Law of the Conservation of Energy but Oblomov could make a Natural Law, relating to the power or Law of Conservation of Dreams, right?!”‘Beware the ends of the earth and exotic: the drama is on your doorstep wherever the slums, wherever there is malnutrition, wherever exploitation and cruelty.’ John Grierson who coined the word ‘documentary’(From his diaries)That did not stop us going to Gaza and Ayer’s Rock, or East Berlin, to empower the marginalised and help them find words for their own dramas, but perhaps not the end of the world.
We stayed in Edinburgh and made back step theatre from the street.
George Monbiot gives advice on whether to become an investigative journalist, acknowledging that being free is more prized than any other human attribute for our short stay on this planet: ‘even the Editor of the Times, is a functionary answering to his boss, and that is as good as it gets.’So it is in this spirit and in the advent of a new openness in politics with Corbyn that I think our work, which in fact brought us in contact with him for World March organised in over one hundred countries, that we belong. If the Times editor is still a functionary, then I am surrounded by fun-ariesluminaries like Mark who started Goa, or David Ellis who faced the literary world with Puzzle Club and came out on the higher ground, or Ray Brook’s Ken Loach’s pal and first lead, who tells me he found his first epiphany when making Duke Of Edinburgh Award Scheme film Other People in the Sixties.
‘We were a touch of Rebel without a Cause, young bikers tearing round, then we find direction, a taste of Prince Charles Trust has taken over now:my love interest was Annika Wills, Harry H Corbett played my father: before Steptoe and Son, at the time Harry was known for his TV and working at Stratford East with Joan Littlewood, but he was so good that I did not recognise who he was until I saw the credits.
Protest and the East
The flip side of the East was that they actually wanted us there when we arrived with street characters. For our part with our seemingly eccentric belief that ordinary life could and should be on stage we felt more in tune with these outrageous nobodies than we would have with the normal socially acceptable crowd from the London Theatre. Although we received a polite nod and glance from the National Theatre when meeting directors at Award Ceremonies like the Prudential, we would hear people say: 'Wow, I wish we could do what you are doing with actors-people.'
When I was a child Sean Connery visited our home, calling my mother 'Sunshine', planting a kiss on mine and my brother Fred's heads, while the landlord's grandchildren whispered : ‘wow, James Bond came round'. The trouble was, as my dad has related, he was not happy just being an actor of great fame. Instead he wanted to be taken seriously: he dined with my dad in restaurants around Kensington hopeful of receiving a role in a serious play by Donleavy he had just directed at the Royal Court. My father discovered the most dangerous Irish American writer of the day and an unknown Richard Harris: by the time he played the lead in Dublin, the Catholic Church had cottoned on that it expressed the frustrations of women who were told they were not allowed to feel sexual pleasure or have premarital relations.
Chapter Four: Ray
Chapter 4 Ray
‘Laughter like summertime wine
Magic in a Fairytale mind’ Ray Brooks
'Lend me Some of your time' is the title of a record and shows a man who is asking permission to be listened to, which reminds me of the street people. There was always humility in their words and they told stories because frankly it would be rude not to.Ray Brooks was cast in the great breakthrough film of Ken Loach, often still voted as best tv film ever, and as a neighbour with a daughter the same age as me, Emma, was always a massive influence. Even though Carol White is talked about for being attractive and dying miserably to this day, it is the happier people that I am inspired to follow: and Irving Wardle, the chief critic of theatre for twenty years, after Kenneth Tynan, described our Glad as ‘Cathy Come Home for the Nineties’
There are people like Ray who manage to scale the heights of acting, writing and singing, much like Bill Owen who wrote a musical, hits for Cliff Richard while also starring in Last of the Summer Wine and being the straight man in Spike Milligan's 'Son of Oblomov'.
It is serendipitous then that when Ray had only started acting that as he was walking out of Baker Street and followed by Andrew Loog Oldham, who was making the Rolling Stones first records. The latter could not have known he played music but immediately gave him his card on spec, asking if he wanted a record contract.
Years later Ray brought out his record Lend Me Some of Your Time at an exciting time in his life: he had become the voiceover for Mr Benn. As actors are often considered far from a touchstone for sincerity Ray is valuable evidence that there can be exceptions.
Recently the Observer rang him and asked how 'Cathy Come Home' has changed his life, to which he replied that 'all actors are whores for money,' which he realised upset the journalist but clearly also he had three children and had to pay off the roof over their heads. The same reason we worked with people like Chris O'Connell now of Theatre Absolute or the street people in Edinburgh might say - but then they were given flats by the council also in Berlin when we worked there - we wanted to help them not in the form of buying them tobacco much as they insisted on this - but also by giving them a long-term home: the results varied, with one or two in Edinburgh so keen on life's adventures in the street that they would not accept them. A leading actor of earliest days sold his in a week as he missed wandering free.
It was the same reason why I stayed with homeless in Paris at Professor Haynes where we would help cook on Sunday for hundred of guests. Jim would not consider letting the opportunity to help left undone. He even wrote a book "thanks for coming" that displays his temperament, with many marriages and relationships having started out from meetings at his flat, formerly owned by a young Matisse.Ray's title song 'Lend me some of your Time?' - reflects his self-belief and faith in his ability to find love and has been compared to Cat Stevens and Roy Harper.
Ray's online guise consists of a website called 'Mr Benn's Friend' and it's typical of his humility that he refers to the chap in the bowler hat, of a popular children's series rather than himself as making him famous.
David McKee's Mr Benn has accompanied generations of delighted children through a door into the world of the imagination - 'as if by magic' is his catchphrase, when Mr Benn tries on his outfit and enters new adventures.
He recently was told if he found the original contract it would be worth £300 000 in repeats - but Ray has always been busy with new work and never harps on about the past - the BBC series he did during the recession with young actors and friends shows an old lady in Brighton digging her own veg, or shows him describing all the best ways to preserve what we have, rather than join gin with the ratty wasteful society that encourages vermin to overwhelm London's streets and sewers. Then the local series about a group of shops near his corner of the woods which have survived decades entirely because they are community ventures, including interviews with the owner of a an antique bookshop and a newsagent. The locals do not wish these places to close anymore than Ray and you find yourself sitting watching as the magic from his fairytale mind and the laughter of those he meets in his local pub sustain us.
'I'd build you a home of rainbows
If you love me
I'd wrap you in furs when it snows
If you love me
But in the meantime lend me some of your time'
It was always with Emma his daughter sitting in a paddling pool or on the pouffe when mum called us in to see the latest episode of Mr
Benn that I remember by early childhood, and how we all miss her, most of all I imagine Ray and Sadie, Nel her partner and son Joe.
Ray Brooks, Ken Loach's first lead actor and our neighbour put it, ’it's a cutthroat business’, there is no guarantee of happiness. There is no easy way of finding answers, as I have realised getting to know Peter Brook's daughter Irina, who sometimes writes that she ‘feels she is in a bad soap'. Her attempts incorporating circus and music into theatre have made her independent and able to continue working in Paris where her father chose to live, away from the self-congratulatory British classics of theatre. The new homeless in Britain do not go to see plays, except very rarely, when we might have brought them on stage at Union Chapel or Roundhouse, but the fact remains that we have a problem with identities being swallowed up, much as Ray brilliantly depicts as Pauline Fowler's husband in East Enders. There actors swan around with 'egos on their shoulders', he says, but have nothing much to say.
The new homeless in Britain do not go to see plays, except very rarely, when we might have brought them on stage and given out free tickets to them at Union Chapel or Roundhouse, but the fact remains that we have a problem with identities being swallowed up, much as Ray brilliantly depicts as Pauline Fowler's husband in East Enders. There actors swan around with 'egos on their shoulders', he says, but have nothing much to say.Have they been swamped by their soap characters? It is serendipity that a new inclusive theatre has developed which was made possible by the generosity of Sean Connery's closest friend in Edinburgh where he grew up: Richard Demarco, more of whom later.We created a theatre which was not aimed at lawyers, doctors and city workers all of whom could afford the National tickets, but at those who were struggling.
All in all there is a need for a theatre that mingles with people as Grassmarket Project has, or Chris O’Connell's Theatre Absolute, or Phelim McDermott’s Improbable. We have shown that every day love of fun and a sense of belonging go much further to creating happiness than systems or associations that dub themselves 'national'.
In the TedX talk Jude Law introducing the Belarus actors by saying he can lie in bed listening to Radio 4 in the morning, while they - in contrast Natalia and Nikolai - are wondering who might have disappeared or been murdered. Realpolitik at the heart of our liberal society means there will always be a place for those who are marginalised who need a stage to express themselves, just to be themselves once more.On TV we will still hear of Vladimir Putin meeting with Ukrainian counterparts in Minsk, without any mention of the fact that this capital of Belarus is not part of a free country.Fortunately people like Jude Law, David Lan and Sue Emmas do go out of their way to highlight the inhumanity of ordinary lives, also bringing Peter Brook back from exile to put on plays where he felt a lack of freedom of expression.
There is no reason for despair as long as groups are allowed to express themselves, whatever minority, like Palestinians and African nationals in Berlin, just as Tadeusz Kantor did in Krakow, before Richard Demarco then invited him to perform at Edinburgh's Fringe. 'The Water Hen', the most talked about production at Edinburgh Festival in 1972, was put on at the Former Poor House, with irony, as it showed the lives of people who only felt alive when performing. Richard inspired us too, when he immediately also sensed our democratic resolve ‘letting the street speak for itself’, or young offenders or people who had breakdowns, putting on plays that went to Glasgow, Dublin, London, Paris, Moscow, Copenhagen, Basel, Ayers Rock and Brazil. ‘Not surprisingly someone who sacrifices part of themselves to highlight the cruelty others face, is likely to explode now and then in ways in ways that border on violence.’The way Jean and Jeremy dealt with it was to bounce off each other.
There were other friends too: Lala Meredith-Vula (who had been in the first Freeze exhibition of Damien Hirst) and Annie, Jean’s sister, who is a lifelong friend. The only person we did not have to worry about was Terry Rigby, our chief hostel philosopher, although Sally Hampson, his loving carer spent much of her time accompanying him to galleries and meting out his favourite Carlsberg lager. As Jean recalls (1) he was a well known character in Edinburgh, with his battered trilby and shabby raincoat: she in contrast tall, dressed in figure hugging clothes, with long blonde hair and wearing a scarf.
Like a modern Yorick he was affected by the violence he saw amongst the poor but remained apart from it. ‘My dear, my feelings for you are and have been for some time, more than platonic’ was how he addressed women.‘Are the spirits with me? What do you say?’Jeremy was looking to work in harmony with higher forces and like in his favourite film Eight and a Half by Federico Fellini, he was wondering whether his work reflected this.‘You have shown some of society’s wounds,’ I reply, ‘ so that has to be good. ‘What did the Radio4 ‘Honest Doubt’ writer Richard Holloway have to say? ‘O, I know, the Grassmarket Project's new theatre of involvement and social realism has had an explosive effect upon the thinking in Europe, not only about drama, its use and purpose, but about the nature of modern society, its wounds and its outcasts.’(2)
‘Or Sarah Kane for that matter,’ Jean answers. She said: ‘It changed my life because it changed the way I think, the way I behave. If theatre can change lives, then it can change society.’‘She liked the experiential quality of it, but it didn’t save her sadly. There are more outcasts and wounded people flying around in the spiritual sky as a result of our work than from the involvement of a million fat ego-driven directors.’I perceive Annie and he are smiling, as is Jean. ‘Must have hit the nerve of Myschkin theatre!’ They laugh. ‘We all know the story of ‘the Idiot’ in Russian novel form, who tries to keep living in good faith and belief in life,’ Jean responds.‘Erudite Jean,’ Calum replies.‘Didn’t Camus say the same?’ Lala adds. ‘It’s a universal wish for the inner child to survive brutal modernity.’ ‘Rather than permitting ourselves to fall into a state of not caring for Belarus’ victims or others,’ Jeremy states. ‘As the line asks us in ‘Sympathy for the Devil’: ‘ Who killed the Kennedys when after all it was you and me.’ Thinking over the work and involvement of Sally, Jean and Lala or Sue and Natasha the portrayal of women in real life still lacks a focus on equality and how much their nurturing contributed to the project’s success. : there are historic footnotes for us: T.S. Eliot's wife is portrayed as an hysteric who inspires him, much like Sylvia Plath has gained a reputation as the mad muse of Ted Hughes ‐ yet when you look further at them it becomes clear that Hughes was unable to recover emotionally from that marriage, feeling he had ‘murdered a genius’.
(1) From his obituary in the Independent Terry Rigby “His understanding and tolerance of every human situation no matter how extreme gave him the sort of wisdom that was necessary to tour the Glad monster.”
"Any art manifestation involving the dispossessed, the homeless, the misfits in society must be encouraged to succeed.” Richard Demarco Gmp Patron
(2) “This is revolutionary theatre in the truest sense. It has turned conventional ideas about theatre upside down. More importantly, it has changed lives.” Richard Holloway Popular broadcaster on Radio 4, GMP Patron’This was a project that brought together professional and non-professional actors who all had some personal experience of mental illness. It was an unusual piece of theatre because it was totally experiential as opposed to speculatory. As an audience member, I was taken to a place of extreme mental discomfort and distress and then popped out the other end. What I did not do was sit in the theatre considering as an intellectual conceit what it might be like to be mentally ill. It was a bit like being given a vaccine. I was mildly ill for a few days afterwards but the jab of sickness protected me from a far more serious illness later in life. Mad took me to hell, and the night I saw it I made a decision about the kind of theatre I wanted to make - experiential.’ Sarah Kane talking about third play Mad,of the Grassmarket Project.
Over the years Ray Brooks has come in contact with John Lennon, as he made the film of The Knack, a comedy that although made for tv was to prove a massive hit and along with Blow Up one of the trendiest films of the Sixties. When Ray is out and about he still attracts the new crowd, Noel Gallagher asking to meet him. 'You're Mr Benn?'
Extract of Introduction:
'YOU AND ME KILLED THE KENNEDYS' Mick Jagger
Everywhere man is born in chains but seeks freedom. This is as true for head of community matters at ‘Young Vic Taking Part’ Sharon Kanolik whose ancestors go back to Jewish Belarusians, as for me, when hearing as a child that my family name comes from the German for ‘white’: Weissman, as Belarusian means literally ‘White Russian’, changed for simplicity to Wiseman when arriving in London.‘There were no issues in the East,’ Natalia Koliada quips ironically at a TedX Observer talk, when she was on the run, after her husband had been arrested in Europe's last dictatorship, Belarus, with their youngest child in hiding in Minsk, all because Mick Jagger and others had spoken in defence of their freedom of expression a few weeks earlier. Nikolai Khalezin, her partner, was actually editor of the best known newspapers which if you look online under Charter 97, you will see, with hundreds of thousands following every a day in Belarus: these are people clearly disaffected with the government, which fact remains a foggy secret to much of Europe.‘There are three-year-old boys put under KGB arrest, with Jude Law and Tom Stoppard supporting (them), and Kevin Spacey’ -as their American representative.‘One performance,’ Natalia comments, ‘is masked as a wedding, in Minsk, although it turns out the couple have a three-year-old daughter.’
Meanwhile Oleg Bebenin founder of Charter 97 was murdered, but is reported by Russian press to have ‘committed suicide’. The problem for freedom of expression in Eastern Europe has not changed much since Jean Findlay and Jeremy Weller went to East Berlin or started their time under Tadeusz Kantor. There theatre had long been considered a form of protest as an alternative, when censorship in the press made free speech impossible.
My most memorable moment when going to East Germany, before it collapsed, was putting on a television at a hotel and seeing a woman who was around eight months pregnant reading the weather on TV, as though it was a normal every day occurrence. This energetic belief in life, with creches available for every mother who was working, was the 'Evil Empire' that Reagan had told us to be very afraid of, in spite of his own country not defending any person when it came to social health care.
Copyright © All Rights Reserved Above Mary Rose Eng; a Poetic Protest