There is a moment when he stops, puts down his packing box, and looks at what remains of the Court Floor. It is the last vestige of a creative journey of twelve months, of twenty souls intent on giving their all to the rather unusual script, and of a Spring weekend at the Nightingale Centre in the lovely Derbyshire hills…
Do things that have been created in the heart and mind cease to exist when they are played out in the time-honoured fashion of the mystical psycho-drama and pass from potential to actual to gone? There must be a difference between a thing – in this case a mystical play – created and performed to full effect, and a thing thought about in detail but not put into practice. The latter never makes it beyond the mind of the originator; the former becomes ‘actualised’ as a blueprint for the directed energies of a harmonic group of people, all of whom are aware that something deeper than an Elizabethan story is being told…
The man holding the box of monochrome, plastic squares thinks there is a difference… the life of the dramatic work has passed from potential to actual, and has, actually, not gone. Instead, its life has been transferred from single author to twenty others. Its story resonates differently in each of twenty acting perspectives, every one taking from its execution something unique to them and their lives; something that solidifies, then glows in the memory along with the unspoken words: “We did that. We came together and made that happen. We followed the path of the words in two-hundred pages of script and brought it to life.”
He hopes it will live for a while in their hearts, too. Long enough to ponder the many questions that the story prompts: What was most real, the dying figure of Shakespeare in 1616 or the drama created by the Tudor Queen of England when she brought an eclectic gathering of friends and enemies together at the Palace of Nonsuch in South London in April 1590 for a very unusual meeting of hearts and minds? Can we conceive of a reality that creates a plot, a story, as being different from the actual unfolding of that drama as twenty people bring it to life? Which is the most real? The passage of time is most certainly not the basis of the answer…
In his mind, the black and white squares re-assemble themselves into a very large chessboard known to the players as The Court Floor. It has four faces: East, West, North and South. Each face will later have a deeper name, but for now they are just the edges of a black and white, chequered surface.
In the shadows surrounding the chessboard and chairs:
“He is dying.”
“They say the spirit has come for him.”
Movement around the outside of the chairs – the Outer Court. The players realise they are being trained by doing.
“He is dying…”
Upstairs, in the chamber above the tavern, William Shakespeare lies dying on the chequered floor. At his head stands a candelabra with three lights lit. Behind this stands the surprisingly jovial figure of Death and Change: Count Mortido.
“Master Shakespeare, you have had an long and productive life, one which will be celebrated after you are gone. Are you content, now, to die?”
For the duration of two extinguished candles he nods and coughs his assent, but as the third is raised and the final chance of extended life is about to be removed, strong feminine hands grasp his ankles. Warm and sensual, they slide up the outside of his legs and an urging female voice fills the air as Countess Libido, sister-wife of the Count of Death hisses:
“Do not surrender this too soon! I will lend you my strength!”
She kisses Shakespeare on the lips, and the sexual/life charge rips through him. Filling his lungs with borrowed air and time.
“There was another story,” he says. “One that could not be told while she was alive.”
“The Queen?” asks Count Mortido.
The Bard nods.
The powerful female hands linger on his body, urging. “Tell it now…” chuckles the Count.
Elsewhen, the chequered floor, the arena and dancing-space of possibilities to come, flickers into life in 1590. Shakespeare’s form is no longer there…. but, of course, it is yet to happen.
A future-ghostly Shakespeare stands by the edge of an empty Court Floor, approached by a very real Christopher Marlowe, fellow Elizabethan playwright and friend.
“Play this with me, Master Marlowe. Be life to my ghost within this mind of life in death!”
The task between good friends is accepted. Marlowe turns to those in the outer shadows and summons them, one by one: the empty chair heading the South Face; the Dragon of the Seas, otherwise Sir Francis Drake; a spy who casts astrological charts for the powerful of Spain; the second richest woman in England…
The Southern seats are capped by the materialising presence of Count Mortido himself, come to check that the laws of causation are not being tampered with.
Marlowe moves across the empty East Face, which will soon be filled with the power of three. From the Northern edge of the Court Floor he summons others from the shadows: into the second seat walks an elegant Saracen lady, the wife of the Moroccan ambassador embarked on a trading exchange for English fancy goods… and possibly a little more; the second Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux, comes forward to take the Champion’s seat in the middle of the row; this is followed by the wife of the Alchemist John Dee; then Lady Blanche Parry, a woman who has cared for Queen Elizabeth since her birth in 1533.
The empty seat at the head of the row is taken by Countess Libido, who smiles at her brother-husband across the court. Neither of them can be seen by the others… well, not yet, at least.
The faces of the East and West are polarised in their emptiness. Eyes peer into the gloom at what is left of the tavern, and other faces are found; looking down at small tables and drinking from tiny glasses.
Marlowe speaks, again, and the lady in the golden gown slowly raises her head. Marlowe trembles, slightly, then gathers his voice….
Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.
His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.
You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.