Dinefwr Literature Festival

GaryDirecting, saltpeter, Tonseisha - The Man Who Abandoned The World


Tonseisha - Dinefwr WeekendI spent the weekend in Wales at the Dinefwr Literature Festival as part of ‘The Brautigan Book Club Trilogy’.

It rained a lot, two of the performance tents were closed down on friday due to strong winds causing a little upheaval, but my memories of the weekend, the people I worked with and the people I met, are all joyous. There is nothing better than being with creative people as they create things.

Friday event:

I played a small part in the event  ‘Please Plant This Book’ with the Brautigan Book Club. Members of the club have recreated Richard Brautigan’s book of poems for the first time in more than forty years. The poems themselves are printed on packets of seeds – the idea being that the the seeds should be planted, so the poems ‘grow’ and spread. This is the first time the book has been reproduced since 1970, but hopefully it will not be the last. The copyright allows the book to be reproduced as long as it is given away free.

Fuschia Vorenberg and Vera Chok talked through the background and purpose of the Brautigan Book Club, the book itself, and its production (I myself played a minor role in the preparation of the book – lots of cutting and pasting, and pasta eating). We read all of the poems (since you ask, I read ‘Parsley’), and then headed out to the garden at Dinefwr Park to plant a pomegranate tree.

Due to tent closures this event took place in the Hunga Munga room run by the Hunga Munga collective (whose slogan is ‘Make Stuff, Make Friends, Make a Mess’). I ended up doing some knitting for the first time in forty years – brilliant.

Saturday events:

Musicians Gruff Rhys, Martin Carr, and H Hawkline presented ‘The Brautigan Suite’, a selection of new songs created out of their shared admiration for Brautigan.

We then presented an extract from ‘Tonseisha – The Man Who Abandoned the World’ by Erik Patterson. I have been working with Composer Kim Ashton to morph this play into an opera for saltpeter (NB there is endless debate about whether ‘opera’ is the correct word as it is not ‘sung through’ – but as Kim composes opera it’s good enough for me), and this was our first opportunity to put something in front of an audience. Beautiful performances from Vera Chok, Sean Patterson, Jamie Wood, Philippa Boyle (soprano), Ilze Ikse (flute), and Kim on the electric typewriter. Many thanks to Jack Robson who handled the technical side of things.

Not entirely convinced that people were ready for a snippet of an opera/play in a windy tent in rural Wales, but I enjoyed it, and there were some very nice comments.

Sunday event:

The afternoon saw Ianthe Brautigan-Swensen talking about her father, and reading movingly from her memoir –You Can’t Catch Death. Adrian Gillott adroitly posed some questions to Ianthe, and the audience shared some personal stories about their relationship with Richard Brautigan’s writing.

We ended with the assembled audience joining us to reprise the reading of the poems from Please Plant This Book.

Must mention Tilly Brooke of saltpeter who co-produced the whole trip and our events with Vera Chok, and who was a tower of strength and good humour throughout the weekend.

And the pigs in the picture? Well, we stayed in a cottage near the festival site over the weekend, which had a small fenced off area for a pair of pigs. These (we thought it was our fault naturally) escaped into the cottage garden on friday afternoon. Mild panic ensued, and I personally delivered the immortal line “Actors, stay away from the pigs” (and they say directors don’t care about their actors). However the pigs proved both endearing and resourceful. After we had managed to coax them back into their little compound (Tilly must have been a pig-wrangler in another life) and shut the gate, they simply jumped over the fence. We then let them roam pretty freely (not sure the owners of the cottage will be that impressed by the gardening they undertook on the lawn – boy can pigs dig). I will draw a veil over the antics of the Newfoundland dog (that also resided at the cottage) and the pigs, but I can say is that in my new found experience the Newfoundland as a breed, appears to delight in licking the ears of sows with which it has attempted (and failed) sexual congress.

I’d love to share more, but as they say, you had to be there. Basta.