Under an ominous sky a half-naked man, writhing in his death throes, lurches towards the high coppiced-wood fence surrounding him. His body is like a Grünewald Christ: thin, ribby and pale, his face painted white. All around him, there’s the clashing of cymbals and the sounding of horns. And fire. But the crowd is silent.

About 150 people – men, women, children, dogs – have walked, following the flags, pipes and drum, from Harting Down. A woman blowing a long twisted antelope horn had called this strange figure from the trees on the hill, this very white man, in slow ritual Butoh movements: in his hands, stag’s antlers. Dogs in the crowd growled at the sight – no other sound. The stag worked his way along the valley, stalked and harried by three figures, also in white, hands and bodies angular and aggressive.

Now the stag is driven, wounded, down this long high corral of woven sticks, hounded by the drums, the cymbals, the fire. But as he dies, wrapped in a long white banner, there’s a tiny high sound from the hill behind him. A woman in a long red dress leads a white horse with a strange figure on it. As they come nearer, you can see it’s a woman, a Mongolian woman in high collared national dress, and the sound is a beautiful and eerie song, a traditional Long Song.

She sings us up the valley, to the tolling of deep bells, until we reach a place of flags, and a crescendo of gongs. The stag-man slowly winds his way up the hill trailing the long white banner, and the horse-woman and her escort rides away to the right, stlll singing…

This has been ‘Chalk’ – an installation and performance by Red Earth. Extraordinary, moving, unsettling.

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