Connecting ancient myth with modern mortals – Lament of The Selkie by Rachel Taylor-Beales
In the lead up to the gig-theatre production by Rachel Taylor-Beales we invite her to give a little insight into the back-story behind Stone’s Throw, Lament Of the Selkie.
Having been a full time singer songwriter and touring artist over the last 20 years, this is my first venture into the world of theatre and I am thrilled to have received support of Arts Council Wales in order to make the piece.
The idea of a collaborative storytelling piece focusing on a retelling of selkie mythology first occurred way back in 2011, when composer Gillian Stevens introduced me to the folklore tales of these shape-shifting seal folk. But this initial project was to be short lived as a few months later I was immobile and house bound, having sustained injuries to my hip and back after falling from stage while on tour in rural Italy. The fall was traumatic in itself, but what compounded it all was the fact that I was also 24 weeks pregnant when this happened.
My tour colleague Dylan Fowler, told me that he’ll never forget the sound my body made as it smacked the ground- stone-marble flooring…I felt pins and needles up and down my spine. Fortunately my baby was unharmed, I’d twisted so I landed on my hip and back, not my bump… but the accident left me very damaged. The doctors suspected that I had a hairline fracture on my hip- and my muscles locked in spasms leaving me with severely limited mobility for the duration of my pregnancy and beyond. This fall had a domino effect…the first of several waves of trauma that occurred over the following months that led to severe birth complications and postpartum health issues… and in the end it me took years to recover. There was a time when my muscles were so atrophied that I could barely hold a note in tune- and my back would begin to spasm after holding a guitar for 30 seconds. I wondered if I’d ever be able to tour and play music again. So here’s where the selkie’s come in… During this time I began to revisit the folklore myths found myself resonating with many of the themes that lay within these ancient tales. A selkie finding herself trapped on land in human form unable to return to her seal state of being, struck a chord with my own sense of being trapped by the limitations of my broken body… Slowly I began to write my 4th solo album- a process that took a further 3 years to complete and alongside this I continued to work at my own physical and mental recovery. I invited actor-musician, Lucy Rivers to play violin on the album and at this time we began to discuss performing the songs in a more theatrical way.
Then one evening in 2017 I found myself writing- 10,000 words, the full story of all the events of my unravelling. Tentatively I shared the sections as a blog posts and was met with an unprecedented response from women who resonated with my story. I began to receive messages from women from around the world, sharing their own stories with me. I began to perceive that there was a need for these stories to be given a public platform as the subject of birth trauma is rarely explored on stage and is still often seen as a taboo subject. So, last year 2018 teamed I up with Lucy Rivers for a research and development project to explore merging my own experiences with the a contemporary retelling of selkie myths. Alongside this I invited women to send me their own stories relating to birth and identity and now this autumn, we are finally making the full-length show…
Directed by Louise Osborn and featuring myself and actor-musician Lucy Rivers, the performance combines music, songs, spoken-word and storytelling against a backdrop of large-scale visual projections and bespoke verbatim recordings of women’s birth stories and broader thoughts on identity. The show is an intimate, stirring, but ultimately uplifting exploration of the ongoing process of rebuilding after an experience of trauma.
October 16th Span Arts @- Ysgol Caerelen- Haverfordwest
Buy your tickets here