Beccy Owen, 27 January 2013

(the audio of this session will eventually appear here…in the meantime, feel free to

check out my songs…shameless….absolutely shameless…….)

(Pic of fizog for memory* at end of report - please feel free to add your pics so we

have a ‘facial record’ of who was there. hehe)

* Not my memory. I know what I look like.


Micha Colombo

Anne Langford

Juliette Jeanclaude

Kath Burlinson

Anna Marsland

Ellis Kerkhoven

Mike John

Kate O’Connor

Andrew Piper

Kate Ninafrika

Regina Moudes (sp?)

Stella Duffy

Anyone else - please add your name to this list and feel free to assign your name next

to what you brought to the discussion. I partly took notes in the session and partly

transcribed from the audio recording (which isn’t always clear). Apologies if I’ve got

names wrong/attached wrong comments to wrong names! Please amend as you see



Summary of discussion:


I’m a musician, songwriter, poet, prose writer, theatre maker and performer. I'm based

in Yorkshire and work all over. I'm currently making a piece of theatre that’s weaving

together the ancient Welsh myth/story of the woman behind my middle name -

Cerdiwen - with recent autobiographical experience of an abusive relationship.


There's been a little bit of development work with dance students and my music,

working with Red Ladder Theatre company. I called the session because I wanted to

know what interested people about this ‘weaving’. As theatre makers, what tickles us,

challenges us, creates problems for us, why would we bother to do this with myth,

what does it provide, what can we give back to it, what are our experiences - good and

bad - of other shows that do this, and anything else that comes up. Mostly I’m

interested in how to make the ancient relevant to ‘now’ beyond it being a ‘useful’ story

structure, and how I might marry the ancient language and situation of myth with the

contemporary reality of the on stage version of me and my story

Kath: If you’ve already got a character who’s a shape shifter, then you can work it so

that this charactger can move between the realms of the mythic and the every day.

Look at Carol Churchill’s play The Skriker. Central character is a shape-shifter. She

moves very strongly into different identities. Myths from the North of England

juxtaposed with contemporary story about real women in the world. The language is a

whole extraordinary journey in and of itself. Don’t be put off by the first speech. The

language is shapeshifting in the opening speech in very interesting ways. That’s a

useful bit of research.

Also, you don’t have to have two characters - you can have somebody who is moving

between the realms and the level of existence. This is one thing to think about.

You’ve got the story and the points of the narrative around which to organise the

exploration of moments. It’s about picking which medium to use. Working with a team.

Are you creating it an in it.

Me: There will be a director and dramaturgy as well. I’ll be feeding in writing. Open

Space process.

Perhaps we all have our own mythology. We place structure, narrative, find new ways

of thinking about our lives by creating our mythologies - we inhabit archetypes on a

daily basis via the stories that we tell. Villain, hero, etc. We’re always constantly mixing

fact with interpretation whether we realise it or not.

Classical approach - All myth is a way of explaining what is already the case. The

world is here - how did it get here. These are the facts,

Juliette - we need a meaning. We can’t just leave it with facts. Life is meaningless

without myth? We like it, it’s a way of sharing. I just read my astrology, it was really

saying ‘please, write plays, write stories, so that you experience and understand the

characters through the dramas, and then you don’t have to have them happen in your

family’ A way of having compassion through the act of theatre

Someone else - making something internal into an external ‘monster’.

Beccy- it’s a cathartic thing. Like dreaming about something and letting it go. I think

that’s why I write songs. I write really sad songs, but I’m not a particularly sad person.

Maybe I would be if I wasn’t telling in the songs. Therapeutic?

Someone else: Are you wanting to root the myth in the reality of NOW, or is it more


Me: I don’t know yet. I think that’s a really good question. I like the idea that it’s based

in now, with a presence and a presentness. Almost that the myth is inside the

contemporary character, and the character of Ceridwen is in her, spilling out.

Someone then mentioned The Anderson Project - story of the dryad. Story of the

dryad. Interspersed three characters with the story of the driad. Didn’t totally integrate,

told it separately. Canadian composer going to work with a Belgian opera company.

Separate scenes of different things. All about raising your head above the parapet -

dryad is a tree and wants to come to life. Is given a day of life and then she dies. I

can’t quite remember.

Mirror - daughter of king, falls in love with father, arranges for nurse to help her seduce

him by using a myrrh tree.

Mike: I’ve been thinking about the idea that people create myths or they have

fantasies thrust upon them. I don’t mean in the obvious way, of the new makes us all

believe in the War on Terror. Although that’s partly true. Latter - For instance a

schizophrenic. angels in america. Certain characters in that who go mad. Start to

believe in these situations, and they’re spontaneously coming out of the characters

because of the drugs they’re on or they’re psychological state. There’s this helpless

myth making where you start to believe that everyone around you is wearing a mask,

because you’re going mad. Then there’s also deliberately, consciously creating myth,

which is closer to my work. Story telling, invention…There’s an interesting split, which

is still pertinent now. Why do we create stories. Some people don’t really have a

choice, they enter into this state of affairs. I find the division quite provocative.

Boundary between those two groups is provocative. Choice or no choice?

Someone else: Mental health aspect of it. Not in the way that myths have been

appropriated by Freud. i.e. Oedipus. Myth is an outward thing - we create new myths

all the time. Everyone has an avatar, an alter ego, which is a myth. You cannot use

them to analyse, or pathologise someone’s fantasies, but support the fantasies,

because that’s just their reality. People who hear voices, or see things, their own view

of the world. There are therapeutic methods that don’t try to work out what’s wrong

and ‘solve the myth’, that could say ‘ok, that’s your reality, i’ll engage with you in the

terms of your reality’.

Andrew: One of the interesting things about telling myth is how much they reveal

about the storyteller. When you think you’re being calm and controlled, because you’re

dealing with symbols that have strong psych. resonance: forests, monsters, homes, all

sorts of things have resonances around aspects of our psyche. Often a storyteller

might find themselves identifying with a certain character. Often the protagonist but not

necessarily. And having aspects of their personality bleeding through.

Interesting and sensual.

Mike: I’m interested in this stuff, but it’s also fuddy duddy. It’s old. As far as now goes -

who cares? Academics care. They’re a bit fetishised. Philip Larkin - ‘myth kitty’. If

you’re a mediocre poet, delve into the myth kitty…post-modernism, you can mix and

match from anything and use it to help your product/brand. It’s all good to sit here and

nourish the idea of myth, but you don’t have to be doing it. I mean it as a provocation.

The myths have always been tested against men - using myths for their current

situation The myth-teller is revealed - whether an individual or a culture. So Carol

Churchill - all about 80’s feminism.

Beccy: back in Celtic times, they didn’t have the same work ethic they danced, they

had dream parties, took drugs, all these things that existed prior to the structures they

created. The idea of shamanistic dreaming, and lucid dreaming….Ceridwen comes

from that culture.

Mike: Jerusalem.

Stella: Jerusalem. Green Man.

Beccy: It’s as much about anarchy as anything else for me.

Stella: Joseph Campbell. ‘The Writer’s Journey’ Christopher Vogel. Mindel’s Shaman’s

Body. At the end of every chapter he gives an exercise.

Mike: As a poet you can’t get sacked or put in prison. As a poet you are totally free.

You’re not a soldier or a brick layer. Where do we draw the lines for professional

standards? Starts with explanation of the historical role of the myth maker, from a time

where England wasn’t England, and it was a matriarchy.

Someone else: Rowena Warner’s books are great. Relevant to this. Monuments and

Maidens. Beast to the Blonde.

Kath: What are

Mike: Biggest challenge to bringing mythical material into contemporary theatre

making - to keep the challenge. Not to take myth for granted as a commodity. Should

be problematic. Problem comes when people just take myth, we’re constantly needing

to be testing and using the play to test it’s relevance. This book is all versions of the

same story told by different playwrights. Radically different. Different ideas about what

matters in the story. Electra. The stage is a space in which you question and challenge

the myth. Recommended Greek Tragedies, Volume 2. David Greene and Richmond

Lattimore Editors.

Beccy: Series of books which are modern re-telling’s of the Mabinogion. So it’s also

about finding a way to make it accessible for everyone. One option is to spend the

beginning explaining the story, which is what we did with Red Ladder Theatre

company in a development piece with Northern Dance students at the end of last year.

Language an interesting question. Mabinogion (where Ceridwen is from) originally in

Welsh. I’m interested in playing with this along with the English text (translated from

Mabinogion) and the English text

Jullette: Don’t take it for granted that everyone knows the myth. Even if can’t

understand everything. Can understand things in our body, rather than our mind. Even

if don’t speak English, can have access. Cherry Orchard in Greek - cried,

laughed…just because of the physical. I Drank vodka on stage. It was an amazing

experience and I didn’t understand one word.

Beccy: I had the same experience with Geko doing the overcoat.

Stella: Problem in not acknowledging the power of the myth. It might be stronger than

us. That it might be real. That’s you’re calling something in. Maybe they’re not just fairy

stories. When you call something in and then you try to have power and control over it,

without acknowleding it has it’s own. Exciting but dangerous. They have power. I don’t

think they’re just stories. We need to call them in with honour.

Someone else: Difference between a myth and a story? Myth has something primal

about it?

Stella: We can make primal stories that can become a thing of itself. ‘We know we’re

tapping into something that’s primal, and it’s more than just a story’. Maori culture -

Stella, grew up beside - full of oral culture. Wasn’t written down until white people

came. Some stories, spoken, tatooed, deep and noone would ever think they weren’t.

If you invoke a name, it matters. We do it over-lightly sometimes. Some dance

movement, like the haka, which women can do, some that men can’t do. Old women,

who just have such. Different tribes use them differently. People haven’t changed for

tens of thousands of years.

The Song Lines - Bruce Chapman. Aborigine culture is to tell stories as a way of


Walter Benjamin - writing at the start of the 20th Century. Essay called the storyteller.

Culturally we’re not used to telling long long stories.

A well told joke is a miniature story. Is part of oral tradition.

The reason stories survive in the oral tradition is because they’re memorable.




Is there any theatre that ISN’T mythic?

Inconclusive discussion follows!

We look for commonality, or even the opposite ‘I’m not like that’ in every story.

Someone else, (with furious nods from Beccy): Perhaps more interesting is to take the

‘now’, the reality, and stretch it out so that it’s spilling over into myth. Perhaps my

piece is to do with the extremes in the human expression. Like song - choosing the

moments to really, really bring it in because you absolutely have to.

Someone else: One of the qualities of the myth is that we don’t know when they

started. No time or place.

Angels in America - boundaries stretched. It’s not two separate things, but one

reaching out to the other. That works quite well. It’s a fine line. It’s about the access

into the myth. People are either into myth or not. In Angels in America. All carefully

justified. Not just arbitrary. Myth opens or deepens the possibilities. Brought it at the

edge of conventional reality, necessary part of the storytelling.

Jerusalem - audience as the ‘them’, the new development. Central character is on the

edge of reality.

The Singing Detective - the music in this is more textural counterpoint, not from an

emotional extreme, slightly strange segue into music. We accept it as a convention.

We’re challenged by it and we accept it. It’s not comfortable or accommodating.

Beowulf - Banana Bag and Bodice. Brilliant version, in Edinburgh last year

Very easy to do this kind of thing badly. Fundamentally, raising interesting questions

about some of the ways we work with epic texts, the frames of reference, negotiation

with styles, the plots, impose contemporary Audience need to be sure of what world

they’re meant to be in.

Kath: Where you’re working with ancient texts, the negotiation with the style and to

some extent the plot, impose reality onto this allegorical material - can make you feel

uneasy. Badly done, as a member of the audience, I was never sure what world I was

supposed to be in.

Session finishes with Mike reading opening speech from Electra, from Greek

Tragedies, Volume 2. David Greene and Richmond Lattimore Editors.

Final conversation was about the effect of a ‘non actor’ reading to start with, and an

‘Essex Boy’ reading an ancient story….Myth and now. Although it’s a myth, starting

with the farmer and his individual circumstances and the world of the play, feels real.

The voice that the myth and the story gets told in is really important. That was myth

and now - a guy from Essex reading out Euripides. Then about radical approach of

Euripides - starting with a farmer. And then at the end, leaving you in doubt about the

existence of the Gods.


Karen Armstrong - A Short History of Myth - interesting book about why we need myth

and return to myth and structures. Short. Accessible. Looks at Indian archetypes.

Reappear. Looks at why socially we keep going back.

The Skriker - Carol Churchill

Seven Basic Plots - useful to read this

Tales of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim. Unpicks plots. Child development texts.

Man and his Symbols - Jung. Archetypes. Psychological significance they have to

human development.

Angela Carter’s - The Bloody Chamber.

Robert LePlage - the Anderson Project.

Berkoff’s Greek - not separateing the myth from reality but totally contemporarised.

Sheds light on what the contemporary story is about.

Angels in America. Boundaries stretched so that they reach INTO a mythical realm.

Acces into the myth.

Joseph Campbell, the hero’s journey, masks of the hero. Old and heavy. Christopher

Vogler. Luke Skywalker.

Arnold Mindell’s The Shamen’s Body. End of every chapter he gives an exercise.

The crowning privelige of Robert Graves. It’s a series of lectures he gave at Oxford,

concerning professional standards in poetry.

Marina Warner - Monuments of Maidens. From the Beast to the Blonde.

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break. Novel. Stephen ?

Greek Tragedies, Volume 2. David Greene and Richmond Lattimpre Editors.

Finding a way to make it accessible for everyone. Spend the beginning explaining the


Cherry Orchard in Greek - cried.

The Song Lines - Bruce Chapman. Aborigine culture is to tell stories as a way of


Walter Benjamin - writing at the start of the 20th Century. Essay called the storyteller.

Rowena Warner’s books - compelling and easy to read. Monuments and Maidens.

Beast to the Blonde.


Music, StoryMusic, psychology, New writing, storytelling, Open Space, therapy,

Storytelling, Welsh, music, beccy owen, abuse, autobiographical, reality, welsh, celtic,

Open space, storymusic, Dance, myth, dance, new writing, open space