By Paul Bucci, special to Black Press Media
Actor Kevin Loring’s Savage Society and members of the Lytton First Nation are bringing to life an ancient Creation story about the origins of death and mourning, and how trickery and deceit led to a never-ending feud between spiders and flies.
“It’s kind of a grim tale,” Loring said of the Nlaka’pamux Nation’s mythical story. “But what we’ve done is make a musical out of it, a folk opera.”
Loring is artistic director of Savage Society, a production company comprised of actors and artists of aboriginal descent who use myth, tradition and current culture and transform it into live theatre.
Six Savage Society artists, along with about 30 members of the Lytton First Nation, will present The Council of Spider, Ant & Fly during the Lytton River Festival, starting at 3 p.m. on Sept. 2.
The production schedule is grueling, with professional artists and community members ranging from toddlers to people in their 80s working for three weeks, many hours a day, to create, rehearse and refine the musical.
This is the third collaborative theatre performance with Savage Society in Lytton. The first, The Battle of the Birds, was so successful that after the festival, it was brought to Vancouver’s Talking Stick Festival, where it sold out five times at the Roundhouse Theatre. Last year’s production was called Words of our Chiefs.
“The stories are incredibly rich,” Loring said. “I think that there’s something wonderful about hearing the language, and having the story that’s been sitting in a box for … hundreds of years come to life by the people from who it came from.
“I think there’s something magical in that.”
In this year’s production, the mythical Spider being is worried that without a proper, permanent death, the world would become overrun with starving people.
However, Ant likes the idea of immortality, because four or eight days after death, he would be able to return and get back to work again.
The two beings turn to Fly, and ask for his opinion. Fly assures Spider he would look after anyone who died, and they would look the same as they always did, for time ever-after, as if they were merely asleep.
Spider goes for the deal, and soon one of his children dies. Fly takes the body to his home, and when Spider goes to check on his child, he discovers Fly laying eggs on his child’s corpse and countless others covered in maggots.
“Spider freaks out and declares a blood feud,” Loring said, “forever transforming Fly into an actual fly. Spider transforms into an actual spider.
“And that’s the creation story of why spiders hunt flies.”
So, why focus on such potentially morose material, and how is it a musical?
“It’s really a difficult subject, but every family, every individual has to encounter it in their lifetime,” Loring said. “We’re trying to find a positive way by using an origin story to frame a healthy discussion about mourning, loss and death.”
Each mythical being has its own musical style, with Spider singing in a folk-like style, Ant in an old-school blues style, and Fly signing in a blues-rock style.
The Lytton River Festival is a celebration of the Thompson and Fraser rivers, the historic lifeblood of the region.
Aug. 31, Sept. 1 and 2 are filled with more than 30 attractions and events, including family-style street dancing, food, bands, climbing wall, farmers’ market, and more.