"Fire and Poetry, two great powers
That make the so-called god’s world OURS"
Crossfiring - Prometheus
The myth of Prometheus makes possible the imaginative enhancement of experience, the metaphorical distinction between what happened to us and what we make of the happening.
The mythical Prometheus, who brought fire to humanity, spans centuries of poets, storytellers and dramatists. Prometheus is the symbol of the struggling worker, the “patron saint of the proletariat,” according to Karl Marx. While the fire-bearing titan has become the symbol of the worker, there are two opposite interpretations: the version of Hesiod, in which Prometheus is a villain, and the version of Aeschylus in which he is a hero. In one interpretation the outside, omnipotent power is the master of life rather than the giver. In the other, Prometheus, the son of the Earth and ocean, is a threat to the static order established by the master. In the world picture of Hesiod, life is nothing but a wheel upon which man is broken. In the vision of Aeschylus, Prometheus is in harmony with the Earth.
These interpretations of the Prometheus myth exist in the industrial history of Claybank in so far as the men who toiled for decades in this brick plant celebrated fraternity and the cooperative support of one another in their hard work and craft, and in so far as decades of hard work and craft were so easily taken away by a deal made among power-brokers thousands of kilometers away. Our performance draws upon aspects of the poetry of Aeschylus. Trevor Harriet, and interviews with the workers themselves, are combined to reflect the story of the lives of these men. The physical score of the work in the factory; the transformative process of clay to brick, from sifting to pressing to firing, is explored through the use of Meyerhold’s biomechanics. This physical theatre technique celebrates the efficiencies, geometry and power of the workers’ bodies, and provides a physical subtext to the Promethean story of harmony with the Earth and elements. Alas, Claybank has been shut down as a brick plant, and the fire of industry has all but gone out. There is a feeling of being burned, of being punished by the omnipotent, outside forces of global capitalism and colossal markets controlled from afar. Claybank is a monument to a vanishing industry and in this sense the spirit of the implacable power-figure from afar haunts the site.