Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sacred Elephant by Heathcote Williams

Jeremy Crutchley

By Joe Straw

(The following non-quoted items are my observations, musing and thoughts, of a delightful night of theatre. – Narrator)

“The oldest and largest of land mammals was born in the late ice age when we were only a glint in Darwin’s eye.” – Heathcote Williams

Burning incense coated a layer of breathable air. 

Amid, the complete blackness, he, “The Other” (Jeremy Crutchley), came in, and breathing alone, he stood silently in profound darkness. 

And in the burgeoning light, “The Other” was quite the human specimen, an aesthetic impression of an ethereal man, not so finely tailored, and quite relaxed. One would not have given this man a second thought, if one were on skid row.  But something was different.

Wearing dust over an extra layer of earth, this man lumbered as he walked, filth flitted off his sarcophagus, festered in mid air and floated impassively into an indescribable region of his sphere.

 “The elephant moves slowly to protect its vast brain with which it hears subsonic sounds and in which it carries the topology, the resonances and reverberations of a continent.” – Heathcote Williams

His pleasant face was baked, an unnatural white, as though he were spending too much time in a cell of his own choosing, or baked in a cool mud to sooth his wrinkled burning flesh.

His hair was matted; unwashed, forming an unnatural dreadlock with a lone ponytail, tied with two rags.  In all probability, millenniums have past since both have seen the insides of a washing tin.  And who can guess what creatures reside in the ponytail that, at times, appeared to have a life of its own.

The long patched canvas coat he wore stretched to the middle of his calf.  And, when whisked about, that canvas served as a cooling mechanism for his heated space.  

His peregrination, with an iron manacle around his left ankle, was limited to his enclosed space.  And to add injury to insult, his toes were red, bleeding, from scraped encounters through unimaginable predicaments.

“Its surface muscles are so cunningly tuned that they can crush a colony of haematomyzus, elephant lice, with one focused ripple.” – Heathcote Williams.  

Jeremy Crutchley

But one needs to look deep into his soul, the coruscation from his bulging red stained eyes when comprehending the ideas expulsed from his dry parched lips. The expressions of his thoughts are implausible if you are not on his page, or in that moment. All the while one is wondering if this tenderly amiable “man”, or beast, in this place, is deplorably insane. 

All of this leaves one with the feeling the information shared here tonight will include thoughts of a repugnant nature.  Possibly, it is his job for this time traveler, this ghostly figure, to report, to rid him self of the chains he once forged in life, to borrow a phrase.  

But for now, here he is alone, exhausting his soul, obsequious to the matter at hand, giving us the information, the life, down to the minute detail of a mammal that defies logic, the sacred elephant.  

Sheernerve Productions presents the West Coast Premiere of Sacred Elephant by Heathcote Williams, directed by Geoffrey Hyland and starring Jeremy Crutchley.  This is an adaptation by Jeremy Crutchley and Geoffrey Hyland of Heathcote Williams’s poem playing at the Odyssey Theatre through August 17, 2014.

Sacred Elephant is an engaging night of theatre, of words and imagery, by master thespian Jeremy Crutchley, with his strong melodic voice, and his resilient disquieting peculiarity.  And one can really delve into the poetry of the words, the actor’s delivery, and enjoy a night of audacious gestures and an amazing night of theatrical poetry.

And one may have a land whale of a time.  

“And an elephant can detect fellow members of its tribe from a distance of ten miles, human beings from only two miles, which makes the human aura eight miles weaker.”

Geoffrey Hyland, the Director, marvelously guides us into the world of the elephant in this highly poetic extravaganza and we see the challenges of turning this into a play, of sorts, into a monologue that has a purpose.  But, turning poetry into an actors’ night of conflict and conquering objectives is no easy feat. And if one is observing and expecting an actors’ structure, e.g., a means to get to a conclusion, one may be faintly disenchanted.

Still observing one could watch this and come to one’s own conclusion, be it right or wrong.  It’s the fact that you are still thinking about this production days later that makes this theatrical night about the travails of the Sacred Elephant so engaging.

Jeremy Crutchley

Jeremy Crutchley plays “The Other” and is a master craftsman, the voice, movement, and his silent resolve all in one complete package.  But, this mystical engaging character lacks a convincing motive for giving us the information, a reason for his being, an explanation for coming in through certain portals to present us to the now. Why him?  Why us? Why now?  (Also, I’m not sure what the “hacking” sound was about.  That happened twice. Did Crutchley swallow dirt, or dust?)

I know.  I’m being too picky. And why quibble?  I had a wonderful time!

Ilka Louw did the Costume Design and the work was stunning, and “The Other” was a visual spectacle that one could absorb all night long!

The Music by Robert Jeffery quickly got us into the mood of the play and kept us there through its entirety.

Heathcote Williams is the author of Sacred Elephant.  He is the actor who beautifully reads his poem in the disc version of the Sacred Elephant, which is available at The work, and the words enlighten those within range and give us a better understanding of a mammal that is close to being extinct for incomprehensible reasons.   The Sacred Elephant is a remarkable accomplishment that is to be held closely and treasured. Come see the play, buy the book, and buy the disc!  

Alan Committie is the Associate Director.   

Other members of the crew are as follows:

Set & Sound Design – Geoffrey Hyland
Original Lighting – Maria Viterelli (Don’t kick over the lamps when walking to your seats.)
Light & Sound – Benjamin R. Watt
Stage Management – Benjamin R. Watt
Associate Producer – Chantal d’Orthez
Production Assistant – Christina d’Orthez
Additional Music – Robert Jeffrey
Photography – Rob Keith, Jim Moore
Press & Publicity – Phil Sokoloff
Poster Image – Anup J. Kat

Run!  Run!  Bring a friend who loves an animal with an extremely long proboscis.

RESERVATIONS: (310) 477-2055.


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