Comrade Egg and the Chicken of Tomorrow: art and activism

Comrade Egg and the Chicken of Tomorrow, about a woman trying to save the world one chicken at a time, is theatre to watch out for. Part of the Litmus Fest at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington, a festival designed to support the development of new work and new ways of making work.

Bronya Deutsch of Mother Bunch (www.motherbunch.co.uk) a graduate of the Lecoq School for physical theatre in Paris, is clown, artist and activist par excellence. The exposure of the iniquity of intensive chicken farming and the dire consequences to the mental health of the factory workers is bitingly funny and so effective I’m surprised all the audience have not immediately written to their MPs to demand conditions in the meat processing industry improve or, better still, desist forthwith.

For theatre with a message to do its work, it has to be excellent and Bronya Deutsch excels.

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The End of the Hostile Environment?

Sadly this is not a look of triumph for the end of hostilities, nor yet anguish that she has created such harsh conditions for most of the country at large, more a wicked laugh that she is getting away with ruining the country.

Don’t it always seem to go…

Today we dug up a tree by its roots, snapping mercilessly and chopping with dobbers. Not a large tree, and not a huge job to remove it, but having lost shape and beauty it had grown unsightly. We laid the tree on the grass denuded of its branches and Sunny Boy posed with the hammer like a game hunter standing by a trophy. A robin perched bewildered, like an old boy come to see a childhood home where once he’d been happy. Only then were we wistful too. It had only been to please me that Sunny Boy dug it up at all.

Real Refugees

We have come to Spitalfields. Descendants of Huguenot refugees who found respite in London fleeing death and discrimination in France. Thousands were murdered because they were protestants.

The area, as much as is preserved, draws us in and we could imagine ourselves living here as if we too were creative types, Gilbert and George, Jeanette Winterson and others who now have the wherewithal, or even refugees as our ancestors living several families to a room on Brick Lane.

Our family survived, made a life for themselves and subsequent generations. No one says it was easy but the onus was not on them to prove they were bone fide. They were not harried but able to follow their trade, enrich the pool of skills, languages, nations already struggling to survive.

It’s not only plastic in the oceans that will be the shame of our generation if we do nothing, but the wilful blindness to the plight of refugees.

Real Refugees

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Wooden Boat with Seven People, by Kalliopi Lemos (2011), a monument to the lives and deaths of refugees, sits in the busy marketplace in Spitalfields the area of London where refugees have often found shelter and welcome.

The little wooden boat was abandoned in Greece having carried real refugees from Turkey. Daylight shows between its timbers where water would insinuate and weaken its joints.
Life-size metal migrants now sit forever forlorn in the gunwales where once men, women and children cast themselves on the mercy of the rest of the world little suspecting that the world has forgotten the meaning of the word.

Did they really set out in an open boat to cross an ocean? How many people? What are their stories? Where are they now?
Interesting in this context to read Andrew Rawnsley’s interview with Madeleine Albright in the Observer today, herself a refugee who became America’s first female secretary of state.

The Boxer

My daughter sent this picture the day we learned that my mother had died. Portentous and consoling that the formation of birds like a great force of nature is both a giant bird and a figurehead at the prow of a ship. I like to think of the passing of her soul – any soul – as such a moment, at once inexplicable, momentous and awe inspiring. Named affectionately, the Boxer, for her fight and her penchant for the telly and boxes of chocolates, it is good to think of her steaming ahead to unknown waters or even through those pearly gates.

Interview with an Author”

Honeymoon is your second novel, tell us about Honeymoon.

It’s a love story but it’s not a romance. A complicated, inconvenient past unravels during Rosie and Fergal Pierce’s short honeymoon on the West Coast of Ireland with revelations of death, betrayal and deceit that would seem to implicate Fergal. The truth is hard to find and threatens to wreck not only the honeymoon but lives of others too. Rosie faces hard decisions and decides to trust her own judgement and find her own way to help Fergal reclaim his past.

What was your inspiration for the book?

During a trip to research my family tree to County Clare I spent some time in a churchyard that overlooked the wild Atlantic Ocean. It was such a desolate and haunting place, a good place to lie for eternity and a good place to start a story.

What about the cover?

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? That silver embroidered moon unravelling. The artist’s sister is a friend of mine and I was cheeky enough to ask and she was kind enough to agree that I could use it for the front cover. The picture is called Moon Wave by Lateefa Spiker

What inspires you to write? Have you always been a writer?

I came late to writing, after I’d had a family, after I’d had a ‘proper’ job but the compulsion write was always there. Or, to be more exact, the compulsion to make up stories and what ifs and other endings to films. A story is rather like gossip. You want it to pass from mouth to mouth like wildfire, be embellished in the telling and the retelling. Writing it down it is a much slower process – never mind turning it into a book – but the wish for it to spread, hand to hand, by word of mouth is similar.

Why chose self publishing?

Life is short! My first book, Murielle’s Angel, was traditionally published and it’s a long, slow process even after you have a publisher.

Are you available to speak to local book groups?

Certainly. I would be delighted to discuss the book with reading groups. Authors need readers. All the characters a writer dreams up need readers to breath life into them.

What is the most valuable help readers give authors?

Apart from reading the book and talking about it and passing it on, one of the best ways is to write reviews on Amazon or Goodreads.

Where is the new book available?

The library should order it for you, the little shop, Pieces for Places in Barmouth stock it, otherwise it’s on line from Amazon. I have copies and can be contacted via my website. https://maryjhowell.co.uk

Do you have plans to write more?

Stories come from everywhere and nowhere. I’m always dreaming of something, and I certainly hope to.

Your first book is set in Spain, Honeymoon is set in Ireland would you say setting is important in your books?

Setting is important for me, personally, so I would think yes, very important. I am currently working on a story set in Dyffryn. I’m not sure where it will lead yet. I’ll have to wait and see.