How an ancient myth touched my life and became a play for radio
I was in the process of getting divorced when I first discovered the classical myth of Psyche and Eros. Our family home of twenty years was being sold, my younger son was in his last year at school and my eldest was away at university. My soon to be ex-husband had settled with a new partner. Everything that had seemed to form the structure of my life was falling apart.
So, in search of new inspiration I made my way one weekend to a workshop of art and writing exploring the quintessential love story that follows Psyche, a mortal girl, as she overcomes challenge upon challenge in pursuit of her love, the immortal god Eros (the one whose arrow has broken many a heart). In the process she must deal with the opposition of his mother, Aphrodite, goddess of love, and her own fears and limitations. It is an epic quest. I emerged from that day aware that I had a great deal still to learn about being open to loving with all my heart. I also emerged with a passion for the story itself and nurtured a yen to write a play from it. I had a sense that working with this story would help me to face my own limitations and fears. Myths are the amalgamation of many people’s deeply-felt experience through generations of telling and re-telling, and so they have this uncanny power to touch and guide us in ways that we cannot quite understand.
A year later, the divorce complete, I was settling into my new home when an invitation came to write a school play for City of London School for Girls. Psyche’s rite of passage into adulthood certainly spoke to these teenagers. I wrote a full-length play set in the mythical world of the original. The resulting ensemble production was imaginative and certainly captured the epic scope, shifting with fluid ease from a mountain top to enchanted palace to the Underworld and back.
In the following months, friends asked me if I had “met someone” because I seemed to be glowing. All I could say was that I was enjoying my own company more than I had for a very long time and was in love with life itself. I even went to some friends’ daughter’s bat mitzvah party attended by my ex and his partner and we happily chatted together for some of the evening. I truly had no regrets and realized that this must be “moving on”.
A few months later, feeling a bit like a teenager again myself, I took the leap and signed up to an internet dating site. I had tried this in the early days of the marriage break-up and rather warily attempted a few dates but nothing had clicked. I simply wasn’t ready to get involved with anyone and cancelled my subscription. This time, within a week or so I found myself in e mail contact with one man in particular who seemed to be friendly, warm and suggested that we meet. I set forth one early summer morning in 2009 saying to myself, “Let it be what it is.” Disappointment, in my experience, always come as a result of expectations. No expectations, what’s to lose?
As he walked towards me three words popped into my mind, “I know you.” From the second we met we started talking with ease. We had fun. We laughed. We “got” each other. He also had two sons and was emerging from a twenty-five year relationship. I maintained the no-expectations approach through the following months and when we found ourselves at odds I was utterly honest about my feelings no matter how difficult. After one challenging weekend, we went for a walk in the park, sat in a rose garden and I told him the story of Psyche and Eros. He got that too. We are together to this day.
So when, not so long ago, the commissioning editor of Radio 4 Drama told me that his main selection criterion was that a writer be passionate about the story they want to tell, I submitted a proposal for Psyche. He also advised me to give it a modern day setting. So I have made Aphrodite an avant-garde fashion designer, Psyche her muse and Eros a photographer. A couple of weeks ago Jaime Winstone, Saskia Reeves and Fra Fee brought the roles to life in the recording studio. Every time I hear it I appreciate afresh the hard-earned coming together of (Eros) erotic love and (Psyche) the soul and appreciate just how true it can be.
Article published in Jewish Chronicle on Feb 6th, 2015
Psyche broadcast on BBC Radio 4 , Feb 2015