Unless the Eye Catch Fire

A dramatic reading of the work by P.K. Page, adapted by Joy Coghill, with music by Francois Houle

The late great P.K. Page wrote her story Unless the Eye Catch Fire in 1972. She took the title from two lines of a poem by Theodore Roszak: "Unless the eye catch fire/The God will not be seen."

At a time that feels like the near future in a place that feels like here, a woman who is alone (except for her dog) records in her diary a magical event. Her fascination with what she calls "the colours" almost obscures the fact that the Earth is in the final months of an ecological disaster.

Unless the Eye Catch Fire is told as a series of simple diary entries written by a woman of wisdom and wit, as she copes with everyday life in the face of the indescribable end. It's poetic, yes, but also wryly funny and, in some ways, quite unexceptional. It's about an ordinary woman with an ordinary dog in what turns out to be an extraordinary situation.

The Vancouver director Joy Coghill, who adapted the story for this reading, describes Unless the Eye Catch Fire as "P.K.'s story of psychic belonging as it is played out against the ultimate human nightmare...this is a story for our times reverberating as it does around our worst fears and our deepest creative desires."

P.K. Page was a distinguished Canadian writer and visual artist from the West Coast who won more than 15 awards, including the Governor General's Award for poetry. Unless the Eye Catch Fire was the single prose piece in her book of poems, Evening Dance of the Grey Flies. She wrote more than a dozen books of poetry, eight children's books, and several prose works, including the travel memoir Brazilian Journal, for which she won the B.C. Book Award's Hubert Evans Prize. P.K. Page was a Companion of the Order of Canada and the subject of the NFB film Still Waters and a biography in progress by Sandra Djwa.

Joy Coghill A veteran actor and trail-blazer, Joy has also been a theatre producer, director and teacher. In 1953 she created Holiday Theatre, a professional company for young audiences. In 1995 she founded the Western Gold Theatre, a company for senior professionals. Both were firsts in Canada. Joy was the first female artistic director of the Vancouver Playhouse (1967-69) and the English Acting Section of the National Theatre School. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award in 2002.

Francois Houle, clarinetist and composer, has established himself as one of today's most inventive musicians in classical, jazz, new music, improvised music and world music. Whether performing Mozart or Messiaen, appearing as a featured soloist with orchestra or improvising and embracing live, interactive electronics, he demystifies music for audiences everywhere. He has made solo appearances at major festivals across Canada, the U.S. and Europe, and has released more than a dozen recordings, earning multiple Juno and West Coast Award nominations.

This recording was made in front of an audience in Studio 1 at CBC Vancouver on November 10, 2010.

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