Dreams and Nightmares
Music from Brahms, Max Richter, Debussy and Aretha Franklin and including writings by Sojourner Truth, Franz Kafka, Yeats and Langston Hughes read by Jade Anouka and Brid Brennan.
"Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious" said Sigmund Freud. And the unconscious is a storehouse for unacceptable ideas or desires, traumatic memories & emotions we repress. We all dream - and not just while we sleep. So what can our dreams tell us about ourselves and the society we live in? With music from the likes of Max Richter, Debussy, Aretha Franklin & Brahms & words read by Jade Anouka & Brid Brennan from artists & activists such as Sojourner Truth, Franz Kafka, Yeats & Langston Hughes.
Producer: Debbie Kilbride.
Main image: Portrait of African-American orator and civil rights activist Sojourner Truth (1797 - 1883), 1860s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
Robert Louis Stevenson
The Land of Nod, read by Jade Anouka
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Love and Sleep, read by Brid Brennan
Metamorphosis, read by Jade Anouka
1984, read by Jade Anouka
William Butler Yeats
The Second Coming, read by Brid Brennan
Ain't I A Woman, read by Jade Anouka
J. M. Synge
Travels in Wicklow, West Kerry and Connemara, read by Brid Brennan
Looking At Your Hands, read by Jade Anouka
Wide Sargasso Sea, read by Jade Anouka
Aodhagán Ó Rathaille, translated by Seamus Heaney
The Glamoured, read by Brid Brennan
Frances E. W. Harper
Bury Me in A Free Land, read by Jade Anouka
Frankenstein, read by Brid Brennan
Carol Ann Duffy
Dreams of A Lost Friend, read by Brid Brennan
A Dream Deferred, read by Jade Anouka
The Interpretation of Dreams, read by Brid Brennan
Dora's Dream, read by Jade Anouka
Upon Suffering beyond Suffering, read by Jade Anouka and Brid Brennan
Producer's Notes: Dreams and Nightmares
Dreams are like magic, aren't they? I think they're gifts. I'm writing this on the 50th anniversary of the murder of Dr Martin Luther King Jr – maybe he had the most important dream of the 20th century. Dr King's public retelling of his dream was at the insistence of a musician and friend who was standing behind him onstage in Washington as he spoke on 28 August 1963. His speech wasn't going so well. 'Tell 'em about the dream Martin!' shouted Mahalia Jackson – and so he did. Dr King was 39 years old when he was killed, but his dream lives on – 55 years later it is just as urgent as ever. The spirit of Dr King's speech has been my guide to making this programme.
Dr King came after earlier generations of African Americans who also had that same dream. Sojourner Truth, the great abolitionist and feminist – a freed slave – delivered her blistering speech with the famous refrain ‘Ain't I A Woman' at a Women's Rights Convention in Ohio in 1851. In this programme, you can hear actor Jade Anouka perform this and many other similar dreams by great artists and activists such as Martin Carter, Langston Hughes and Audre Lorde whose poem '1984' came to her in a dream on April 4 - the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jnr's assassination. I’m proud that this programme features music by the composer Florence Beatrice Price. Florence was the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition played by a major orchestra, on June 15, 1933.
Last night I dreamed of Steve Fabus – a lovely man, a DJ I know in San Francisco. Steve is a survivor of that generation of gay men almost wiped out by AIDS. Many of Steve’s peers died quickly, in pain and often very young. Steve knew Patrick Cowley, a composer whose thing was electronic music. Patrick put the blips on Sylvester's 1978 hit disco song ‘You Make Me Feel [Mighty Real]' and is credited with inventing hi-energy dance music. When Patrick died of AIDS in 1982 he was 32 years old. This programme features one of Patrick's early compositions as a tiny tribute to his great talent. It also features a heart-breaking performance of Gershwin's 'Someone to Watch Over Me' by Liberace. I hear yearning in his over-embellished playing. Brid Brennan performs Carol Ann Duffy's beautiful poem 'Dreams of A Lost Friend' between Liberace and Patrick Cowley.
Freud said 'dreams are the royal road to the unconscious' and I have tried to allow this programme to bubble up from my dreams. Looking back now I wonder if the fragility of the Good Friday Agreement has been playing on my mind. Could that concern be evident in Brid Brennan's performance of Yeats' unsettling poem 'The Second Coming'? If so, then it is also there in 'The Glamoured' – Seamus Heaney's translation of 'Gile na Gile', an ‘aisling' (literally, dream) poem written in Irish by Aodhagán Ó Rathaille. It is one of the most famous Irish poems of the early eighteenth century. Synge's epic description of turning and encountering the western vista of the Blasket Islands in County Kerry is simply my own idea of heaven.
To stick with sweeping metaphors, waking up to find yourself transformed into a human-sized insect is the very stuff of nightmares. In my book, Kafka was the high priest of horror and Jade Anouka's performance from the opening of Metamorphosis displays the precision and clarity of Kafka's terrifying description of shunned isolation. I have coupled Kafka's words with Bernard Hermann's music composed for Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958). Brid Brennan said she thought Hitchcock's films wouldn't have had half their impact without Hermann's music – I think she's right.
Famously, Mary Shelley's story of Frankenstein came to her in a dream, an anxious dream I think. The screws were on her to come up with a ghost story to share with Lord Byron and her husband Percy Shelley one rainy summer in Switzerland. ‘"Have you thought of a story?” I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative. 'No pressure then. Finally, Mary's monster appeared to her one night. Having brought him into light – and eventually into print when she was just 20 years old (initially the novel was published anonymously) – the monster's story and that of his creator Dr Frankenstein has become, 200 years later, one of the most thrilling and enduring works of gothic fiction – and one of our most touching moral tales. Listen for the monster's tenderness in Brid's reading from Frankenstein.
Less than 30 years after the publication of Frankenstein, Charlotte Bronte published Jane Eyre under the male pseudonym Currer Bell. Jane Eyre is one of the cornerstones in the canon of English literature. Dominican-born British writer Jean Rhys wrote Wide Sargasso Sea in 1966 and it tells the story of Bertha Mason, the 'madwoman in the attic' of Bronte's novel and the first wife of Jane Eyre's husband and our hero Mr Rochester. What could have led Bertha to madness and why is she locked away, yet kept close? Rhys imagines that the answers to these shameful secrets lie in Britain's colonial past. In Rhys' story the wealth which Rochester, and many other people, amassed is accumulated from the spoils of slavery in British colonies such as Jamaica, where Wide Sargasso Sea is set. Jade Anouka reads the part of Bertha (a 'creole', we are told) recounting her dream. She speaks over the music of Samuel Coleridge Taylor, known by his contemporaries as the 'African Mahler'.
Listen out for two appearances by Sigmund Freud, one which features a dream by perhaps his most famous client, Dora, whom he sadly failed to help. Freud had blind spots too.
The programme begins with a lullaby by Brahms taking us into the 'Land of Nod' by Robert Louis Stevenson and on into Max Richter's 'Sleep 3' and a deliciously kinky Victorian poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne. The show closes with an awakening and a call to action by the band Menagerie, featuring the awesome vocals of Fallon Williams. The last words go to the Native American Lakota leader Crazy Horse who took up arms against the US federal government to fight against encroachment by white American settlers on Indian territory in the 19th century. His ecological message urges respect for the earth which leads to unity across nations and 'races'. These are the hopeful words, the dream this programme ends on – and after that it's over to the birds singing in a dawn chorus.
My gratitude to Brid Brennan and Jade Anouka, to friends from the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary University of London and Birkbeck College, to Suzy Klein, Tim Bano and most of all to Jen Harvie.
This programme is dedicated to dreamers everywhere.
Producer: Debbie Kilbride
Jade Anouka is starring in The Phlebotomist which runs at the Hampstead Theatre 12th April – 19th May. Jade will also be performing her own poetry at the Roundhouse on 19th June as part of the Last World Festival.""Added, go to My Music