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Friday, September 9, 2016

Revisiting Before The Dawn: Part 3, The Wave Crashes...

"The screen is reality, the stage... the dream."
The storm that blew Kate Bush from the stage has left disaster in its wake. A ship, the Celtic Deep is sinking. Its May Day call has been picked up by an astronomer watching a meteor shower from Church Rock. We can see him projected onto a shimmering screen that hides the stage. He's radioed the coastguard and is trying to get them to investigate, but the message was very "staticky", so the details he has are sketchy. The astronomer begs the coastguard to send help, he knows there are souls in peril and he fears he may be their only hope.
"I think these people are depending on me... I'm the only one who heard them... please, do you understand... hello, hello, can you hear me... over..."
The screen rises, the stage is empty... wait... what are they? Fish? Or people? Another screen appears, we fly across sea, searching the rippling waves. There's someone in the water.
"Little light, shining..."
Trevor Leighton
And Dream of Sheep

Kate appears on the screen, she is floating on her back, the tiny red light on her lifejacket is blinking. You can hear the cold in her voice as she sings, she has clearly been there for some time. This voice is older, more vulnerable and careworn than the one that sang this same song all those decades ago. This voice has seen life, has loved and has lost. Now here she is, all alone in the dark. She is on the edge of giving up, exhausted from the fight to stay afloat, to stay alive. She needs to rest, she seeks escape from this reality and the stage is waiting, ready to welcome her into its dreamscape... Kate sinks under the water, a shiver runs down my spine.

Under Ice

These skeletal hosts, let's call them Fish People, circle the stage; this is their domain - half wave, half wreck.

Other seafarers wander in, could they be stranded too? The Fish People welcome Kate, they remove her lifejacket, she won't be needing that here. Kate spots a sofa, a lamp, a TV, they seem familiar to her.

A memory begins to form, of that time the river froze over. Kate starts to skate, captured by her past. The others there are drawn in, as if hypnotised. They mimic Kate's motions, until they all are skating in formation.

There's something moving under the ice. Kate screams out, recognising herself, trapped below. The Fish People drag her away. The other seafarers attempt a rescue, trying to smash the ice, but it's too thick. They find a chainsaw and try to cut through. Finally they manage to break the surface and it is Kate they pull from the water.

Waking the Witch

As Kate surfaces in the dreamscape on stage, so she manages to reemerge from the depths in the reality portrayed on the film screen. As she once more floats on the waves, voices call out to her, trying to get her to open her eyes, to wake up. Her past is dragging her down, back into the deep.

This time Kate wakes up to find herself on trial, accused of being a witch. Those who had helped her survive the ice are now turning on her, pulling her back into the court of the Fish People, who watch her every move carefully from the sofa.

Kate throws herself at the mercy of a priest, but he has already judged her guilty. She struggles with him, but the other seafarers intervene, taking Kate to face her sentence. There is a simple test for witchery: if the woman drowns she is innocent, but if she survives... Kate is once more forced back under the water, for a second we think she has fought her way back, but it's not her... it's a blackbird, its wings flailing, desperately trying to fly free, but it too quickly sinks below.

Just when things seem hopeless, a bright light beams down. A helicopter flies around the auditorium, searching for Kate. We hear from the pilot that all her fellow passengers and crew have been rescued from the wreck of the Celtic Deep, only she remains unaccounted for. But there is still a chance she could be found...

Watching You Without Me

Back in the dreamscape the Fish People have gathered bits of broken ship and created a portal into the real world. Through it they are watching a father and son banter about portfolios, toad-in-the-hole and footie. They're waiting for mum to come home, she's late. The Fish People regard these humans like we might watch fish in a bowl, mildly fascinated by the banal comings and goings of a different species. There's a sofa, a lamp, TV, all somehow familiar. The men settle down to watch the match, their dinner on trays on their laps. Dad pushes the door closed and suddenly there is Kate in the room with them, but they can't see her.

Having faced down her past, Kate must now connect with her present to find the will to survive. She tries to touch them, to communicate, but to no avail. She sees them get a phone call, she knows it's about her, she can't comfort them or get them to see she is there....

Kate is pulled back into reality, she wakes with a start.

"Let me live! Let me live!"

She screams for rescue, my blood runs cold. I want to dive in and save her, give her the warmth from my body and breath from my lungs. The little light is shining, sometimes white, sometimes red. The piano plays gentle chords, something is trying to break through this darkness, like a glimpse of sunlight from a lovely afternoon...

Jig of Life

Having found her reason to live, Kate must reach out to the old lady she will become. Half in reality, half in dream, Kate sings, calling for her future to reach back and rescue her. The old woman brings life with her and a dance, a jig to keep the tug of the water at bay. But the Fish People are not done yet, they are not ready to let their prize return to reality. They call forth wave after wave, each mightier than the last. Strong, white waves, that roll across the stage, waves of satin driven by a team of white horses.

Kate is still trapped between reality and this dreamscape. She clings to the glimpse of her life that is to come.

"I put this moment here."

The voice of a loved one breaks through the dream, a brother, calling to his sister to give a kiss on the wind, then they'll make the land. Kate can taste her destiny, but will the Fish People let her leave their domain?

Hello Earth

Kate has raced the white horses and found a buoy, something solid to cling to in the deep blackness of the sea. She calls out to the earth, pleading to be seen. There is something bright in the sky, traveling fast.

"Just look at it go... just look at it go..."

The part of Kate still trapped in the dream has also found a buoy, the mirror of the one in the real world. Some of the other seafarers trapped there are already clinging to it, waving flares, faltering red light that barely penetrates the dark. Kate climbs on to the buoy. She sings...

"Hello earth, hello earth."

All the emotions I have fought to hold inside now come flooding out. Tears stream down my face. I weep for this woman, long for her rescue, but fear it is too late. The Fish People have come for Kate, they rise up out of the inky waves that lap around the buoy and catch her as she falls back into their arms. They slowly bear Kate away, carrying her down into the auditorium, a mournful chant underlining the impending sense of doom.

All other photos: Ken McKay/REX
Just when I dread that the worst has happened, my eyes flash to the screen once more. A hand reaches down from the sky, another reaches up from the waves and clasps it.

The Morning Fog

Dawn has broken, light is bleeding, breathing, speaking. The musicians, dancers, singers and Fish People sway around the stage. Kate returns from the wings to lead this celebration of survival, of second chances. The love that this fellowship feel for one another is evident in the smiles they share. They dance, play, sing, leading us out of that deep darkness. The audience sways along with them, our emotions wracked, but our souls light with joy. For a moment we are even cloudbusting (yay-yay-yay-yoh). Kate sings her thanks to her loved ones, her sisters, her brothers, her son. Then the final notes are plucked and the song is over.

Kate thanks us for being such an incredible audience, we can't believe she doesn't understand how lucky we are to be there. What an incredible show, what amazing artistry, what bravery and ambition. But wait, there's more? Apparently this was all only Act One. After a short break, Kate and the Fellowship will be back. What could be coming next? A red silk screen drops to cover the stage, on it, a single white feather...

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  1. Goosebumps. Your writing is so vivid, it is the next best thing to having been there.
    As a fan, not just of Kate, but of theater, I value these descriptions so much. Live performance is ephemeral. A script or cast album, photos or a review may give you the shape or sense of a play, but not always the essence, what it felt like to have been there. It is lovely to feel the experience, and not just sift through its archived remains.
    Thank you.

    1. Thanks Rob, your support means a lot. Glad you're enjoying them.