'The Walk’ describes a dream journey across Dartmoor culminating in a vision of a more sustainable future. This poem (by Mark Beeson) was described by Ted Hughes as 'powerful... so different from anything else, in good ways, and.. full of unique and marvellous things.' The project aimed to inspire all ages with The Walk's vision of a more sustainable future, and its impact on the artists, young people and children who interpreted the scenario through shadow puppetry, drama, dance, music and object-collecting walks. The project was supported by a Grants for the Arts Award from Arts Council England.
Drawings by Sarah Vincent, used as projections in performance
I woke one night to a storm outside. Suddenly I was in the same storm Being hurried away over hedges And telegraph poles through the darkness. I passed moorland and tors till I knew I stood in another world. The murk Of a gnarled wood sank before my eyes Down the valley. I heard the strong wind Howling and whining among the trunks. Fear'd have kept me back, had not a voice Cried from that turmoil, 'Come,' again, 'come!' And I was forced it seemed, half-willing, To make my way down a steep pathway. Rocks strewed the wood's floor, wet with rain, Unwelcome hulks which I tripped against. Darkly I went. Then to me walking A kind of shadow appeared, not man I thought, nor woman either yet still A human shape. A slow light crept up Between the trees like a winter dawn. I saw, cried out. 'Hush,' the shadow spoke; 'I am one you met in life,' it said, But still it was a stranger to me. It beckoned. 'I will be your guide now, I was human once and know your fears.' Soon the trees passed, opening onto A dull, brownish landscape. More figures Came and went, each featureless, but each Rendingly human, disturbing me As if I had seen a friend far off, Then drawing near had found it was not. 'And who are these?' I asked. 'You met them,' My guide said, 'in another circle. But no delays. Time will not wait long.' 'If I knew these,' I cried, 'why can't they Recall me? I am no different now.' 'They do,' it said, 'but are oblivious.'
The Walk used two different performance formats to interpret the poem - a shadow puppet play and a dance drama. The Walk poem features shadows and dancing figures extensively, and interpreting the poem through different formats, in conjunction with the collecting walks of the outreach programme, made it more accessible to a wider public. One of the main aims of the project was to develop and provide a platform for young emerging artists on Dartmoor, and a residential held at the Dartmoor Training Centre at Pixies Holt and sensory dance workshops held at Lustleigh and Leusdon enabled intensive fieldwork on the background to the narrative poem.
Extract from The Walk Shadow Play performance at St Lawrence Chapel, Ashburton
Extract fromThe Walk Dance Drama outside at Fingle Bridge, in partnership with the National Trust at Castle Drogo
We passed along thin evening lanes Under a stretch of fruitless orchard, Its blossom starring in grey lichens On the trunks. Here old shapes strove upwards By a devious means; some had cankers, Some bore the lipped wounds of wire bulging, Some had suffered amputations. They held onto the sky with toothless Black gums, their limbs waving as blunt as A tarantula's in the dusk wind. Entering by a gate, we went on Beneath low branches, ducking downwards To a stream; this a clapper stone bridged Here, and near it rose a giant apple. By the faint moonlight which bathed its trunk I saw my hand sink in where I leant. I fell backwards, half-landing in the Water. As I looked up, bewildered, A face I had seen elsewhere bent down And blocked out the moon. 'Who are you then?' It quizzed, like a reflection and an Echo; 'where have you met me? tell me.' 'Who am I?' I reiterated In my dazedness, 'where have I met you?' And the face, repeating me likewise, Asked of itself those very questions And answered: 'At a children's marriage I was wedding guest. The bright sun burst On the naked winter fruit trees and Forced out their shadows. Later we walked - Quickly the sun lowered, quickly fell, Reddened and grew large, briskly the wind Rose, bringing the coolness of the sea To wipe the sweating trees, rocking them, Blowing light out like a spinnaker. A dog barked, contrasting three thin aerials With a sound; a churchyard rose in our minds Where grasses leant on their shadows, and the claw Stood still in legend. We have no shadow, We are limbs out of the trees, and aware Of the evening only in the knife of wind At our backs, that we laugh sometimes, That we bend sometimes, stretching Over into night grafted on the near hillside.' The mouth within the face moved no more, And in a moment the moon again Shivered on the mercurial stream. I climbed from the bank and crossed the bridge To where my guide waited with sad eyes Lamenting the waste: 'Time will not wait,' Was the look sent to make me hasten.
Music of Non-Recognition from the dance drama
The Walk Residential near Dartmeet with leaders Tom Greeves and Ros Maynard (addressing the group)
The Walk Residential - exploring the River Dart
The Walk - movement workshop with Clive Mendus of Complicite
Mark Beeson with Clive Mendus
Grace Swordy leads a Walk Family Learning Workshop at Postbridge