One of the aspects which has contributed greatly to the success of the production, but which I have not given sufficient credit to until now, is the music. There has been a pair of musicians for the performances, playing live on the gallery overlooking the playing area: James, the musical director, accordion player, and occasional trumpeter for the fanfares (and also senior gardener at the Ecohub) and his friend Iman, the guitar teacher from the School of Peace. Live music is such an important component of live theatre, and many have commented on how much they have added to the whole experience.
First of all, the theme of journey has been a major way in which the play has echoed the actors’ own experience, and this has been enhanced by the theme James has used each time Grusha has continued her walk, a haunting theme that I now find difficult to get out of my head. Secondly, (though it has taken some time to get this right) the tension at key moments – Grusha defending Michael by attacking the soldier, crossing the bridge, and the two occasions at the plays’ climax when the child is pulled from the circle – all have the drama heightened by the rising low chords of the accordion. Finally, the play ends with a dance, with the iconic Zorba tune accompanying the initial traditional Greek circle steps, which, as it becomes faster and faster, transforms into an exuberant Afghan celebration, which has the whole audience clapping along. Originally, of course, this was picked out on a bouzouki, but I think I now prefer the accordion version.
This was our final performance, the extra one brought about by, as they say, public demand. As is so often the case, it did not reach the near perfection of the penultimate show – I will have to stop predicting this in my final pep talk, for maybe my warning against it is the very thing which brings it about. It was, nonetheless, a strong performance and much appreciated by its audience. I think that each audience has “got” the story, and enjoyed both the theatricality of the telling, and the real skill of the people telling it, while there is no doubt that the cast have been infected by the magic of theatre. I just have to hope that the school can find some way for it to continue. Whether or not that happens, all of the participants will have what I promised them at the start, a memory which will last them all their lives.