Inviting us to follow Don Quixote, in spirit if not in deeds, Chris set the scene for our journey into the dreamtime with his usual panache, declaiming the Don’s manifesto before moving seamlessly into the story of his early life up to his time at drama school where he trained alongside a little-known actress called Helen Mirren. Somehow, we were suddenly transported to the world of Norse legend, following Thor and Loki in their struggles with the giants, returning briefly to the “real” world of childhood vicarage garden parties and innocently enticing tramps (it was a different world!) Next came the Arthurian legend of Percival, the Fisher King, and the Grail before we found ourselves in the explanatory myth of how vultures came to have bare heads, through interaction with a buffalo (not one for the faint-hearted!). Next to Greek myth and Danae’s “Me, too!” moment with Zeus which resulted in the birth of Perseus with its echoes of Moses’ journey down the Nile, and his subsequent vanquishing of the Gorgon (no real parallel with Moses’ story there – unless one counts the Pharaoh!) A brief diversion into the ethics of retelling stories from outside one’s own ethnicity led to a First Nations version of the myth of Orpheus & Eurydice, with Coyote taking the role of Orpheus – of how one must come to terms with the death of a loved one.
Bringing the journey around the world’s dreaming to a close, Chris ended with a full-throated repetition of the title song, accompanied by Ken Patterson who had provided musical accompaniment throughout the evening on a variety of musical instruments as well as contributing his own tale of Sir John Franklin’s fateful dream of finding the North West Passage.
As well as the stated aim of dreaming dreams, impossible or otherwise, the evening provided food for thought. I have already mentioned the ethics of possible cultural appropriation where storytellers have been told that they may not tell stories “belonging” to a particular ethnicity. Surely, if it is so sacred to its native culture, it should not be told outside that audience. Once a story is released from the confines of its original culture, does it not become part of the world’s story and, therefore, available for retelling – provided that its origin is acknowledged?
Chris also alluded to the sad fact that many modern Greeks are no longer familiar with their own rich mythology. This is probably due to the dead hand of the Orthodox Church regarding talk of gods and goddesses as pagan and a direct contradiction to the creation myths of Christianity. Storytelling plays an active role in keeping alive the old stories, that play such a part in the history of humankind and its dreams and that survive all attempts to suppress them, whether by state or religion.
Mark Benjamin 5th Oct 2019