7:00pm Sunday 12th July 2009
The Oxmarket Centre of Arts, Chichester (location)
No Rhyme….No Reason? The Poetry
of War Reflections
I wondered how many folk would turn out to listen to war poetry being performed at the Oxmarket Centre of Art in Chichester on Sunday 12th July. The 12th of July and war! But then it was Chichester not Ireland’s six counties….
I sat at the back having been saluted by others nibbling and drinking the refreshments offered by the Felpham ‘support team’ as we entered. I admired the art and information displayed around the walls of the arts centre and glimpsing through our programmes wondered what form this performance would take. The scene was soon set by John Bailey plucking the haunting Afghan musical instrument, the rubab and the tall elegant Veronica Doubleday’s chanting the mesmerising Baheh-ye jaw-e madar, an Afghan mother’s lament.
It was the poetry rather than war that enticed me to the Chichester Performance of ‘No Rhyme ….No Reason?’ What a pleasure then to listen to so many well chosen poems interpreted and enunciated so distinctly and meaningfully. I found myself mouthing the words of Byron’s Destruction of Sennacherib, Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade, and T. S. Elliot’s Murder in the Cathedral and examining the sentiments of many more poetry renderings. As narrators Christine West and Rod Beacham continuously posed questions about war, recent scenes of the brutal killings reported on TV began to flash through my mind reminding me too of my family’s accounts of futile wars. Their accounts of suffering brought about by such as the release of the Black and Tans in Ireland as we struggled towards independence, struggles reflected our own sad melodies and rebel songs over the ages are still with me. Then I reflected on the plight of so many other nations: Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, America, all over the world and here in Britain too - where there are no ‘winners’ - only suffering and the waste of countless lives - when war, war supersedes jaw, jaw.
...and Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered (Shakespeare: Henry V) Soldiers fed as fodder will not be there to glory in victory!
The presence of, and performance of poems by, contemporary serving soldiers Major David Hamilton and Lieutenant Colonel JM Brown thankfully served as a reminder that war poetry is not restricted to ‘dead poets’.
I considered the debate about a ‘just war’. Faced with the eternal dilemma of what to do as we struggle for peace and with our need for just basic requirements not even St Thomas Aquinas’ conditions for a just war offer us satisfactory answers.
There were originally three by Aquinas:
· The war must be started and controlled by the authority of state or ruler.
· There must be a just cause.
· The war must be for good, or against evil. Law and order must always be restored.
The Catholic Church added a fourth
· The war must be a last resort.
Thank you, Voices in Performances for so competently posing the questions in rhyme and rhythms that proved to be so evocative and helped me to review again my longing for peace.
What a wonderfully professional and polished performance. Such a high standard of acting, singing, aesthetic plucking and strumming of the rubab ...the costumes and dancing…so much so evocatively rendered by accomplished artists in appropriate roles. How skilfully your scripting managed to set about showing arguments on both sides while avoiding rhetoric.
Marion Dante 07/10/09
This moving and poignant performance presented by the accomplished Voices In Performance (VIP), directed by Julia Goodman, never failed but to bring tears to your eyes, made you laugh and feel guilty in equal measures. Drawn from an immense catalogue, the writers and actors managed to avoid obvious pitfalls and created a well though out and skilful picture of our 'human condition' ...WAR!
The two presenters and writers Christine West and Rod Beacham, lured us into a false sense of security, reason, and beauty , then led us to graphic horror. Material drawn from Aristophanes, Shakespeare and Tennyson was contrasted with the First World War poets, Kipling, Eliot and the unforgettable Pastor Martin Niemoller.
A 60's Ban The Bomb hippies protest led us towards a second world war reflection of 'our condition', chillingly reminding us of the four minute warning ' Your Attention Please' by Peter Porter. The evening drew to a close with readings by contemporary and serving Soldier Poets, Major David Hamilton and Lieutenant Colonel J M Brown (Soldiers With A Tattoo and The Availability Of The Dead ) - a very stark reminder of tomorrow's headlines and headlines for months to come.
The haunting voices were outstanding and never let you go. Julia was joined by Patrick Hastings, Clare Howard, Mark Mason Jones and Nigel Purchase in highly authoritative and commanding performances.
Music always plays its part in war and here beautifully provided by Roger Limb. However the outstanding contribution made by John Baily and Veronica Doubleday, with unique Afghan music ( An Afghan Mother's Lament and I Have A Rendezvous With Death) harrowingly reminds us of the dreadful forceful contribution civilians make towards our ambitions.
There were many young people there last night, and hopefully many more in the future will see this thought provoking production.