a dynamic stillness
Passion: a contemporary journey to the cross
The silence. The still, expectant, silence as I settled in, one of the last to arrive, to my seat in a side chapel of the St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh.
The Sacred anticipation – the blurb said the best places to experience this piece are holy spaces.
Then Dan Forshaw and Jan Payne break the silence with saxophone and oboe screams that resound not only in the hallowed space but straight through to the hearts of the gathered ones: this, they say from the first, this, is a story that hurts to tell and hurts to hear.
'Passion: a contemporary journey to the cross' is a poetic, performative telling of the story followers of Christ know so well. Billed as a dance / poetry piece, I was expecting more movement, but the dancers hold their poses, their stillness speaking eloquently of Love, of loss, of Divine invitation into liberation from all that would bind.
The poetry was from Malcolm Guite's Sounding the Seasons, and the poet himself spoke his words into their own dance in that space, that most sacred, most still space. His movements drew our attention to the words, to the emotions, to the characters the dancers embodied. For Claire Henderson Davis and Fraser Paterson portrayed different characters, were both women and men – Fraser as Mary holding Claire as Jesus in a motherly embrace, and at the end he was another Mary standing, in a pose at once perfectly still and yet dynamically alive, right foot planted, hands on the communion table on which Claire / Jesus lay, left foot with heel off the ground as if she wants to move towards him but cannot.
A female Jesus. Actually, in some ways the gender of the dancers was not important – a performer can embody a character of any gender if they inhabit them well enough, and love is love and that is the story I saw being told. In some ways, however, having dancers one of each gender helped to see the 'otherness' of whichever pair of characters were being portrayed at the time, an otherness without which love does not live, for love needs lover and beloved.
Their held gaze in about the centre of the piece demanded that we, the audience, look – not look away, as the poet said we, the crowd, would do – but to witness such intensity of presence one with another, such vulnerability, is confronting, disturbing, and look away we did, even if our gaze did then return.
After thus moving through stations of the cross, through a story of Divine Love, were sent with an emphatic, go in the peace of Christ and did not applaud, but sat instead, suspended still in that sacred space speechless in response to the story we had once again experienced for the first time.