Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The River (Jez Butterworth)

Directed & Performed by: Isolde Penwarden, Emma Riggs, Miranda Slade & Chris Born 
(18th May, 2013)

Genre: Romance/Paranormal

We hear a girl singing. She enters, nudges the table, and begins to read, then moves towards the cabin window to admire the beautiful sunset. This is the setting for “The River”, performed at the Small Studio of Homerton College, up the stairs above the Porter’s Lodge. In a sense it was my first time here, though I had also watched the superbly performed “Pink”, earlier in the term in the main College Auditorium.

A man enters in trenchcoat and fishing gear, pacing up and down as he runs through a checklist. Everything is rehearsed, but not everything is in its place. He has a new girlfriend. And everything new is slightly different. She beckons him to join her at the window. He has seen it all before, and can even describe it in poetry. It is a moment shared which neither will forget. At least it might be, but he does not join her. He averts his gaze, trapped by his own memories. Beauty has become jaded with repetition. All that excites him is the reflected joy he can give in sharing his world with her for the first time.

The cabin provides an idyllic setting for romance, for candlelit evenings after days spent fishing, walking in the forests, or swimming in the mountain pool. But the blossoming of first love is haunted by objects and memories that shatter the fantasy. She has gone fishing before. He has had other girls up at his cabin. How many times? How many times has he made love and said, “I love you”? Where is the first, the girl in the red dress whose image bears no face? Does she even exist? Why do we put so much value in beginnings?

The lesson is one of water that reflects and reflects, and what memories it could recount! But water holds no ghosts of its past. The trout return from the sea each season, each year becoming more beautiful, until one day caught by a fisherman. But the trout above all longs for freedom. So it is with love that would struggle against the net of memories to return to the water. Love without freedom is tragic, haunted by an ever-repeating cycle of disappointment.

Jez Butterworth’s “The River” brilliantly explodes the childish way we value first memories, attributing to them a quality of virginal fantasy. Was this my first experience of Homerton’s fantastic theatre scene? Not quite, but for that it does not make the experience less. Because every play is different, like every love, like every sunset. I certainly hope it will not be my last.

From the Longest & Shortest Shadows

Midnight Lines

When the tendency to love is greater than the tendency to fear, 
When the will to heart is greater than the will to power, 
When the inner journey becomes the outer adventure, 
When words carry stillness overflowing with meaning, 
When feelings bring peace overflowing with wisdom, 
When time stops, then we will know 
What dreams we had, what times unknowing, 
What worlds once sad, joy overflowing.

—okei (10th May)

Midday Lines

You are
You are
You are

you want
to be
You are

Each -v-
your star

Form free
in fragile

You are
You are
You are
You are!

—okei (24th May)

Image: 'Magic Gateway' by Jeremiah Morelli

Song of the Blue Plumbago Fairy

Song of the Blue Plumbago Fairy

I am the fairy fair
Of blue plumbago flowers
You cannot help but stare
At my star-speckled bowers.

Each petal blue as sky
Reminds of sun and sea.
Reflecting heaven high,
I bless eternally.

In time it's true I'll die,
All beauty here must fade.
Of this I know and sigh,
But love, for love I'm made.

So let me touch your hair
And dance with you a round
Without a fear or care,
We're heaven, heaven-bound.

—okei (14th May, 2013)

Image: Photo of Blue Plumbago Flowers & Netting (2011) merged with Vidan's 'Sultry Day' on

Four Poems of Love & Longing (Ella Wheeler Wilcox)

Four perfect poems of Love & Longing by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.


A little leaf just in the forest's edge,
All summer long, had listened to the wooing
Of amorous birds that flew across the hedge,
Singing their blithe sweet songs for her undoing.
So many were the flattering things they told her,
The parent tree seemed quite too small to hold her.

At last one lonesome day she saw them fly
Across the fields behind the coquette summer,
They passed her with a laughing light good-bye,
When from the north, there strode a strange new comer;
Bold was his mien, as he gazed on her, crying,
"How comes it, then, that thou art left here sighing!

"Now by my faith thou art a lovely leaf —
May I not kiss that cheek so fair and tender?"
Her slighted heart welled full of bitter grief,
The rudeness of his words did not offend her,
She felt so sad, so desolate, so deserted,
Oh, if her lonely fate might be averted.

"One little kiss," he sighed, "I ask no more —"
His face was cold, his lips too pale for passion.
She smiled assent; and then bold Frost leaned lower,
And clasped her close, and kissed in lover's fashion.
Her smooth cheek flushed to sudden guilty splendour,
Another kiss, and then complete surrender.

Just for a day she was a beauteous sight,
The world looked on to pity and admire
This modest little leaf, that in a night
Had seemed to set the forest all on fire.
And then — this victim of a broken trust,
A withered thing, was trodden in the dust.


In the dawn of the day, when the sea and the earth
    Reflected the sunrise above,
I set forth, with a heart full of courage and mirth,
    To seek for the Kingdom of Love. 

I asked of a Poet I met on the way,
    Which cross-road would lead me aright,
And he said: "Follow me, and ere long you will see
    Its glistening turrets of Light."

And soon in the distance a city shone fair;
    "Look yonder," he said, "there it gleams!"
But alas! for the hopes that were doomed to despair,
    It was only the Kingdom of Dreams.

Then the next man I asked was a gay cavalier,
    And he said: "Follow me, follow me."
And with laughter and song we went speeding along
    By the shores of life's beautiful sea,

Till we came to a valley more tropical far
    Than the wonderful Vale of Cashmere,
And I saw from a bower a face like a flower
    Smile out on the gay cavalier,

And he said: "We have come to humanity's goal —
    Here love and delight are intense."
But alas! and alas! for the hope of my soul —
    It was only the Kingdom of Sense.

As I journeyed more slowly, I met on the road
    A coach with retainers behind,
And they said: "Follow us, for our lady's abode
    Belongs in the realm you would find."

'Twas a grand dame of fashion, a newly-wed bride;
    I followed, encouraged and bold.
But my hope died away, like the last gleams of day,
    For we came to the Kingdom of Gold.

At the door of a cottage I asked a fair maid.
    "I have heard of that Realm," she replied,
"But my feet never roam from the Kingdom of Home,
    So I know not the way," and she sighed.

I looked on the cottage, how restful it seemed!
    And the maid was as fair as a dove.
Great light glorified my soul as I cried,
    "Why, home is the Kingdom of Love!"


One moment alone in the garden,
    Under the August skies;
The moon had gone but the stars shone on, —
    Shone like your beautiful eyes.

Away from the glitter and gaslight,
    Alone in the garden there,
While the mirth of the throng, in laugh and song,
    Floated out on the air.

You looked down through the starlight,
    And I looked up at you;
And a feeling came that I could not name, —
    Something strange and new.

Friends of a few weeks only, —
    Why should it give me pain
To know you would go on the morrow,
    And would not come again?

Formal friends of a season.
    What matter that we must part?
But under the skies, with a swift surprise,
    Each read the other's heart.

We did not speak, but your breath on my cheek
    Was like a breeze of the south;
And your dark hair brushed my forehead
    And your kiss fell on my mouth.

Some one was searching for me, —
    Some one to say good-night;
And we went in from the garden,
    Out of the sweet starlight,

Back to the glitter and music,
    And we said "Good-bye" in the hall,
When a dozen heard and echoed the word,
    And then — well, that was all.

The river that rolls between us
    Can never be crossed, I know,
For the waters are deep and the shores are steep,
    And a maelstrom whirls below;

But I think we shall always remember,
    Though we both may strive to forget,
How you looked in my eyes, 'neath the August skies,
    After the moon had set; —

How you kissed my lips in the garden,
    And we stood in a trance of bliss,
And our hearts seemed speaking together
    In that one thrilling kiss. 


The winds came out of the west one day,
    And hurried the clouds before them;
And drove the shadows and mists away,
    And over the mountains bore them.

And I wept, "Oh, wind, blow into my mind,
    Blow into my soul and heart,
And scatter the clouds that hang like shrouds,
    And make the shadows depart."

The rain came out of the leaden skies
    And beat on the earth's cold bosom.
It said to the sleeping grass, "Arise,"
    And the young buds sprang in blossom.

And I wept in pain, "Oh, blessèd rain,
    Beat into my heart to-day;
Thaw out the snows that are chilling it so,
    Till it blossoms in hope, I pray."

The sunshine fell on the bare-armed trees,
    In a wonderful sheen of glory;
And the young leaves rustled and sang to the breeze,
    And whispered a love-fraught story.

And "Sun, oh, shine on this heart of mine,
    And woo it to life," I cried;
But the wind, and sun, and rain, each one
    The coveted boon denied.

Images: 'Autumn' by Frances MacNair, 'Autumn' & Poster of 'The House of A. and E. Napoleon' by Alejandro de Riquer, Portrait of Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 'Portrait of Girl surrounded by Ivy' by Henry John Stock