Starman

Posted by RW on January 12, 2016

Yesterday, at noon, I found myself refreshing the BBC page over and over again just in case Bowie had somehow been resurrected. Disbelief didn’t cut it.

My phone charger had melted. I was trying to learn a couple of the final units for Opbergdoos. But it was all a little too much. I watched “Lazarus” nine times before heading out to find a new charger.

The rain was fouler than usual. I’d somehow misplaced my hat. As I walked down Oxton Road, I imagined each of the scattered pieces of debris, each abandoned flat or building down that stretch as the gravestones of the artists mapped out in one particular speech of the play. Cimetière de Montmartre, the resting place of Degas, Dumas, Zola and many others, was suddenly here with me. And the pigeons were circling in murmuration again. Every day, without fail, they soar from around Charing Cross all the way up to the Wirral Christian Centre Church. When they get a little tired of the routine they either roost there or find themselves in the derelict buildings halfway down. Regardless of the rain.

When I reached the pyramids, I stopped in my tracks. Echoing through the lonely crypt of commerce was “Starman”. The first Bowie song I ever listened to, and thus The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust became the first solo album I ever bought. I swore by it. In fact, Luke and I made an unreleased amateur film where it ran through the opening credits. I’d listen to it on my MP3 player constantly, on repeat, on the bus to and from youth theatre rehearsals. That was ten years ago. 

The coincidence and the synchronicity sparked something in my brain about the play I’m currently obsessing over. There are many artists mentioned and nodded to during Atticus’ psychogeographic march through the Parisian cemeteries. All artists who have made deep impressions on the way I’ve gone about writing, acting and directing. Samuel Beckett, without whose influence I could never have made Saddenly Now. Baudelaire, who reinvented the way we see poetry. But none of them were alive at the same time I was.

The vision I had of Bowie those ten years ago was the Starman he alluded to. Someone who could come down to earth and change things. And alike many of those artists before him that I’ve loved and cherished, he had changed the world before I was even born. But there he was, ten years after I first looked up to his idea, bidding farewell to the world by once more invoking his analogy in space. From that to Blackstar. The latter had quickly become my favourite Bowie song when it was released in November. In this ten year divide, he’s managed to change my perspective twice in my life. This time all the more inspiring. That even in death we can be an unrelenting creative force.

And all over the world there are people who are thanking Bowie for his inspiration as this unstoppable, undeniable creative and cultural force. People could create their own identities, and go about finding them. And in my own selfish narrative of what David Bowie meant, and still does mean to me, he has shown that this “golden age syndrome” I tend to huddle myself into is just an excuse. Here’s a guy at 69, who had like the life cycle of a star, reinvented himself over and over. Not only that, but in this new album showed a side to his music never heard before. A creator until the last.

So as rehearsals and the text work continues, I say a big thank you to a man who has helped reinvigorate in me a sense of discovery in the art world. And no doubt Lazarus and Blackstar will play over and over on my same MP3 player. If only some interpretive dance to stop those pigeons from doing the same thing over and over.

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