WAS IT A DREAM I LOVED
“I have finally begun my Hérodiade, with terror because I am inventing a language which must necessarily arise from a very new poetics, which I could define in these two words: to paint not the thing, but the effect that it produces. Therefore the verse must not, in this case, be composed of words, but of intentions, and all language must be erased in the face of feelings..."
In the second half of the 1860s, one of the fathers of modern poetry, Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) worked extensively on what would become two of his most famous works: the never finished Hérodiade and The Afternoon of a Faun. Both of them were originally meant as dramatic works and later changed or adapted to poems (with many of the dramatic qualities still intact). The two principal characters, Herodiade (Mallarmé’s version of the biblical Salome, daughter of Herod) and the Faun, act as opposites—the poet would only create his cold and virgin princess in winters while consecrating the summers to the fiery and erotically charged faun. However, even though Herodiade apparently frantically shuns the touch of another human being and the Faun yearns for it through dreams of chasing nymphs, they are both doomed to solitude and a failure of the fulfilment of their dreams.
Mallarmé’s language is dense and complex, mirroring his poetic voyage to the sky (the Azure)—the absolute—only to be disappointed in finding nothing but a deep Void, then finally glimpsing, beyond the nothing, the inklings of pure Poetry and Beauty.
The performance is an exploration of the double character in theatre through the combining of Hérodiade and The Afternoon of the Faun. It is framed by two intertwined songs: a pagan incantation performed by Herodiade’s prophetic Nurse, and the song of the head of John the Baptist while it is being cut off and soaring through the sky (Herodiade alias Salome being, of course, the one who doomed him). In between we catch a glimpse of Herodiade and her Nurse in an almost Racinian dialogue as well listen to the Faun tell us how he might have chased and caught two nymphs, sleeping in the grass.The sterile princess and the hot-blooded miscreant create a clash of opposites where ice meets fire, repression challenges desire, the shimmering light of a stifling hot summer day reflects on a frozen lake with dead autumn leaves, the frivolous thicket gazes upon a tower of stones and iron, frissons of the flesh are stifled by obsessing over purity, light sparkling water takes on jewels, hidden in the dark earth while the seraphic Azure observes it all ...
Was it a Dream I Loved was produced as a dissertation performance at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London in May 2011.
See an excerpt from the show!
Was it a Dream I Loved
Written by Stephane Mallarme
Devised by the Cast and Crew
Directed by Peter Petkovsek
Original Music by Peter Zargi
Jay Choi (Herodiade / Nymph)
Anneika Rose (Nurse / Nymph)
Brett Brown (St John / The Faun)