You’d think if I were going to dream about me and my friends being persecuted by Christians, I’d have set my dream where I grew up. Dallas, Texas. But I transferred it to an England I made up out of movies.
It’s a non-anecdote, really, as most dreams are.
This was over ten years ago, this dream, and I think what triggered it was a Vanity Fair cover featuring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Steerpike in a staged scene promoting a 2000 BBC serial based on Titus Groan, the first of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books. The photograph annoyed me out of all proportion, as when I was a kitten of fifteen or so, my friends and I (the Gang of Six who are all still friends) were on a great Mervyn Peake kick, and I had clear notions, based largely on the Peake sketches, of how characters in any dramatization should look. When we were kids, we thought that if Dick Cavett were younger, he could play Steerpike in a Gormenghast film.
This alone is kind of funny. Imagine a group of kids at a Texas high school in 1969, avidly reading Mervyn Peake and sitting together in the school lunchroom to talk Gormenghast.
So: In the dream my friend Allen and I, together with Cooper Renner, were roving about England (generic, bucolic rural England) scouting locations for our own film based on Peake’s Gormenghast books.
All I recollect is the truncated denouement, truncated by my waking. Allen and Renner and I came upon a country church which had nothing to do with any proposed film location, but we were eager for a rest, and so we went in. And it was more or less the church that figures in a scene in Lindsay Anderson’s film O Lucky Man!, a church that Malcolm McDowell enters after a series of batterings and buffetings in the course of picaresque adventure, a place where food for a holy feast is laid out. He is famished and grabs a loaf of bread, then is chided for it by the vicar’s wife, who proceeds to suckle him at her breast.
In my dream, the church was full of welcoming worshippers, so we were very happy to stop there for a while. There was no suckling, but they were right friendly. However, I began to get an inkling that in fact the friendly worshippers were wolves in sheep’s clothing and that they were laying a ghastly fate for us. I tipped a nod to my pals, and we slipped quietly out the door, hoping to make our escape, but a little girl who was one of those “Children of the Damned” types pointed us out, and a howling mob came rushing after us.
And I woke up.
That is all. Told you it was a non-anecdote.
One more thing I do recall, in addition to the Mervyn Peake inspiration, is a feeling that conjured up Wicker Man (dir: Robin Hardy), although in the dream my friends and I were pursued not by pagans but by Christians. Perhaps this is because Allen and Renner were raised in strict fundamentalist families. I’m not sure.
The film Witchfinder General (dir: Michael Reeves) also entered into it. Maybe something about the dream locale. Or twisted religious mania generally. Some form of persecution. All muddled, as dreams so often are.
What amuses me is that my dream was so very much the dream of an Anglophile whose idea of England comes from reading and from the movies. I’ve only spent two weeks out of my life in England, and those in London. But clearly an England of the imagination infuses my dreams.