I am flying home from Sarajevo listening to Bolero. Our flight was delayed because of fog so I am now on a completely different flight plan. Sarajevo to Munich. Munich to Brussels. Brussels to Birmingham. I will have heard the safety announcement five times in five days. I heard it ten times last time I came here. And the more I hear it the more it starts to write itself into Bolero. I imagine an introduction. A flight attendant delivering a safety announcement in English, German, French and Bosnian. A safety announcement that shifts language as it crosses borders. As Edin Numankadic said in my last interview, the Balkans has always had ‘the problem and the beauty of the border’.
This weekend has been an extraordinary experience. Last time I felt that Sarajevo was beautiful but mysterious, nothing was open and I couldn’t access the theatre or the mountains or the museum of the assassination. This time I visited all of these and every visit led somewhere else. Everything has snowballed. One email to Muamera Sehic at ZOI led to a two hour road trip. We visited one Olympic ski slope and took photos in the snow. At the Igman mountains we were shown an Olympic medal podium at the foot of the ski jump and then taken up a ski lift. The journey up the mountain took 15 minutes, the same length as Bolero, and I filmed it. Hoping that when Bolero reaches its development phase this will be useful. I filmed the ice being cleaned at the Zetra Stadium, the choreography of machinery that happens between ice skating and ice hockey. After the ski lift we visited a ski lodge where our host bought us a three course lunch. After lunch, she insisted on taking us ice skating.
Bosnian hospitality is everywhere. The hotel waved me off today. Jasenko from SARTR drove us into the mountains so we could get the best view of the city at night. We listened to Radiohead and Jonny Cash as his ice tyres took us higher into the hills, into territory formerly occupied by the Serbs and past some graffiti that said ‘Remember Srebrenica’. The British Council took us to lunch at Hotel Central where we met the British Ambassador who was interested in the project. Edin Numankadic at the Olympic Museum offered us coffee and showed us around. He said: ‘The government has no money’ before switching on the lights. He put the Torvill and Dean book I gave him into the display cabinet telling their story. He paid for the taxi into town and then said hello to everyone we passed, including a former president of Yugoslavia. I interviewed Jasenko and Benjamin at SARTR yesterday. I offered to pay for coffee but Benjamin said ‘Don’t worry’. I asked for a cigarette and they looked shocked. Jasenko said ‘In Sarajevo, you don’t ask, you just take’. I said ‘In Nottingham, I don’t smoke’.
I feel now, heading home, that perhaps my journey is over and I need to turn these notes to music into a play. I feel ready to start writing it tomorrow. I have a structure. I have a concept. I have a dramaturg. I have a cast. I have three actors from SARTR and the funding to bring this to Nottingham in March/April. I have a British actor who would be good to play the writer (me) and the composer (Ravel). I have one week at Nottingham Playhouse to develop the project further and bring the idea to life. The job of researching is nearly over now and the job of writing must begin. Really it is a job of weaving disparate strands together to make a show. Just as we follow the needle of a record player around Bolero so we follow a needle that stitches together Ravel writing Bolero to Torvill and Dean dancing to it, Zubin Mehta conducting it and Haris Pasovic directing it.
We have motifs of flowers, chairs, ice, stillness, silence and waiting. Edin and Jasenko said in war there was never silence and you were always waiting. It is not about the war but war is always waiting in the wings. The assassination that triggered the First World War in which Ravel fought and the Bosnian War that rewrote the history of the Winter Olympics and redefined the skyline of the city. Now the stadium is rebuilt but the graves of victims of war remain in its shadow. Still hearing the call to prayer and music from the ice skating at Zetra stadium. This is the problem and the beauty of writing Bolero. There is so much to say.