Not only those who like reading myths and historical stories will have enjoyed the story of “Isis and Osiris” performed on 30th September in Paul Allen Auditorium; the whole evening was filled with Egyptian-style eurythmy, live music, unexpected design, and the great effort of all the people involved, but mainly with the wide imagination of John Heath. This was his second play performed in Newton Dee, and the audience, which occupied the whole hall on the Friday evening, appreciated the dark story plot as well as the dancing scenes.
The story of Isis and Osiris itself takes place in ancient Egypt, where the King and Queen of Heaven came to Earth in human bodies and brought to the people new ideas about agriculture, architecture, and justice. To see the light, there has to be the darkness; on stage in the form of Osiris’s evil brother Seth. “The legend is, of course, apocryphal up to a point but, eliminating the overlay of myth with which the priests later embroidered it, the whole story has such a genuine ring of human tragedy that it is difficult to doubt that these two men and the woman actually lived”, said John before the play performance. And how does he feel about it now?
Michaela: Why did you choose this story for your play?
John Heath: Actually, there were several people in the past who wanted me to do it for them, but it never happened. It was really about the life and death of Osiris. I got it from several books - it’s not my own invention but comes from the people who wrote mythological books a long time ago. Alexander Mackenzie was one of these archeologists. It was in his archeological, mythological book that I found it first. And then there was a man called Denis Wheatley, who wrote historical novels but also about dark subjects such as black magic. There was a myth of Isis and Osiris, about them coming from another realm; they were a queen and king of another realm and they came to earth and they sort of did something to help the primitive Egyptians of those days, to civilize them.
Is there anything in this story which touches you personally?
It’s really difficult - there is so much, indeed. It is romantic, even esoteric at certain points. I like anything mythological; it’s part of my religion. I was a Christian believer before, but I don’t like it that some people can be wrong and some people can be right, you know. The Christian church had the idea that there‘s only one side; they were always one-sided. And actually the real truth is much more complicated than that. Nowadays my beliefs are not absolutely Christian, but a bit “pagan”. I believe in lots of gods as well as in one god.
Can you find some truth in these mythological stories?
Yes, some truth, that’s right. I have a lot of fairytale stories which I read sometimes, even though they are for children mostly. Even on my Christmas cards, the angels with wings, are more like beings from outer space. The idea of the Tibetans was that these angels were real beings from another world, from outer space. In some cases, they came on space vehicles. But some of them also have wings. I believe in something else other than what the Christian church teaches. I find in mythology something romantic. In a way, the story of Isis and Osiris is romantic, but in another sense, it’s not fiction, you know, it’s more about something real, from the real world.
What can we take from these stories nowadays, what can we learn?
They may seem magical, but it’s because they have a different view of us than we have of them. It used to be that people were frightened of these things, from another side of life; they were frightened of these experiences. But nowadays it’s all open, you know - the other side, the cosmic side, if we only wake up to it. We have to realize that these things are as real as our daily life. We have to be aware of it nowadays to actually participate in it. Wake up! It’s not necessary that we have to go out somewhere else to experience it - we can experience it in our everyday life. That’s my belief anyway.
How did you like the theatre performance?
Oh, it was great. It would have been too long if we had left everything in. We had to shorten the story. I like doings things a bit like Shakespeare, on a big scale. But Russ (the director) and I had to shorten it. But the message itself still remained in the play. Russ even added a bit of poetry. It was his idea to add some eurythmy too, Egyptian eurythmy. It was good, I liked it. I felt that I had fulfilled myself. I felt that the play on the stage was wonderful, wonderfully done.
How long did it take you to write the play?
I wrote it several decades ago, in the 1970s - a long time ago. Some people said they would do it, but they never got around to it. I gave one copy to Russ a long time ago with the hope that he would do it, produce it, but he wasn‘t ready then. But now we have a bigger hall, the new Paul Allen Auditorium, and he decided to do it. Once in the old Phoenix Hall they did eurythmy about the myth of Osiris, in 1995, but it was a simple thing, not complicated like mine.
And what was the reaction from other people?
They loved it. They came and said thank you for doing this. It was fantastic, they said. They thought it was really out of this world, I suppose!