Anthony Herman is a student of the University of Helsinki, studying English Philology. He is a dedicated writer and reader, writing a mixture of prose, poetry and drama. He is also active in theatre: he has produced, directed, and acted in different productions, and he is an avid fan of musicals.
The following creative review is inspired by the theatre event entitled “Undertone: a Proposal for Legal Loitering”, an all-night-long amalgam of performances from 08 pm - 05 am that took place in Tiivistämö on November 27th of 2021. The show was put together by a group of creative associates that were convened by Geoffrey Erista. The show expresses the subcultures of electronic music and the ballroom scene, all the while paying tribute to the active creation of safe spaces.
It’s cold. My breath is a cycling puff of mist; I match the factory pipes smoking up the sky around me. I fear I am lost, and the vast empty lot enveloping my sight is of no comfort. My mind alarms for a sanctuary. My fingers are numb, scorched frozen into icicles: I long for homeostasis. I was told of a space that unarms, and I feel it nears me, as if alive — I foresee the future in the flags welcoming me, and I’m startled by all the glittering mirrors already proving wrong my every expectation of what is to come.
A step through the doors and I’m guided by kind faces toward novel places, told I will experience a transformation. At this moment, I cannot fathom just how true this will come to be: an old-new world is awaiting me.
I’ve come to the entrance of the venue, where everything begins. A woman with a tranquil smile stands with an otherworldly certainty bathing her gaze. I am transported into a forest lit by a soft, weeping moonlight: her tears light the way as I step over roots and duck under branches. The woman’s smile widens, as her bright, hazy eyes beckon me forth. I see now that her palms are outstretched before her, cupping flower petals.
Next to her is a fountain of blue and violet, overflowing with the abundance of secret promises, vows that honour through all of time the ideals of love and glory. The petals that have found their home in its depths flowed and floated, swearing to me with the oath of a mother that there is beauty yet to be seen.
The fountain woman presents her petals, telling me (her sonorous voice echoing like an ethereal harp) to pick a petal, to make a wish, and then place the petal in the fountain of dreams. Without hesitation, I wish happiness to the one I love, and drop the petal, watching it drift into the depths to join its sisters. In a fraction of a moment, the fountain fills with whispers, as each petal reveals to me the swirling dreams of everyone who has come before me. I see dozens of scenes of happiness and peace, of freedom from fear, of comfort and contentment, and I live them all in a second like they were each of them the length of a hundred years. A deep and swelling wave of calm swims its way through me, and I look up to the weeping moon to see that she is smiling in harmony with the fountain woman — and now, me.
“When you are ready, step through the drapes of transparency. Welcome to everywhen.” Her words melt through me, and my smile only widens as I turn to face the drapes. The moonlight sings me a lullaby, and the blue and violet that glow from the fountain wave goodbye to me. There is no doubt left in me now: I am willing to immerse myself into any world that opens itself to me. I desire it, and as I step through the transparent drapes, that clean away any thought and feeling left in me from the outside world, I not only desire it — I become it.
I have stepped into the room of transformation, the next space that we are to occupy in this venue. A set of doors glare at me from the other side of the room, and I know this is not the last room we will be facing tonight. Pink lights enlace me, and plants overflow every corner. I am in a greenhouse; I have been brought here to grow. Leaves hang down to brush at my shoulders, and I stand serenely, mesmerised by the pink that colours them, that colours me. Bodies surround me, others who have come here to seek, to explore, to grow. We are not in the present, that much I know. In these fractions of moments we’ve taken in passing through the cleanse of the transparent drapes, we have travelled through time — fractured it, so that we are everywhere: everywhen.
I look up, and my eye catches a disco ball hanging above me. I see myself splintered across eons, barely hanging onto every spiralling reflection of myself that spills and projects images splayed open like beacons of hope. My every movement feeds the fires within, and with their light I see in each mirror my future, my past, my present: women with feathers twirling an enticing dance in a far-off field of wheat, the sun weaving its way through every fibre; a man stripped of shirt with movements like the ocean’s tide, beckoning, pleading in darkness for light — in a moment’s change a bright matador that dares darkness to intrude; a woman in white robes, swaying and swinging with joyous freedom through the halls of a pale temple; a breathing pile of velvet morphing through its chrysalis, opening up into something vulnerable, bare…
A sound calls somewhere yonder, and my eyes escape the prisms enfolding me. I must move forward. A great work awaits.
My transformations have begun. I have been fed the honey of life, and it burns down my throat like a salve to my questions. I need no words for the answers I witness, every step transports me to what I can only describe as beyond: beyond some place, beyond some time, to every place, every time. Stillness only comes when I stop, when I find a sight that calls me to stay. Somewhen to my left, a dresser calls me to step forth. I turn to him, and enter into a church, facing to see a priest with rope for a face. The man with the face of rope guides me to a dressing room, where he addresses me with a sanctity of welcoming: he is glad that I’m here. My moon smile still lingers, though her light feels a lifetime ago. He guides me to the racks of clothing, and my steps devise a symphony — until striking a hollow note, as I look down and notice that I have stepped on a trap door. It creaks like a premonition, but I ignore it.
The priest drapes me in beige and graces me fit for the feast to come. I ask what feast is to come, but he is silent, refusing to tell me anything — yet the silence, disagreeing with the inevitability of its existence, breaks free of him, becoming its own entity. Feeling I ought to know of what is to come, the silence performs a rebellion, taking siege of the church, surrounding it, successfully invading it, as if to alarm me of the impending sound that is to explore its way through my veins and settle in my bones. I do not question this, and quickly escape through the trap door as the silence invades our dressing room. The dresser smiles the moon’s smile (we all bloom from the same fountain), and as the silence drags him away, I know he is being taken to where I am to eventually be guided. As I climb down the trap door, gravity reverses itself and I am emerging onto a dock.
I look around to see ships anchored all around, the deep-brown dock leading in all directions, an endless sea flirting its fluid truth in front of me. The lady of the ropes greets me as if she had long been expecting me. Her eyes are like suns; in their glow, I feel an elastic energy that her speech strums and rhythms. She invites me into her grasp with words of wilderness, but her hands are like roots, they ground me deeply, as she shapes me over with her touch. She weighs and estimates my figure, treating me like an intriguing puzzle, and I feel valued, like my existence is important to her. As if she read my thoughts, she expresses her pleasure in feeling my presence, the kind she sees in me beyond my physicality. My thoughts, my feelings — they all sway with the sea around me, uplifted by the breeze, while all the while her hands keep me rooted. I only come to awareness now that there is a rope she has been tying around me for some time: as I pay attention to this, she begins to tell me a tale. The rope was forming itself around me like a necklace, but the tale she tells is of birth, not death.
As one of the ropes curls, she tells me that sometimes, we believe we need nothing more than ourselves to survive; but that is only because we cannot feel ourselves curled over, unable to flow with the great sea of unity. We fear connection, we fear intimacy, we fear vulnerability, we fear others but we fear even more that we might appear to others as ourselves. But then (as she presents a new rope that is placed behind the curl of the other), someone surprises us, taps us from behind, gives us support, makes us known, and makes us feel we are not alone. They make themselves a part of us (the ropes intertwine, loop through and under and over, creating an intricate shape that resembles like an overlap of multiple infinities), they bring out the flow of unity within us, they teach us to move and to grow, to learn to perceive all the beauty in these worlds that are given to us, until they are one with us, just as we all seek to be one with each other.
The necklace of rope is finished: I hold it in my hands as if to weigh her words. She gives me a moon-smile, and her hand gestures to me to go to the end of the docks. I do without hesitation, feeling the flow of unity within me. At the end of the docks, there is nowhere to go, but the sea calls out to me, and I know before I think, and I move before I know: I jump into the sea, and am plummeted into cold water.
Underwater, eyes wide open to face the blue, everything slows down: I swim, trying to find my way back to the surface, but it is difficult. Everything becomes thicker, more earthy; I’m lost, I cannot see much anymore. I close my eyes and reach, reach with all my might. The water’s sensations on my skin change, evolve into something new. I feel myself being brushed from all sides, I feel the surface—
I’m in a flower field, with thousands of varieties around me as far as the horizon, in every direction. Colours swirl and dash in the wind, and my eyes sweep through it all, absorbing every fragrance into my being. The lady of the flowers waves at me, and I run to her as if I knew she was waiting for me. We laugh, and it is music to the flowers’ ears. She tells me she is glad to see me, and we sit, cross-legged, facing each other. With the soft patience that is lost to most of us, she picks flower petals from around us, and places them onto my face, until the skin of my face is nothing but flowers. She shows me the palm of her hand, which turns into one of the mirrors of the disco ball: I see the parts of myself that in my moments of weakness I don’t believe exist in me. I see beauty for what it is, and I am happy. I have been transformed.
The doors open: the feast awaits. We leave the room of transformation and enter a dark, brooding club space, the last part of this venue. Everything I’ve faced has been preparing me for this moment. I step inside, into darkness, centered by a cube of visions that shimmers like a vague support. I walk forward, and with every step, I melt into the floor: first, my feet, then my ankles and calves — I’m now thigh deep, and the movement grows thick — my legs are gone, I have ceased to move — I reach out as my torso sinks into the floor — my arms extend toward the cube, my shoulders sink next — arms toward the dark ceiling, afraid — my neck, then my head, my arms, my hands, all gone — but as I become one with the floor, my senses accept it, and I am liberated from fear.
All is silent as others step and melt into the floor, joining me. Tension builds, our wait slithers into a rhythm. Vibrations are felt: the feast is beginning.
Sounds awaken, yawning from their slumber. Guttural and strange, the sounds spread over the space, blanketing us, whispering our own the outline of our dreams back to us — but in a distorted way, making us feel lost as to what our direction is. The cube at the center of the room sheltering the visions begins to shake and tremble as the sounds grow louder, forming their own undulations, becoming secretly nutritious. The cube begins to disintegrate, collapsing into the floor. The sounds build more and more, soon reaching their climax, and I feel my being vibrate with it, vibrate with all the disorder life contains that I so desperately would like to ignore. I feel the earning of pain and the yearning for freedom, the anomalous taking over the normal. It’s almost too much to bear, the cacophony, the merciless vibrations coming from a bass of baseness — I cannot see hope—
But then, as the sound reaches its climax, the disintegrated cube finds its melting point, and immediately, it mixes with us until each of us is filled with the dreams that were wished for, contained inside that long-ago fountain… all of the suffering I’ve known to exist, all of the oppression, all of the chaos and injustice and wrongdoing that feeds itself into a desperate cycle, all unexplained, all confused and questioning as to why, why, why — all this finds rescue in an order, a glittering, glimmering, glistening glory, that promises safety and certainty, love and understanding, and all of it sourced from these dreams, what made them, the dreams we are capable of composing…
And then I fathom it — the debilitation of being melted, the conflict of sound enveloping me, conflict sinking its teeth, exposed and unavoidable — I fathom that I had to face the question to find the answer. I had to accept the conflict to become aware of the solution. If it weren’t for the grit of noise, I would not be here, being reformed by what dreams are made of. I am not the only one: as the sound went back to its slumber, all of us were rebuilt, but each of us now had our dreams imprinted within us. And as it ought to be, each of us contained little bits of each other’s dreams, to unite us, to direct us all into our common goal. My body is back again, renewed and relieved, feeling like I’ve faced what I’ve been needing to face. It feels like not only am I unfurled, but I am open to what is — and more importantly, to what can be.
Before I can further gather myself, I hear gasps and follow a sudden spotlight (or was it always there?) pointing behind me. There, lying on its own, smaller cube, is a large red fabric — velvet, of the most delicate texture, crumpled and breathing. It rises up, and deflates down, with a pace that I notice matches my own breath and the breath of everyone around me. And then, the velvet begins to move: it kneels, then stands, rises into a life of its own. With careful steps, limbs emerging, it moves with a slow determination toward a ring hanging from the ceiling at the center of the room. On its way, it begins to shed: piece by piece, it strips off rose petals that fall patiently to the floor behind him. Layers of petals begin to pour from its skin until a more vulnerable, sensitive skin emerges from beneath — it’s a man, wearing nude but for the shoulder pads and underwear made of rubies.
The man of rubies reaches the ring, where the lady of the ropes awaits him. In a flow of twirling and tying, the man of rubies is hung from the ring, spinning slowly like a tributed Prometheus. Contorting in every direction, his movements and his stillness paint a portrait of injustice: of the dedicated love for creation, and its cruel consequence in an imperfect world. I wish I could save him from his coming punishment; I feel the great hurt in witnessing a fate out of my control, and all because the gods believe that to make it to break. But, as the ropes give in and the man of rubies curls to the floor, I see his eyes and know that in him, his destiny is worth his actions. Create, his eyes whisper, piercing into me — create with purpose, and without end. My mouth forms the words “I will”, but it is too late: the rose petals on the floor begin to flutter, and suddenly they take flight. Like birds in search of a feast, they wrap themselves around the man of rubies once more, and in the corner of the room, a warp in reality occurs. One of the mirrors of the disco ball appears and turns into a door; it opens and the women with feathers come in, dancing sensually toward the man of rubies. With their support, the man of rubies lifts himself up, and is taken through the door, into the cold of the outside. It does not take long until I assess myself enough to realize my time here is finished, and I prepare to leave.
It’s cold again. I have left the venue and I am on my way home. What I’ve just experienced is something metaphorical, something with multidimensional interpretation. I feel the conflict of creation inside of me, and I make a promise to myself that I will use my imagination to uplift every sensory element I underwent into new realms: let others come to see not only what is, but what can be.