AN OBITUARY BY MARK LONG
A few weeks ago I’m sat at my desk in Dublin. The phone goes. It’s my daughter Georgia. She is in tears, in bits. She can’t stop thinking about Chahine. She has known him nearly all her life. She asks me how I am, how I’m coping. I tell her that I have never heard so many people in bits, in tears, as I have this week on this phone. There is something about that man.
Chahine is family, a People Show person for nearly forty years. A long time to discover a person. Working touring, like a marriage. Good times, stress times. You find out a lot of stuff. Some you don’t want to know and some you do. But with Chahine it was always, right from the off, different.
The man had a quality that transcended the usual petty distractions of life. He didn’t seem to indulge in the every day emotional extremities. There was an inbuilt cool, a calmness. I don’t think I ever heard him shout. I only ever saw him run once. Never violent. Visually immaculate. And if he was pulling a ‘moody’ everyone just assumed it was their fault.
We met him in1979, whilst doing a get in at the ICA. He was introduced to us as Shane. The man. He anticipated all our needs, knew the answers before we even asked and most importantly understood what it was we were about. Unusual in those days. I think he fancied us, we certainly fancied him. Within months he was a full time People Show person. He very quickly fell in love with all the aspects of our work and became an integral cog in our magpie world. He understood our artistic ethos, the normality of our visual and aural insanity. He recognised that the People Show is a three dimensional organization and that all it’s members are required to move with ease between the planes.. He knew he had a contribution to make.
Within months he had taken over the Mike Figgis sound mantle. A high bar. Brought a whole new culture to our sound. His roots, his world. He jumped it and we loved it. And then almost out of nowhere he was the People Show lighting designer. The People Show spent the next year wandering about in the dark. In time we ‘got’ the shadowed noir Yavroyan vision and Chahine realised that occasionally the performers needed to be seen. The rest is history.
Inevitably he made his first appearance as a ‘performer’. He subsequently performed in over thirty eight different People Shows. He brought his innate sense of dignity, spatial awareness and style to all his roles. There was no artifice. Plus the wonderful bonus of his piano playing. He was definitely in the band.
Yet he never ‘paraded’ his immense range of skills. And so we fell in love with Chahine and lived in slight awe of the Yavroyan. Oh yes, he could also speak about five hundred different languages. Bastard.
His loyalty, enthusiasms, standards for the work and the company were supreme. To the extent that though the criticisms were often direct they were invariably correct. He was acutely aware of the value and importance of our history. He kick started the People Show archive, now in the British Library.
Though inevitably the time came when Chahine started to light up the outside world. He never left us.
Chahine, the gentleman, never precious with his time and his skills, never pedantic. He was able to exist and share in a rainbow of diverse and differing cultural worlds. Many many people benefited from his knowledge and experience.
Chahine the man with a secret. He who seemed to know something about life that enabled him. People sensed this about him. But could I ever suss it out? Of course not.
Chahine was and is a spiritual rock. I loved him. Still do.
C H A H I N E Y A V R O Y A N