What Might Have Been – The Argonauts
I have mourned several Lost Dog projects over the last 10 weeks but this one more than most. Today was going to be the UK premiere of a show called the Argonauts. It was made in partnership with Candoco and the British Council and it was created with an integrated company of 10 dancers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine. I didn’t know it when I began, but it turned out to be one of those rare projects that restores your faith in humanity. Four different languages, a huge range of performance experience, a diversity of bodily ability, political tensions, so many reasons to notice only difference, and yet a group of people who within a week of meeting each other felt like a family. The piece was about the myth of Jason and Medea and like all myths, it held within it the current of universality but we fleshed it out with more personal and contemporary stories. It felt relevant and important when we started, it feels even more so now, it is a piece about cycles of violence and revenge and also a piece about love. LIFT festival’s subtitle for it was ‘legends, politics and normal life stuff
When the possibility of a London show was first mentioned it all felt so unlikely, logistically and financially it sat on that line between audacious and impossible, but it was as if the enthusiasm of this group infected
everyone who came into contact with them. As Kris Nelson, the artistic director of LIFT, said, ‘it just refused to go away’. Brilliant individuals in LIFT, Lost Dog, Candoco, Southbank Centre, and the British Council somehow defied the normal rules of time, space, and money to make it a reality. There were two glorious weeks when our performances in the Queen Elizabeth Hall had been confirmed and the LIFT brochure had gone to print. We all thought the Argonauts were coming to London.
And then coronavirus kiboshed it, and now it hangs in a strange limbo. I am so grateful I got the chance to meet and work with this group and I would rather have had that experience than not, but we were always heading towards our meeting with the audience, knowing that only then would we discover what it was we’d made. We needed that essential other half of the theatrical experience to know what this show meant. But that meeting never happened.
Does a falling tree in an unpeopled forest make any noise? If no one ever opens the box is Shroedinger’s cat dead or alive? Is a piece of art that hasn’t been seen by an audience still a piece of art?
I will mourn the Argonauts today and the imaginary audience who I think would’ve loved them.