Just a little digression about a project I worked on in London early in September…
In the week before I left for Ethiopia I had the privilege to work on a project called 'These Trees Are Made of Blood' by Amy Draper, a talented director who had her project shortlisted for the Samuel Beckett Award in London. I was employed as musician and songwriter for the project, and was fortunate enough to have Angie Fullman (the Bee and singer) and Hannah Morgan (Violinist extraordinaire) working with me on the project. It was six full days of work, the last three being 12 hour days.
The performance itself is based around the Argentine 'Dirty War' of the late 1970's, early 1980's. For those who had never heard about it (as I had) it turns out that this is one of the most miserable periods of human history. In 1976, after two years of incompetent governance by the wife of the late Juan Peron, three generals (head of Army, Navy and Airforce) took control of the country in what they called the 'Gentleman's Coup'. Their aim being to restore order and national pride to their country. Unfortunately, their means of achieving their aims involved the 'disappearing' of (according to Argentinian human rights groups) approximately 30,000 Argentinian 'subversives'. To disappear meant to be kidnapped, suffer horrific physical and psychological torture, then be killed by various methods including being drugged and thrown out of aeroplanes into the River Plate. And all this happened while those responsible denied any knowledge of the disappeared ever having existed. Desaparecidos (the disappeared) were numbers, kept in tubes with hoods and blindfolds over their heads, suffering endless horrors at the hands of incredibly sadistic torturers, sometimes for years, struggling desperately just to hold on to what it was to be a human. And when it finally all ended, the new administration (whilst originally condemning the regime and sentencing its leaders to Prison Perpetua - life imprisonment) were eventually pardoned and these sadistic, criminals walk free amongst the population of Argentina today on the same streets as those they tormented.
The play itself is devised around a mother whose daughter was disappeared and the desperate longing to know what happened to her daughter. It is set in a cabaret within the woman's mind, which acts as a grotesque representation of her struggle with her own demons and those represented by the Junta (the generals).
It was an incredibly interesting, enlightening and inspiring week, during which I wrote a number of songs and we performed some great work at the end of it I think. It was a wonderful mix of people from authentic cabaret artists, actors, dancers and musicians all held together by the steady hand of Amy Draper as director and Paul as writer.
After having worked on the first week, Amy, Paul, Hannah and me fired thoughts and ideas back and forth about where the project would develop for the next development session in October. After having seen an authentic cabaret, the possibilities seem endless.
I have been in Ethiopia for a couple of weeks now, engrossed in a book that Amy lent me called 'The Lexicon of Terror' which goes into huge detail as to what happened during the Dirty War, how it happened, personal experiences of survivors and those responsible. I find it so hard to think that such things occurred in my lifetime, such unspeakable atrocities and repression. It has also opened my eyes to the fact that such things are still happening now in other parts of the world. To a lesser extent perhaps but the intent behind it remains the same.
I have been reading page after page in disbelief that human beings can be so cruel to each other, that many of these torturers thought that the Nazis were doing brilliant work. And that even, now some of them can look at themselves and say that they were doing the work of god and the work of good.
I look forward to working on the next session from October 8-12 at Shoreditch Town Hall. It's already sold out but I'll let you know about the final version (when we get there!).