Cosmic Trigger – the play!
Having first shown in Liverpool last weekend, Cosmic Trigger the Play is being hosted by the Lost Theatre, Battersea, London – 26th – 29th November.
Shedding her robes and her jewellery, her mind and her faculties, the goddess Ishtar approaches and mounts the stage; the audience follow her closely until she stands at a portal, the body of Nuit arching over it. Ishtar gives up her crown and her godhead at the climax of the opening ceremony, and then gloved hands unceremoniously yank her through the portal. Aleister Crowley appears with an accordion, sending the punters in after her with a song:
You never know what you might find.
Unscrew the inscrutable,
Think the unthinkable,
Dive down to the roots of your mind
The story settles into a narrative, briefly, until Eris, Goddess of Discord, stages a stage invasion. She brings a golden apple to liven things up, as in the days of the Olympian gods, as in the 60s and 70s, when the fnord and Discord began again with mummery and irreverence. This time the apple is huge, and inflatable.
Many interlocking narratives emerge, and their joints are greased with magick. When Robert Anton Wilson cracks a puzzle in Crowley’s The Book of Lies, and really learns how to suck seed, the metaphor-play begins in earnest, building up to a glorious sex scene. Like Ishtar, R.A.W. removes more than just his robes, and the mindfuck which follows is extraordinary – plays within plays rippling around the audience, around a play about a book about a life and a play about a book.
The life in question was lived switching between perspectives on the mystery of the manifest – the Materialist, the Editor, the Yogi and so on. Each brought their own angle to the story, bouncing synchronicities between each other. This constant switch is central to Discordianism, a religion disguised as a joke or a joke disguised as a religion.
My Hedonist loved the sex scene. My Writer was jealous of the sex scene, it was a truly mind-blowing act of congress. My Neuroprogrammer, my Romantic, and my Mystic were tickled pink, and as for the others, well, I’m still trying to “find the others”, to quote Leary out of context. Leary’s character was a magnificent trickster guru, with a great first line: ‘Do I have to fuck every girl in this place?’
My Critic was charmed by the performances and the technical brilliance of the stagecraft; my Aesthete was moved by the psychedelic Carry On film unfolding before the audience, spilling into the audience, and borrowing its members. There were plenty of members on stage, too. My Journalist caught up with one of the cast, who had gone naked but for goat’s blood.
“Oh you don’t want to interview me,” he said. “I just had a minor part”.
Well, it was rather chilly.
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The story behind the production is a tapestry of synchronicity, but you’ll find your own threads when you begin the journey towards Chapel Perilous. It is also a eulogy to director Daisy Eris Campbell’s father, the august and anarchistic Ken Campbell. Ken popped in from time to time to give stage directions; but the in-jokes are outward-looking.
Theatre asks us to suspend our disbelief about a story for a while; Cosmic Trigger asks us to suspend our belief in all stories, and permanently. “Belief is the death of intelligence”, wrote R.A.W, and we are even given a magickal exercise in one of the intervals to assist with the process of unraveling one of them. The High Pope of a religion of squabbling Popes looks down and laughs belly laughs and cries large tears at the performance. Or he does in my brain anyway, and I can think whatever I like about such things – largely thanks to said Pope.
The play is accessible, making perfect sense even if you are one of those unfortunate semi-literates who hasn’t read the book (though I’m not sure I can say the same about life). If you have read it, you may remember a cruel tragedy, though everyone remembers something different from Cosmic Trigger (and with Illuminatus, everyone seems to have read a different book). But that sadness imprinted upon me, being the first time a book made me weep – indeed one of the first times in years anything made me weep. The play is a limbic trigger and a Cosmic Tear-jerker, or it was for my Romantic anyway, and that scene was recreated with exquisite sensitivity.
I had forgotten, however, that the description of karma that has been my working model for the last couple of decades came from Cosmic Trigger, from R.A.W.’s teenage daughter. In exploring R.A.W.’s family, the play improved upon the book, with fine performances from actors presenting the poetry and insights of the women around him.
All the best lines in the play were lines from the book, of course. The love of Bob drew people from as far away as New York and Austria for the opening night – but what did they expect to find? Cosmic Trigger is a book so extraordinarily brilliant and important that it is very difficult to do it justice in an explanation, let alone in a stage adaptation. Daisy rose to the task by adding a delicious layer of sticky toffee mindfuck to the apple, with inspired multimedia set changes and characters switching roles on the spot with a mere wink and a change of jacket.
CosmicTrigger on Vimeo
Perspective flips, time is cut up and rearranged. The audience is invaded, seduced and implicated, the Theatre of Cruelty sweetened and psychedelic. All kinds of surprising, mind-bending devilry is employed, and all these tricks yank the audience from reality tunnel to reality tunnel. But speedy yanking eventually gives way to relief, and lubricated spectators come to enjoy the friction. I certainly emerged refreshed, feeling younger somehow.
R.A.W. dealt with some serious situations, including polio, poverty, bereavement and his confederate’s descent into paranoia. As he said himself, though, “this is too important to take seriously.” If your mental dramatis personae contain characters like mine does (the Apocalyptic, the Activist, the Pessimist and all their gloomy friends) this may be just the advice that they need to hear. You emerge from Chapel Perilous either agnostic or paranoid, based on which reality tunnel you choose. In the depths of R.A.W.’s tragedy, he is forced to choose between fear and love.
From the perspective of my own Psychologist, the play had at its root in a great paradox: how is it that giving up belief in anything as being authentically and genuinely true, and denying the mind the armchair of belief, brings forth degrees of emotion which are sublimely authentic and genuine? With nothing authentic to put our faith in around us, where can we seek authenticity, and access genuinely powerful magick?
Buy, beg, blag or incant, but however you do it, go and get your trigger pulled.