Yesterday I had one of those rare moments when something you’re working on suddenly falls into place, the many disparate elements of thought and experience slotting together to create the whole piece in a single bright flash. It happened with regards to the one-man play I’ve just started working on, but have been thinking about and living with for some time.
Preceding that were one or two co-incidental occurrences that are often the harbingers of such moments. For example, I was re-working the Tat Man’s birth-story, and finding that he wanted to say more about his mother’s people, those “travelling folk”. I was writing that in the pub room in Malvern. The next day on our way back we encountered those very people – coming round a large roundabout outside Worcester, the traffic held up and jammed by an entire company of such travelling folk, progressing at their own slow pace along the road with wagons and carts, all pulled by horses, and one or two outriders riding horses themselves. A wonderful sigh – another, slower world and existence dropped down into our own fast-paced blinkered one, and causing consternation and chaos.
In part, that is the world the Tat Man is conjuring up in his stories, tales from that world, one closer and more integrated with the natural, uncivilised world.
And what is the image, the symbol of that wild world, that is particularly apt for the Tat Man?
Horses. It’s obvious.
The play is about horses. Wild horses, war-horses, magical horses. The relationship between us and the horse, which is our animal-spirit, our untamed, uncivilised, integrated selves. Walsall is a horse town, but one that made a name for itself through the taming and subjection of horses, in its making of saddles, harnesses etc. The Tat Man’s aim, through the telling of the stories, is to free the wild horses, let loose those natural energies that are vital to our existence.
But it’s more personal to him too. He needs to tell these stories because of a crime he has committed – a crime against horses, against the wild, living spirit. In some way he has betrayed a horse, who may also be a woman (the female horses goddess), and so has cut himself off from that natural life, those raw energies. I know a story that, if I can rework it well enough, will fit this perfectly. He needs to tell stories not only to expiate this crime. This is what he says about it, and which I wrote down for him.
“And that’s why I tell these stories. To try and put everything back together, all the broken pieces, the rags and tat of my life. Make something whole of it again. And I’ll keep on telling them till I do. I’ll keep on trying.”
So, he stands for the wandering, restless part of ourselves seeking to re-integrate our broken spirits with the natural world and its energies.
Now it’s a matter of trying to capture all that in the play.