“It is,” said Steve, not knowing quite how true his words would prove to be, “a weekend for heroes.” While the ancient story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu was originally penned in the grand, heroic vein, our own retelling and adaptation would have to rely on more modest means in order to succeed. Ingenuity, intent and imagination would transform a bare room into a window on a distant past. Colour would evoke the heat of the rich, desert city of Uruk. Costumes and props would suggest, rather than recreate, an era… but the real magic that transforms an empty space into a working temple is the people with whom you share it. And, before we share the story of our workshop weekend, there are heroes other than Gilgamesh and Enkidu who must be acknowledged.
It is difficult to find the words to express my utter admiration and gratitude to everyone who was present at the Lord of the Deep weekend, without first giving a little background. When Stuart started to write the script for the workshop, we decided it should be crafted for a conservative, number. It is always a difficult decision, but we knew that some of our regular Companions would be unable to attend this year and you can never predict how many others will book.
Learning later how many were hoping to attend, we built in further roles for a Divine Council of Planetary Beings, the priesthood of the Temple of Ishtar and the populace of Uruk… as well as space for two Seers to observe the inner workings of the rituals. By the time the workshop was in the editing stage, we could happily have given roles to all those who were hoping to attend… but could equally manage, knowing how swiftly disaster can strike, with half that number. We could not manage with fewer than that, but then, we had never been called upon to do so.
Then, the Fates rolled up their sleeves and set wheels in motion. The unavoidable twin powers of health and life, began, between the pair of them, to reduce our number of attendees. By the Friday of the workshop, we were down to fifteen but, by some nifty rearranging, we had managed to find a way around the problem. Then, while we were actually setting up for the workshop, we heard that two more would be absent due to illness…
It could not be helped. Our thoughts and hearts were with all those who could not be with us. Some of them had sent contributions that we would use during the weekend. But, these very last changes to the list of attendees threatened to make the weekend an unmitigated disaster.
What we had instead, was a workshop that simply took off and soared.
None of the attendees arrived without having already faced problems; all had chosen to address the practical issues raised by taking a weekend out of busy lives to share with us. One had travelled from Europe to be with us. One came along with his wheelchair. Some were walking into the unknown, having only previously attended a landscape workshop with us… which is a very different and far more informal affair… one had never met any of us, booking from the advert alone because, she said, it ‘felt right’… and it takes courage to face the unknown, in whatever form we meet it. Everyone had prepared, creating costumes, packing robes, investing themselves in their roles. And now, we were going to have to change things around…
Some of the characters, due to their continual presence, had to remain the same, others were already playing multiple cameo roles or different aspects of Force in many Forms, while some were suddenly thrust from the shadows, to find themselves ‘centre-stage’.
Steve was magnificent as Gilgamesh, embodying the journey from a fragmented and divisive arrogance to wholeness and truth, with heroic effort. Barbara brought her usual warmth to her role as Ninsun, his mother (as well as provisions for the beleaguered ‘stagehands’ who would probably not make it to meals). Lorraine, taking a dual role, also took charge of the complex ritual movements of the Fates with calm professionalism. Dominick held the energies as Guardian, while Nick handled the complicated musical score.
Willow and Jan also graced the complicated movement of the Hexaflow as Fates, along with Briony, who had been expecting a very different role. Stuart and I, who had originally written ourselves into small, peripheral roles, ended up like headless chickens, with Stuart embodying half a dozen gods, half the city of Uruk and most of the Divine Council single-handedly, as well as being ‘stagehand’… and all while wearing a skirt. I was his feminine counterpart and the priestess, Shamhat. Russell, whose ‘Essex’ last year had been so memorable, took on half a dozen roles… some of them quite unforgettable. Katie was suddenly embodying three roles, and doing so beautifully, while Colin was the ‘wild man’, Enkidu, as well as the Bull of Heaven and a Guardian at the Gate.
Wherever there was a need, someone filled it. When there was a passage that needed to be reworked, they found a solution, stepping up to the mark and beyond it and rising to every challenge. The result was stupendous; there were moments of unutterable beauty, the energy and the smiles were amazing.
Even the village pub stayed open later than its usual early hours for us!
Steve was right… it was indeed a weekend for heroes.