They gather there in St Ellis's Parish
Where the land and sea battle their old battle
In a furnace with many mouths
Breathing hes and shes in and out
500 minutes of beginning that is not a beginning
Beneath a heavy, parched, sulphurous light
With two more banks each of 6 x 3
Rose on one side, lemon the other
A pair of gift boxes, Greek/Turkish delight
(This is where Europe edges and blurs.)
They stand and sit and hear and see.
See the Greeks regain the will to take on Troy
Hector pompous, tank-bound,
Achilles in a massive strop
Youthful changeless Gods
Blood and blood and blood and blood
All of it seen and none of it seen.
The actors acting without acting
No one does more than is done
Holding up this he, that she, like a suit
'Admire the handiwork'
For us to wear or not (so naturally we sometimes wore)
Nothing false, all bare-frank
Yet, when Nestor comes to sulking Achill
Begging him to leads the Greeks
(Llion Williams & Richard Lynch)
Two men in jackets, bodywarmers
Their spectacles insisting no spectacle
Thump hearts! hammer hearts!
Tighten lung and shoe still.
The now never more now.
Then the others
Building and unbuilding an unset non-set set
Careful, expert, delicate (unthumping)
Board and tyre, chair and rope
An Aegean archipelago of platforms
Like the camps round Ilium
Changeable as allies
The theatre squabbles around us
(Or with us.
At polite request
We part, we advance, we retreat
Like an army or a sea.)
The power of the wordthocks overwhelming
Consonants full of blood
Vowels full of dirt
Each one a punch to the heart
We suck in more air with each
"she" & "bronze" & "I will not fight for him"
Bruise words, a real knee-trembler.
No 'new play' so wordfast, so wordwhirled
Words on walls and in mouths
Living (and not living)
Red and read (and read).
A story thick with now
Grit on our eyes
Each second like sand
Each hour like water
Hundreds of chairs!
White, garden, plastic, stupid
Stacked and unstacked
But when assembled as a spiky palm
Or hurled into a wall or at a wall
"You've said that before"
And I repeat
(Who will deny the value of repetition now?)
Like the sound!
Massive mighty sound
Tectonic tones shifting glacially
Wide as a desert or a sea or cinemascope
Thick with sea-dark and sword, God-notes, eyeless deep
Bringing the huge out in and making the in an out.
With each hock of it
I stagger between its weight and its air
Loved by it and loving it
Poetry was never more theatre was never more poetry.
Mike Pearson and Mike Brookes' Iliad for the National Theatre of Wales is a staging of Christopher Logue's rendering of Homer as War Music and is currently being performed at Ffrwrnes, Llanelli. Yesterday was an all-day marathon showing all four parts and it was one of the most moving and powerful and intelligent things I have seen in a theatre. I adored it and still can't quite process it. It was, it was overwhelming.