hard to be soft: lazarus and the birds of paradise
A fiery renaissance, a glamorisation of a working class youth. Northern. Irish.
I moved to Belfast from North London when I was ten years old. I had a strong London accent, and had never played on the street.
I joined St Louise’s Comprehensive college on the Falls Road Belfast. A huge, sprawling seventies building over Bog. With thousands of ‘Brown Bombers’ squawking inside. I heard once it used to be the biggest all-girls school in Western Europe. It was a city of young, awkward female energy. Nestled in beside the epic Falls Graveyard, with black taxis heaving themselves past through the rain.
Many of the girls practiced Disco Dancing for competitions. They were harsh strong girls. Bellowing their power out of their brown blazers. The movement was hard, fast and aggressive. Wiping sexuality and shapes out into space like weapons. This memory from school has inspired the second scene ‘the army’.
The boys school ‘Christian Brothers.’ Pristine short cut hair, Shiny glossy sports gear and kicked and howled at each other, the girls and the world. The girls roared back. GET OUT BRITS clumsily painted on the walls. Sharing a 20p cigarette at the wee shop. Head down. Dancing.
One night years ago my brother was coming home from the pub and he found a young lad hanging, he had to cut him down, he heard the death growl. Nowadays he hears the growl of desperation coming from the back of the peeler van (police van). I heard that Northern Ireland had the largest young male suicide rate in Europe. This has influenced me to make my show Hope Hunt with its creative outreach in detention centres. Scene four, the ‘Meat duet’, is part of this conceptual element, to raise male chi up, to make the desperate into deities.
My friend’s father told me once about seeing a human eyeball frozen overnight that stuck to a wall after a shooting battle the night before. It was looking right at him. We’ve never really talked about it but I know my Ma and Da grew up in the fighting. I can feel it in my Da’s Bones and the way he walks. I think a whole generation of People here are holding an era in their bones, in muscle memory, in tissue. It can seep out in the bar into their kinesphere and into others. A society aura that is holding. Holding a shit load of stuff.
In the town, on the bus. In the night. At super Shine. I can hear the wails of youth. The screeching Wheels of Joy Riders, Smicks, Hoods. The Towering sculpture of pallets, preparation for the 12th. A city in flames, of youth, of virility. The fire of boredom.
The physical States. The Practice of the Piece.
My Friend Aoife MacAtamney told me a story once of Lazarus. He was dead for Four days, his body stank as his flesh rotted in the cave. Jesus Came and brought him back to life. Lazarus Sisters then retaught Lazarus to walk, talk, eat, piss and swallow. A huge fully grown baby brought back to life. How painful it must have been for Lazarus to live through this, for his sisters to see him like this.
Rebirth and being completely at the mercy of your own body. Gravity Flailing like a soft pink baby in the air. Ridiculous and beautiful. Reminds me of Ketamine and MDMA
My Friend Paul Currie told me a story once of reversing the idea of a bird watcher and being a bird in the street watching the people.
What if the hoods, the millys, the fried egg in Blinkers were exotic elements of a paradise?
Squawking and fluffing their feathers out to the world In the beautiful ignorance of youth Of fire and Virility of a Passionate chi
'Taoist view the body as a miniature of the universe, filled with Tao, parts of the body have their counterparts to physical features of the universe' - Livia Khon, The Taoist Experience 1993.
Did you know that Crows can see way more colors than we can?
Maybe they’re not even really black at all, maybe they’re dead jazzy and over the top?
When a crow family has chicks if any of the chicks have any discoloring of the feathers they chuck them right out of the nest A whole pack of them is called a murder of crows You can get real tight into your own ways Surrounded by only people like yourself Tiocfaidh ár lá.
What if we took these aspects of Belfast. We heightened them in to a holy place. An existential wail, like a cough in the back of a peeler van.
I want to create a dance theatre work that abstracts the broken memories of my youth of Northern Ireland into a neon bright prayer.
Welcome to a bright white limbo.
‘Cleanlyness is next to godliness’ Nothing cleaner, more hard and more foreign to the steps of Divis tower, of an Ardoyne dog in a back yard. Than the purity of the White Cube? The Visual arts chapel. The gallery.
Inside the white cube – The ideology of the gallery space by Brian O’Doherty + Thomas McEvilley.
‘there is no time, this eternity gives the gallery a libmolike status; one has to have already died to be there’
My work attempts to play with the barrier between the flesh and the soul, the audience and the stage. To share kinetic experience. I’m motivated to create rough and pure dance. That smashes laziness into the ground with a dedication to a truthful body. To bring the sex and the punk back into the black box, the white cube, the body. Ireland.
Here’s to a weightless milky future kidz.
Hard to be soft was first published in DRAFF issue #3 in May 2016. More on Oona Doherty here.