Observations: The fabulous 'theatre without a director'

 

As an actor I have toured the world, but always with the hard shell of a play around me. Five years ago I was invited to travel to the Galapagos with my childhood acquaintance, the artist Dorothy Cross. We share zoologist brothers; they are friends and we were treading in their dream world, our strange symmetry!

From the air the islands look like some Miltonic creation, a black rock, secret and totally mysterious. My task was to be a prompt to her, to use poetical quotation as she tested how or whether art could exist in a place where nature seemed to have refined itself to perfect balance...

Against the incessant sea, the sound of tortoise breath as they retract into their shells is a sigh so wearisome, it is as if creation itself is tired. Lonesome George, a last member of a species of giant tortoise, mounting the unsuitable female, sounds like crockery breaking as his hard belly climbs onto her hard back.

Black iguanas swim like snakes then miraculously crawl, with their black hides like amphibious cars from a James Bond film. Human intrusion has been there for a long time. Introduced pigs have eaten the tortoise eggs, goats have mutated to digesting seawater.

Dorothy was in some way also a rare animal of the Galapagos, being an artist, her focused eye filming finches, moths, the revelatory beauty of the bones of dead whales (above with Fiona Shaw); a champion swimmer diving with sealions.

We learnt that virulent insect life was appearing on the Galapagos, arriving with ship lights and gawping masses of tourists. As pelicans hung lazily around the fishmonger like ageing relatives, a man like the Ancient Mariner told us the only way to save the Galapagos is to "Stop, Now!" Human animals are the problem because our wider world is so unbalanced that the poor of Ecuador, innocent as the animals, whose fate is sealed by far-off politicians, invent a tourist industry catastrophic to the islands' survival. It is also unnatural for us to love something and leave it, but that is exactly what we should do.

Language is the pinnacle of our evolutionary achievement and, on return, Dorothy completed her work in Stage, an exhibition which fused her video of the silent inhabitants of the islands and our recorded conversations and quotations. It concluded with the notion of self "abdication" taken from a poem by Emily Dickinson, while revealing the "theatre without a director" that the Galapagos is.

A year later our conversation continued as Dorothy joined me in a collaboration on the opera Riders to the Sea at the English National Opera. Again she led me on an adventure of sea rock and profound understanding of the disquiet of art in nature but the necessity of Nature in Art.

'Galapagos' runs until 1 July at the Bluecoat, Liverpool (www.thebluecoat. org.uk; www.artistsvisitgalapagos. com). The book 'Galapagos' is available at £10.99 (www.centralbooks.co.uk)

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral