Decomposed Theater

By Matéi Visniec
Translated by Jozefina Komporaly

Volume 8, Issue 4 (Fall 2021)

Over the last three decades, Matéi Visniec has generated a substantial body of work that situates him as a major voice in European playwriting and an influential commentator on topical social and political issues. The latter is closely intertwined with his career as a journalist for Radio France Internationale, where he is regularly reporting on current affairs. Visniec started out as a dramatist in his native Romania and consolidated this practice after his self-imposed exile to France in 1987. Although he has continued to (also) write plays with a focus on Eastern European realities, he switched from writing in Romanian to French and this transition had an instant impact on his style, leading to a much more pared down and direct mode of expression. This transition has also reframed the reception of his work, and as the playwright contends, his success is considerably down to the French theatre system, where small-scale companies can afford to take risks with contemporary experimental work. For many of these companies the creative process culminates in taking productions to theatre festivals, especially the Avignon OFF Festival, where Visniec has become one of the most frequently staged contemporary Francophone authors.

Visniec’s plays have often been described as being in the tradition of the theatre of the absurd, and his veneration of Beckett and Ionesco—to whom he has dedicated plays—continue to fuel such parallels. He draws on key absurdist themes, such as the crisis of language and communication, confinement, estrangement, angst, alienation, however, he generally highlights the role of external (rather than internal) factors and his protagonists are at the mercy of hostile circumstances and regimes. Words make an attempt at expressing the absurdity of the human condition, yet they keep failing and there are no solutions on offer, audiences and readers being invited to search for these themselves. Visniec often points out that in communist Romania, absurd was a reality rather than an aesthetic trend, and he even gets his alter ego of sorts, the poet Sergiu Penegaru to clarify this to the virtual character of Eugène Ionesco in And Now Who’s Going to Do the Dishes?: “Here, we live the absurd, while, over there, you write it.” In this respect, Visniec emerges as a playwright closely tuned in to actual lived experience, and joins a long line of politically engaged writers.            

Decomposed Theatre is based on a French original entitled Théâtre décomposé, ou l’homme-poubelle, first produced in 1993 in French and Romanian by Theatrum Mundi and the French Cultural Institute in Bucharest, directed by Cătălina Buzoianu. The translation has also relied heavily on Visniec’s own subsequent Romanian version entitled Teatru descompus sau omul pubelă. This play is among the formally most innovative Visniec texts, whereby the playwright offers what he terms a “modular text”—a selection of independent scenes that can be combined in various permutations in performance—allowing theatre companies full flexibility in mise-en-scène. In the course of these self-contained monologues and dialogues, Visniec illuminates topical psychological traumas, by conjuring up an atmosphere of anguish and confinement and featuring a constant deployment of menace that blurs the boundaries between actual and imaginary situations. For this reason, the play has proven to be particularly poignant during the ongoing pandemic. In addition to this episodic version below, Trap Door Theatre has also produced an earlier digital version directed by Josiah Davis for the Internaional Voices Project Chicago (30 September 2020), while an audio production directed by Kate O’Connor was aired on Trafika Europe Radio on 24 April 2021.

Further information on Visniec’s work is available in the volume How to Explain the History of Communism to Mental Patients and Other Plays, ed. Jozefina Komporaly (Seagull Books, 2015) and Komporaly’s essay “András Visky & Matéi Visniec: Challenging boundaries of cultural specificity,” in Contemporary European Playwrights, eds. Maria M Delgado, Bryce Lease and Dan Rebellato(Routledge, 2020), pp. 76-94.

This play was translated for Trap Door Theatre’s unique stage adaptation of Visniec’s “dialogic spectacle of monologues,” directed and performed live on Zoom by an international ensemble and relayed online in 8 episodes between 3 December 2020 and 4 February 2021.

In this imaginative series, Trap Door decomposes and recomposes Visniec’s modular text into a new structure, finding novel synergies between individual scenes and reinterpreting a timeless play written under the hallmark of open dramaturgy for the here and now. This new adaptation boldly explores the play’s inherent modularity and permutability, and the dialogues thus established between the various scenes and episodes offer a multitude of readings and associations.

Many thanks to artistic director Beata Pilch for approaching me with this project, and to Seagull Books for their kind permission to rework the play, originally published in the volume Matéi Visniec: How to Explain the History of Communism to Mental Patients and Other Plays (ed. J. Komporaly, Seagull Books, 2015).         

Matéi Visniec (aka Matei Vișniec, born 1956) is one of the most prolific writers of fiction, poetry, and drama in the Romanian language, also known for a significant output of dramatic work originally authored in French. His many awards include prizes from the Romanian Writers’ Union, the Romanian Theatre Union (UNITER), the Avignon Festival, the French Society of Writers and Composers, and the 2016 Jean Monnet Award for European Literature for the novel The Merchant of Opening Lines. Visniec’s plays are among the most frequently performed works at the Avignon OFF Festival, and he has a growing international profile with productions in over thirty languages. In his native Romania, Visniec has achieved quasi-canonical status since the fall of communism (his work was banned prior to 1989); most theatres stage his work on a regular basis and the Suceava Theatre was named in his honour. Visniec’s work is available in the following English publications: the anthologies Balkan Plots (ed. Cheryl Robson for Aurora Metro Books, 2002); Playwrights before the Fall (ed. Daniel Gerould for the Martin E Segal Center Publications, 2009), and How to Explain the History of Communism to Mental Patients and Other Plays (ed. Jozefina Komporaly for Seagull Books, 2015). His Kafkaesque novel Mr K Released was published by Seagull Books in 2020, and two of his plays are included in Plays from Romanian: Dramaturgies of Subversion (ed. Jozefina Komporaly for Bloomsbury, 2021).

Jozefina Komporaly lectures at the University of the Arts London and translates from Romanian and Hungarian into English. She is editor and co-translator of the drama collections How to Explain the History of Communism to Mental Patients and Other Plays (Seagull Books, 2015) and András Visky’s Barrack Dramaturgy: Memories of the Body (Intellect, 2017), and author of numerous publications on drama and performance, including essays on Romanian and Hungarian theatre and the monographs Staging Motherhood and Radical Revival as Adaptation (Palgrave, 2017). Her stage translations have been produced by Foreign Affairs (London), Trap Door and Theatre Y (Chicago), Trafika Europe Radio, and recently translated work includes two volumes of essays on directing by Mihai Măniuţiu (co-translated with Nicoleta Cinpoeş) and the novel Mr K Released by Matéi Visniec (Seagull, 2020—shortlisted for the 2021 EBRD Literature Prize). Her latest publication as editor and translator is the transnational drama anthology Plays from Romanian: Dramaturgies of Subversion (Bloomsbury, 2021). She is a member of the UK Translators Association and of International Federation of Theatre Research.

EPISODE 1. DIRECTED BY KATARZYNA WIŃSKA, 3 DECEMBER 2020

THE RUNNER, THE ILLUSIONIST

Cast: John Kahara, Michael Mejia

THE RUNNER: PART 1

I can’t stop. This hasn’t happened to me before. This morning, I left for my usual run. I got as far as a couple hundred feet when I suddenly realized I couldn’t stop.

As I passed the newsstand, the seller called out “Hello!”—I tried to slow down to answer him and I turned my head but I was already too far away.

It’s funny how people still haven’t realized what’s happened. Everyone knows that I’m the town’s marathon runner, that I run without stopping—always at the same time and always the same route. So everyone’s used to me running. I greet them as I run, answer their questions as I run, give them a friendly wave as I run.

But this time, I couldn’t. I can’t stop. And what’s more, I can’t turn left or right, I’m forced to run straight ahead. Obviously, something’s wrong. But what?

I’m approaching the outskirts of the town. People usually watch me pass with admiration, so Mr. Kuntz calls out: “How’s it going?” I shout back: “Badly!” But I’m already far away, too far, and he can’t hear me . . . Oh, good God, won’t they stop clapping me? And there’s Mrs. Cantonelli exclaiming: “How fast he runs! How supple! How graceful!”

“Enough, madam, enough!” I start feeling dizzy. Evidently, my body isn’t listening to my brain. “Help me!”

Just look at them all, lounging on their terraces and in the cafés. They have nothing else to do all day but sit back and sip beer and white wine—and watch me running. Oh Christ, stop, stop saying that I’m disciplined, that I’m handsome, that I’m admirable, that I’m strong, that I’m bursting with willpower. Stop it because I can’t stop!

“Stop me, please stop me!” Evidently, they can’t hear me. “Mr. Pippidi! Mr. Pippidi!”

That’s the baker. He blows me a kiss, the stupid bastard.

And here’s the last cafe, the last houses, the end of the town. I’m drenched in sweat. For the first time in my life, I’m afraid. Here comes the last street to the left, but I can’t turn left. Here comes the last street to the right, but I can’t turn right. I make a superhuman effort to stop myself at the town gates, but I can’t.

“Help me! Help me!”

My final chance lies there—where the three old men who always sit on the bench in the sun, in the same place where you enter the town. Whenever I pass them, the first one always says: “Very talented, that runner.” And the second one says: “He’s as handsome as an angel.” And the third adds: “He’s definitely going to win.” But this time, as they turn their heads to watch me, I’ve already disappeared over the horizon.

In a way, I’m glad that it’s all behind me.

THE ILLUSIONIST: PART 1

So perhaps I shall start by discovering, say, who among you has violated the regulations and brought prohibited animals onboard.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, many people don’t want to be separated from their white mice or their black rabbits or their other little beasts.

What’s this? Mice? But how can this be? Mice are forbidden onboard. Perhaps they’re your favorite animals, after all, there are people who can’t make even a single move without their animals.

For example . . . for example . . . you sir, yes, you! What are you doing with that little hedgehog under your rear? What? There isn’t one there? Would you mind standing up for a little bit, ah, there you go! That doesn’t bother you at all, sir, a hedgehog under your rear?

And you, sir, why are you wearing a live butterfly under your tie? You might end up crushing it, the poor thing, Go on, take it, see how beautiful it is! Perhaps you’d like to attach it to your neck?

No?

And you, madam, why do you have that frog in your handbag? Would you allow me? Frogs, madam, will eat anything, you know, so I’d advise you to check that all your things are still intact.

Now look at all this! What have we collected so far? Two rabbits, four mice, a snake, a lizard, a butterfly, a frog, a turtle, a hedgehog, two snails, and a squirrel—that makes quite a nice zoo! I’ll keep all of these in my hat for you, if that’s all right.

Hmm, I have the feeling they won’t get on well together at all. Goodness me, aren’t they quite a cocktail!

THE RUNNER: PART 2

The town’s now a fuzzy shape that gets smaller and smaller in the distance. Christ, what are these, tears? I’m crying? Well, there you go, I run and I cry. But I don’t feel tired or scared. I simply cry. And I don’t try to understand. I can only feel the tears running down my face. They’re making me cold but I can’t raise my arms to wipe them away. My arms are frozen into a shape that offers me the best aerodynamic profile to help me run like a racing car. I charge ahead with my head bent forward, carving the optimum passage through the air.

The road is more or less deserted. From time to time, cars drive in the opposite direction. I don’t call for help any more but simply smile at the drivers who give me a friendly wave. Now I’m running through a forest—I had to abandon the road because it curved and I can only go in a straight line. I take a path. I climb a hill. I run down into a valley. I don’t have the energy to think any more. All I can do is watch the countryside go by. My main worry is avoiding the trees. When you run this fast, trees become dangerous.

Night falls, but I keep on running. I stumble across an unknown village and then a new town, also unknown to me. Everyone is asleep at this late hour and no one knows I’m the only living thing running at night.

I’m running in the dark, in fact. The lights from the last village have disappeared. Now I can’t see anything in front of me. I barely miss the rocks and trees, following my instincts, but occasionally a night bird flies into me. I count my injuries. I’ve already killed a fair number of birds and even a few animals which I’ve inadvertently trampled over. More and more often, I hear wild cries and screams of sadness.

And now it’s morning, and I’m nothing but a running wound. Behind me is a long trail of blood. Before me rise the mountains. The air is cold. It’s going to rain. That’s good, the rain will cleanse my injuries. The sea lies just beyond those mountains and, naturally, you should always be cleansed before you plunge into the sea.

THE ILLUSIONIST: PART 2

Thank you, ladies, thank you, gentlemen!

Perhaps we should stop here. No? Would you like to see another trick? OK, I know another little trick but it’s a touch dangerous, it’s the one with the magic wand, but it doesn’t always work. I mean, sometimes the wand doesn’t obey me.

Particularly when I want to make something reappear. Let’s say, a watch. Sir, would you kindly pass me your watch? Thank you. Let’s see if we can make this one vanish. One, two, three! Oh, dear. That didn’t work, did it, madam? What? It’s your husband who disappeared?

Look, it’s not a problem. Hang on, you’ll have your husband back. One, two, three!

Strange . . . very strange indeed! Did you see that? The lady just vanished, too. But that was just what she wanted, she wanted to be with her husband, and they are, without a doubt, together at this very moment but on the other side of the barrier that separates our ordinary world from the world of fantasy.

But look, it’s no big deal. We’ll make both of them reappear. One, two, three! Oh no! That’s a bit too much, isn’t it? I see that the whole first row of the audience has vanished. There are only two possibilities open to us: either we just stop right now and accept these minimal risks, or else we try again and take some real risks! Shall we?

One, two, three! Oh, damn, another row gone. Ladies and gentlemen, wait a moment, please don’t panic.

A moment, please. Allow me to concentrate. One, two, three! What’s this? The dome? No, that’s no big deal, we can see the vaults of heaven so much better now. One, two, three! What’s that? The stars? All of them? It’s all going so fast now, eh? It’s fast with this screwy wand isn’t it? But what are you all doing? You can’t leave me like this. Look, give me another chance. Wait! One, two, three!

Weird. That one even made the sea disappear. Where are we now?

One, two, three, make everyone come back! Obviously I’m making the same mistake each time, but which mistake is it, good God, which one?

How many do we have left now? One, two, three, four, five . . . ten? Well, gentlemen, now that we’re all men here, I feel I can reveal the secret of this routine. I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the magic formula, that’s the truth.

One, two, three! Son of a bitch! What a mess! Sir! Good heavens, are you sleeping? Wake up sir, the show has just finished, and yes, you’re the last one here because you didn’t give a shit about my act and fell asleep during . . .

Yes, everyone’s left, that’s it, so you didn’t see a thing? Well, look, could you do me a tiny favor? I’d be infinitely grateful, it’s no big deal, here, take my wand, point it at me and say “one, two, three, abracadabra!”

That’s right, go for it! What? The wand disappeared? So that’s really it. Sir, I think we’re the only ones left on this vessel, and what worries me most is that just a minute ago we could see a strip of land on the horizon, and now we can’t . . .

EPISODE 2. DIRECTED BY ZACHARY NICOL, 10 DECEMBER 2020

THE MEAT EATER

Cast: Zachary Nicol

red gloved hands holding and twisting pepper grinder

Wow, don’t we love buying meat! Beef, pork, lamb, chicken, fish, and snails, all of it is good for your body’s flesh.

We are basically flesh that devours flesh. In fact, we live in a universe of flesh. I have no doubt of that. Everything is meat.

red gloved hands drop grinder

So when did I first realize that buying meat was my only true pleasure? Well, even when I was a child, I’d stand staring at the displays in the butcher’s shop window. The sight of raw meat, fresh, triggered my first orgasms.

All my life, I’ve only ever wanted to buy meat. Pig ears and entrails, cow’s brains, sheep’s tongues and kidneys, pheasant’s gizzards, cod livers, lobster tails, snake-eye soup—what delicacies!

turn toward wall, fall down wall

I am a slave to my passion for flesh. Even if I’m full up, I’ll still pop a chunk of raw meat into my mouth. I’ll just keep chewing on and on, without swallowing it. If I do swallow by accident, a sudden feeling of sheer emptiness and loss overwhelms me.

But when exactly, as I was eating a hamburger I had dropped on the table, did I first take my first bite of the table itself? That must have happened not long after the night my husband mysteriously disappeared from our bed.

red gloved hands emerge from bottom of frame

The shock of such an unsettling experience brought me intimately closer to what we know as inorganic nature. In a flash, I understood that everything that surrounds us is flesh. And that everything we touch is simply the membrane of the giant stomach that contains us. I tasted, yes I tasted, my oak table, and then my leather suitcases, the windowpanes, my silverware and, in one particular night of ecstatic revelation, I gobbled up half of my books. Believe me, everything is meat.

emerge from bottom of frame, trace segment of stomach

What is the definition of man? A piece of meat that devours all the meat around him. That’s the definition of man. The definition of meat, then? Me! I’m a piece of meat that thinks about the meat surrounding me. How truly wonderful it is that every type of meat has its own taste and flavor! I can’t describe to you the intimate self-knowledge I gained after I sampled my own flesh for the first time.

mouth and hand, trembling

But it was tasting my own heart that plunged me into the interior of my own self with no turning back. Since that moment, I have had no desire for any other type of meat to enter via my mouth. My tongue is all I need. My goal now is to venture backwards and inwards, foraging all the way down to my entrails.

I dream of being wrapped up in my own mouth and living sealed up in the cocoon of my taste buds.

remove glove and blacken teeth

I have become a perfect ‘perpetuum mobile’, capable of eating my own flesh without excretion. Nourished by my own flesh, I charge myself with the exact same energy I need in order to eat my own flesh, which always grows back after I consume it.

The most fascinating point of this feast is when I nibble at the cortex of my brain. Nothing grows faster in my mouth (which surrounds me like a scab around an open wound) than my brain as it’s being chewed. I even fear, because of its regenerative powers, that I may be growing.

replace glove and lean on wall

What is the root of this desire to consume the innermost strata of my own cerebellum? To be honest, I no longer know. There has to be something drawing me to the core of my brain, where I most of all long to sink my teeth, but unfortunately it grows faster than I can eat. Its protective coating expands as I eat it, and I feel as if I’m being pushed back by an unknown force.

At the moment, I’m concealed in my bedroom—a giant sphere encircled by a mouth, filling the room like a single organism with its walls. A few more days and, the whole room will, no doubt, explode as a result of my brain swelling like rising dough. Right now, I can hear the ceiling cracking and it sounds like my neighbors above are fleeing down the stairs.

I dig faster and faster into the outer matter of my brain, which never stops expanding. Together, we pour out of the windows and doors, and I can hear people screaming as they evacuate the neighborhood.

red gloved hands signal

I have no idea how all this happened. I’ve always been so agreeable, so calm . . . I’ve always considered myself more inclined to discretion and solitude than to uncontrollable explosions that threaten the streets where I live.

turn towards wall, fall down wall

A little more, and this carnivorous avalanche, the struggle between my mouth and my mind, will engulf the whole town.

Please, please, I’m begging you, don’t leave me alone, please do something!

Is no one honestly going to stop me?

search light

EPISODE 3. DIRECTED BY MICHAEL MEJIA, 17 DECEMBER 2020

THE BRAINWASHER (I), THE MAN WITH THE COCKROACH, THE BEGGAR

Cast: Logan Hulick, Neema Lahon, Leslie Lund, Carl Wisniewski

Pre-show: Whack-a-mole with who is on screen, rotate with different gestures and rushed movements, popping in and out of the grid

Sound cue: Something creepy to establish a beat

THE BRAINWASHER (I)

LESLIE: Eleven announcements for the general public:

NEEMA: 1. Are you stressed? Anxious? Disappointed? Alienated? Are you tormented by existential doubts? Do you fear old age and death? Now you can forget it all! Brainwashing is for you!

CARL: 2. Each of us is still trapped in the days of our cavemen ancestors. Four thousand years of civilization have still not managed to erase a million years of anxiety. Our species is sick of its primitive, irrational past. The subhuman in us that lingers in our minds holds us back and blocks us from attaining new heights. Brainwashing cuts the umbilical cord that ties us to the savage brute that lies within.

LOGAN: 3. It is scientifically proven that all the disruptive evil in our lives originates from inside us. Let us then turn inward to heal ourselves. Brainwashing is the only therapy that directly addresses the root of our misfortunes.

LESLIE: 4. Brainwashing is 100 percent safe. It changes neither the personality nor the mentality of those who practice it. The brain’s vital functions (memory, imagination, reason) are completely unaffected. The washing procedure removes only the morbid impulses of our subconscious.

NEEMA: 5. Ancestral animalism is the source of individualism and egotism, and thus compromises social harmony. With brainwashing, we abandon this shibboleth of primitivism and step closer to our fellow men.

LOGAN: 6. Brainwashing gives you access to tried and tested protection against nightmares, madness and split personality.

CARL: 7. Thanks to brainwashing, we are able at last to purify our most intimate nature—the weight of animalism is relieved so that man may triumph in the balance. Brainwashing is the re-baptism of our being.

LESLIE: 8. Only through this process can we bring ourselves infinitely closer to God. Purification of the being is also purification of the soul. At the summit of our soul’s perfection, God becomes more accessible.

CARL: 9. Brainwashing restores our essential self to the core of our being. Instead of a labyrinth, we become the clearest mirror for the whole universe.

NEEMA: 10. Through brainwashing, we attain immortality, because nothing is closer to immortality than those who have overcome within themselves all fear, including the fear of death.

LOGAN: 11. Brainwashing is the ultimate freedom, the power to live individual and social ecstasy to the full. Here is your gateway to supreme happiness.

CARL: So hurry, ladies and gentlemen, to your local brainwashing center!

LOGAN: There you shall find the best specialists and counselors at your service, and their expertise free of charge to you!

All lenses covered—sound cue—we slowly start to see all lenses uncovered then shut off with Logan’s lens appearing—we only see a slight shadow

Silence—breath-scratching is heard—full lights on Logan’s lens

THE MAN WITH THE COCKROACH

LOGAN: Whenever I go into the kitchen, it’s there. It waits for me at the end of the table, and sometimes I get the impression it’s watching me. It’s not a cockroach like all the others. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen. Perhaps the darkest, as well. I always ask myself why I didn’t squash it the moment I first saw it on my table. Was it its fixed gaze that paralyzed my hand? And, for that matter, is it even watching me?

NEEMA AND LOGAN: If it’s watching me, does it really see me?

LESLIE: I admit I know nothing at all about cockroaches, but its magnetic immobility, like it’s the king of the cockroaches, leads me to believe that it’s always watching me. It’s clear to me this cockroach is endowed with a certain wisdom. It isn’t afraid of me. And if I haven’t killed it, this is also because I do understand that it isn’t afraid of me. It must be very old as well. I’ve tried to work out how long it has been living in my house.

CARL AND LESLIE: How long do cockroaches live, in any case?

CARL: I’ll have to make inquiries. One morning, before heading off for the office, I left a breadcrumb for the cockroach on the table. When I returned in the evening, I saw that it had eaten it. Since then, I leave a breadcrumb out every day. I’ve noticed that the cockroach won’t eat in my presence. I offered it a crumb while I was eating, but it didn’t make a move. What a shame.

CARL AND NEEMA: We could have breakfast together.

NEEMA: Oh good! It has come to dinner as well. This has already become a ritual. In the morning when I leave, the cockroach is perched on the left corner of the table. When I return, it’s waiting for me on the right corner. I wonder what it does in the meantime. Saturday morning, when I usually like to cook, the cockroach stays with me the whole time. There’s no question of killing it now.

CARL: We often spend the weekends together at home. We look out of the window a lot. The cockroach may be old but it’s fast. Ten seconds to scramble down the table and disappear into its hole behind the stove. Thirty seconds to join me at the window. Less than a minute to climb onto the desk in my library. A minute to get comfortable on its stool after I switch on the TV. This morning, when I opened my eyes, it was perched on the ceiling, directly above my head. When I took my shower and shaved in the bathroom, it climbed down and settled back on the kitchen table. It sleeps on the ceiling above me more often now, but that doesn’t bother me.

CARL AND LOGAN: It’s like it’s watching over my slumber.

LOGAN: I have to admit that I do sleep better, when I feel that it’s above me.

NEEMA: It’s amazing how well the cockroach knows all my reactions, my tics, my habits. At eight o’clock in the evening, when I listen to Bach, it climbs onto the bell of the phonograph and sits still and listens, inspecting the inside of the bell as if it were a great chasm. And, in my turn, I’ve been initiated into its own habits, especially those concerning its dietary preferences. I’m aware that it’s quite fond of fruit, that it detests meat, that cheese makes it queasy. When it comes to music, the cockroach is a great lover of Vivaldi, Corelli, and Handel. It struggles to digest Debussy. Once, while listening to Mahler, it lost its balance and fell into the abyss of the phonograph bell. I have read out loud to the cockroach works such as Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables and Le Clezio’s The Verbal Process.

LOGAN: Our communication has become increasingly sophisticated.

LESLIE: Everything I read, I read aloud to the cockroach, who usually doesn’t move a muscle until the last page. And then, sometimes, it will leave me at page 50 to retire back into its hole in the kitchen. I no longer read books it doesn’t want to listen to after page 50. But nothing is more fascinating than our walks through the apartment. If I choose one particular route and trace an invisible geometric shape with my steps as we go, the cockroach is able to retrace it. If, on the walk, I trace out one or more figures-of-eight, the cockroach reproduces them exactly. Sometimes, I invent extremely complex figures, going back over my own steps with simulated hesitations. But nothing’s impossible for the cockroach, it swiftly retraces my path as if it were the very memory of my steps. Another game is when I close my eyes and turn around, approach an object chosen at random and then, when I decide to open my eyes, the cockroach is magically perched there—

NEEMA: on a painting or on a lamp, on a shelf or on the stove, there at the exact level of my gaze.

LOGAN: Sometimes it’s the cockroach who starts to turn around, but I never understand what it is it wants from me. I watch the cockroach, it turns, it outlines larger and larger circles, it stops and waits until I react in some manner or another.

CARL: Oh, how ashamed I am of my inability to understand! But when I’m there in its circles, the cockroach moves quicker and its movements betray a certain gaiety.

NEEMA: I am patient, waiting for this game to take us somewhere.

LESLIE: At any rate, I now repeat everything the cockroach suggests to me because I find that in its own way the cockroach is communicating the mystery of its being.

LOGAN: Whenever it jumps upon something, I go up to touch it.

NEEMA: When the cockroach stays without moving for an hour or two on a chair, I don’t move either until it moves.

CARL: On the table, the cockroach has invented another little routine. It climbs up the side of my empty glass and, in what appears to be an act of suicide, throws itself in.

LOGAN: What is it trying to communicate with a gesture like this? The last time, while waiting for the cockroach to finish its dive and hit the bottom, I fell asleep, my head on the table.

NEEMA: I awoke to the trumpets of a Vivaldi allegro. It was dark and I realized that I too was in a freefall down the infinite abyss of an enormous phonograph bell.

Rapid whack-a-mole—a cacophony of sounds and slams

Sound cue squish

Silence—we see Carl’s lens come up

Silence

We see Neema’s lens

Silence

Logan’s lens

Silence

Leslie’s lens

We only see a shadow of Leslie and Logan / full up on Carl and Neema

This scene is playing with a lot of light distortion—the idea is that two people are always in shadow, while we fully see the other two in their surrounding

THE BEGGAR

LESLIE: It all begins on a beautiful spring morning, most likely a Monday. You wake up with a start and a massive headache. The minutes pass by. You have no idea what’s going on and then you realize it was the silence that woke you. You check the alarm clock. Strange. It’s six thirty-two and Mrs. Cantonelli hasn’t walked her dog, the refrigerated van hasn’t stopped at the butcher’s, and Mr. Matarazzo, the saxophonist, hasn’t started his morning musical exercises.

LOGAN: At eight o’clock sharp, as you head for the office, you notice at least two things that are out of the ordinary: the door to your landlady’s apartment is half open, and Mrs. Cantonelli’s gloves have been dropped (one on the third floor, the other on the first). There’s no one in the street. You walk to the bus stop to discover that scattered all over the pavement are a suitcase, a woman’s shoe, two slippers, an umbrella, a pair of broken glasses, Mr. Matarazzo’s saxophone, and a dog collar (but not that of Mrs. Cantonelli’s poodle, Piccolino). There’s no one at the bus stop, either. You wait for a good half hour and the bus still hasn’t shown up. Since you’re a disciplined and punctual civil servant, you decide to walk to the office. It’s only then, as you cross the town, that you fully appreciate the strangeness of this day.

Silence

NEEMA: The streets are completely empty. All the cars are abandoned, as if their drivers had suddenly slammed on the brakes and then run off to hide. Most of the buildings’ windows and doors are wide open. There’s no noise from inside, no movement to betray the slightest human presence. The streets are strewn with objects, hastily discarded as if they had hindered a panic-stricken mass of people in flight: hundreds of handbags, hats, umbrellas, baskets, coats, canes, overcoats, overturned strollers, broken mirrors. There’s no one at work either. You take the elevator to the sixth floor, where your office is. You go in and wait for something to happen.

ALL: But nothing does.

CARL: Your secretary doesn’t come in. Your boss doesn’t call. Still, you do try to get a little work done on your files but the silence starts to get on your nerves. Eventually, you pluck up the courage to tour the office, only to find there isn’t a single soul there. All you can see are files (some of them highly important) scattered all over the floor. At first, you refuse to let the evidence of this strange situation intimidate you, and you force yourself to continue with your office duties as expected until noon. Then you leave, as you always do, for a bite to eat at your favorite deli. The deli is just as empty as the office and every other deli in town, but that doesn’t stop you from taking a seat at your usual table. You gaze out at the empty street and try to concentrate.

Silence

ALL: Is this the scene of a collective nightmare, which only you have escaped?

LESLIE: Or, better still, is it a monumental practical joke played on you with the whole town in on the joke? You’re still hungry, so you go behind the counter to make a sandwich. You also pick up a beer. You eat your meal calmly, deposit ten euros in the cash register, and return to the office. Stubbornly, having decided not to play this pointless game, you continue working until five o’clock. Meanwhile the elevator stays motionless, not a step echoes in the hall, your phone doesn’t ring, and the keyboards remain silent. It’s only when you’re walking home that evening that you start to get really worried. The town seems completely abandoned. There aren’t even birds in the sky. Not a cat, not a dog, not a rat. The animals and insects have disappeared along with the people. There’s not a breath of wind. The world watches you obstinately, the air hanging heavy with silence. Even the trees have something frozen about them, as if they had wanted to rip themselves from the earth to rush off along with the humans but instead were left behind, as if paralyzed by some silent order to desist.

ALL: You run back home.

Silence

LOGAN: You knock on your landlady’s half-open door. No one answers, so you decide to venture in. Mrs. Cantonelli isn’t there. You then knock on Mr. Matarazzo’s door. No one answers because Mr. Matarazzo’s apartment is also empty. You knock on every door in the building, you enter every apartment. You go into every building on the street but there’s still no one to be found. Shops, cafes, bakeries, newsstands—they’re all empty. The sun’s going to set soon, and a terrible fear overwhelms you. You barricade yourself inside your home. The electricity still works and you turn on every light in the apartment. You turn on the radio and the TV but there’s nothing to listen to and nothing to watch.

Silence

CARL: The phone seems to work and you dial your best friend’s number. No one picks up at the other end. You start dialing random numbers but no one ever answers. You don’t sleep at all that night. You wait, seated in a chair facing the door, listening to the silence. Over the following days, you realize that there’s nothing to do and that

ALL: You are alone.

Silence

NEEMA: Now you have to get really organized. The stench of rotting food has become intolerable and you begin a large-scale cleaning operation, starting on your own street. You put everything perishable into large rubbish bags. You close every door and every window in the town. This takes you about six months. You collect all the abandoned objects and divide them into categories. In two years, you have cleaned up every street and parked every car in a correctly designated area. You’re no longer afraid to go to work in the town and you’re pleased to see that cleanliness reigns once more. The only real problems you encounter are the few fires that broke out on the day of the evacuation. One petrol station burns for months. For three years you can’t go anywhere near the Institute of Chemical Research. You also have to face a number of major floods and at one point you are terrified at the prospect of losing all your drinking water. Time passes and you become accustomed to the new normality. You are finally a free man and omnipotent. You have access to all the town’s secrets. You spend weekends in the homes of the bosses who never invited you over. There, you discover their secret drawers and hidden vices. You read their letters, rummage through their files, blow the doors off their safes. During the week, you explore the places marked PRIVATE, FORBIDDEN, DO NOT ENTER, DANGER. You visit bank vaults, police and military archives, the CEO’s personal chambers, the meteorological station, the local television studio, the mail-sorting center, the hospital’s gynecology wing, the prison, the hospital for the mentally ill, brothels, the morgue and the medical-legal institute, the Carmelite convent, the catacombs, the sewers, the caves.

Silence, age character

CARL: For a long time you try to maintain, through rigorous discipline, a certain continuity between the past and yourself. You write letters to yourself that you place in your own letterbox every evening, just to experience the surprise of finding them in the morning. Once a fortnight you visit your absent mother, never forgetting to bring her a cake. To maintain contact with what you call reality, you read a newspaper after breakfast (you discovered a collection of old newspapers from the fifties in your local library).

LOGAN: In order to make a living, you continue going to the office, and at the end of each month, you withdraw your salary from whichever bank is closest. But there are times, when you can’t resist the urge to smash a few shop windows on your afternoon walks. And there are times when you can’t help but drive all day and all night across the town, laughing and screaming incomprehensibly until you’re completely exhausted. If a building worries you, you condemn it to death without hesitation and board up its doors and windows. While visiting art galleries, you often come upon canvases that bring back painful memories. You judge them, then throw them, for a while, in prison.

Silence, age character

LESLIE: All the cells are now full of paintings you have judged to be a danger to the moral wellbeing of the town. In the park, in the city center, you embark on major projects, along with the vision of dividing it down the middle with a wide boulevard bearing your name. From time to time, you celebrate the anniversary of your solitude and organize fireworks (time is something you count off from the day you found yourself alone in the deserted town). One night, a telephone rings in the apartment next door. You jump out of bed, race over and pick it up just as the other end hangs up. You don’t want to speculate, you don’t want to draw conclusions. It’s this sort of rigorous self-censure that has kept you alive all these years. There is a savage smile etched permanently on your face now that the phones echo with increasing frequency throughout the town. You hear them everywhere, in the building across from you, in the cafe as you drink your coffee at noon, in the library as you collect another collection of old newspapers.

ALL: But you no longer pick up. 

Silence—we start to hear the critters from earlier, slowly speeding up through the last section

CARL: You know it’s useless, that the person on the other end is always quicker than you. Your smile weighs heavier and heavier on your face, but you have no choice.

LOGAN: It’s your only response to the calls that harass you day and night from every building, from every house, on every corner. Like an emperor, you walk down the centers of the grand boulevards as phones ring out desperately from each building—even the phone booths ring as you pass them by, as if your presence triggers the same secret emergency number.

LESLIE: You understand everything now. You no longer sleep, as you used to, in the palaces of the rich, the mansions of the famous and the town’s most sumptuous hotels. You don’t even want to go home. You prefer to lie down in train stations, in the metro, and near large stadiums. In winter, you spend the night under bridges, church entrances, and occasionally in a concierge’s office.

NEEMA: During the summer, you sleep on park benches or on the steps of public buildings. It’s there, completely by chance, that you learned to beg. You fell asleep once, with your hat forgotten at your feet, and in the morning, it was full of coins. The same thing happens over and over again, and, even though the town remains pitifully deserted, there’s always something for you to find in your hat.

A blast of sound as this last section builds.

EPISODE 4. DIRECTED BY MARIAN MASOLIVER, THURSDAY, 7 JANUARY 2021

THE HUMAN RUBBISH BIN, THE PHILOSOPHER, THE ANIMAL TRAINER

Cast: Caroline Hart, Emily Lotspeich, Keith Surney, Kevin Webb

THE HUMAN RUBBISH BIN

Soundtrack continues throughout the title, then it continues into the bathroom. It then fades down as a background sound but loud enough so it is clear and present.

An empty bathroom.

After 2 seconds: A man enters, he is running away from a fight outside. He is flustered and angry. He walks to the mirror and looks in it (the mirror has 3 parts, 3 mirrors). He washes his face and looks back into the mirror.

KEVIN: It all starts one day when, as you briefly pause to light your cigarette, an old woman opens the door of her apartment building, steps out with a rubbish bin and, without looking at you, dumps her rubbish all over your feet.

“Fuck!” “Are you out of your mind?”

But she acts as if she doesn’t hear a thing. She goes back inside and closes the door behind her without so much as a look back.

To camera.

You dust off your feet and continue on your way.

A few days later, you’re reading the newspaper waiting for the bus and a small dog pisses all over your shoes. The other people waiting there can hardly suppress their giggles but you stand there so stunned you can’t even remember to kick the dumb animal.

Back to the mirror, he flattens one of the parts and now there are two mirrors.

At the office, your co-workers slip bundles of paper in your pockets. “Must be a new sort of prank going round,” you tell yourself, but you don’t dare stop them.

Soundtrack fades up for the transition from Kevin to Keith who is in another location.

The man looks at himself in a specific position and freezes.

KEITH:

Another man in another bathroom. He looks into the mirror in the same position as the man before.

Soundtrack fades down and stays as background sound throughout, as before.

In the street, more and more often, people shove their orange peel into your mouth.

“Everyone’s going mad!” you tell yourself, but you don’t have the energy to fight it.

He puts cream on his face. Looking into the mirror.

By the time you get home at the end of the day, your pockets are stuffed with bundles of paper, toothpicks, crushed drinks cans, bottle tops, empty bottles, cigarette butts and smashed watches.

He stops and looks at himself in the mirror.

“So maybe I really am a human rubbish bin,” you wonder in a moment of astonished solitude.

He washes his face, badly.

A few days later, a man crumples an empty cigarette pack under your hat.

He changes his physicality. Young man.

Character 1 (young man): “Excuse me, sir, do I really look like a rubbish bin to you?”

Change of physicality. Older man.

Character 2 (old man): “Oh, yes, sir. You do.”

Change of physicality. Young man.

Character 1 (young man): “But that’s not really possible is it? I mean, how could I be a rubbish bin?”

Change of physicality. Older man.

Character 2 (older man): “I don’t know, but that’s exactly what you are. You are a human rubbish bin.”

To camera.

“Well there you go, that’s what I am, I’m evidently a human rubbish bin,”

you think afterwards. “But what’s actually happened is that they’ve all gone stark staring crazy.”

Soundtrack fades up for the transition from Keith to Emily who is in a third location.

To camera.

And so, every day you, the human rubbish bin, walks home stuffed with bits of rubbish. The lining of your clothing gets heavier and heavier. It baffles you why people shower you with all of their litter, leftovers and filth.

Looking at the side mirror, putting make up on her eyes.

Leaving the office, the way home becomes more of an ordeal each day. People wait to slip shards of glass and used razor blades into your briefcase.

To camera.

And even on the bus, the passengers don’t spare you. They plonk their old tickets in your hand, while their children take freshly chewed gum out of their little mouths to stick on your coat.

Looking at the side mirror

“I really am far too accepting,” you constantly tell yourself, but you feel no desire to protest.

To camera, medium shot.

On the contrary, whenever someone shoves a piece of rubbish into your pocket, a sort of discreet and reassuring warmth overwhelms you.

To camera, close-up shot.

Sometimes, if the person doesn’t seem in too great a hurry, you dare to ask them, very politely, for an explanation.

To the side mirror.

Character 1 (Young woman): “Excuse me, may I ask you a question?”

To the mirror as rehearsed.

Character 2 (older woman): “Yes, of course. No problem.”

To the side mirror.

Character 1 (young woman): “Why do you want to throw your rubbish over a living human being rather than in a litter bin or rubbish bag?”

To the mirror as rehearsed.

Character 2 (older woman): “I don’t know, it’s strange, a bit like an involuntary reaction.”

To the side mirror.

Character 1 (young woman): “But you can perfectly well see that I’m a human being, that I move, I breathe… You can see that I’m a citizen like anyone else.”

To the mirror as rehearsed.

Character 2 (older woman): “Yes but… there’s something else about you… Your appearance, your bearing, the way you are… well, how can I put this… your person, if you like, just seems to attract rubbish.”

Soundtrack fades up as much as possible without masking the voices of the actors

KEITH:

Looking in the mirror.

As a human rubbish bin, your excursions outside become increasingly dangerous.

A taxi driver, displaying a clear hatred for rats, deliberately tries to run you over and chases you down the streets like a madman for hours on end, crisscrossing the whole town.

To camera

It’s a risk you take consciously, repeatedly won over by the allure of the inevitable.

KEVIN:

To camera (about to cry, underplayed).

A nice old man with a gentle face come up to you and spits in your face.

Three impeccably dressed businessmen snatch you off the street and throw you into an empty room. They gag you and tie you onto a chair.

EMILY:

To camera

The town philosopher jumps onto a stage and delivers a long lecture to you on the problems of being.

Your mind eagerly registers all this, like a black hole trapping the detritus of the creation of the world.

Oh, immortality!

What rubbish!!!

Black Screen—Soundtrack, 8 seconds

THE PHILOSOPHER

Camera straight on, mid-body shot. We see the paper on the desk that she writes on. Camila is sitting at her desk. She writes. Final dot. She reads what she has just written:

Dear Bartolomeo,

I am well, except I have put on a little weight (ha-ha!). Anabeus is well, too.

I’m still working on my treatise on decomposition, infinity and the diversion of the self. I am about to finish the chapter on amputated infinity and I do believe that I am on the verge of setting forth the most complete and insightful classification of the forms of infinity to date.

She looks out the window, checking something.

In other news, life goes on as usual. With the exception of some existential worries, I dare to call “atypical worries of a gardener.”

Camera gets closer. Extreme close-up.

This is what’s going on (I tell you all this in the hope you’ll give me some advice):

As I said in my previous letter, this year I decided to plant cabbage and only cabbage in my vegetable garden. At first, all went well, the spring here being long and sunny. The trouble began in May, when the cabbages started to sprout. Every night, someone would steal a single cabbage from me. In the morning when I would go out to water the garden, there was always one missing.

She looks to one side and when she turns back to camera:

So, I set myself on the lookout

She stands and leaves the room. Camera follows her behind. She gets to the back room, puts on wellies, a jacket and a head torch. Full body shot. We see her fully dressed in her gear. She goes outside. Camera follows her from behind (as if someone was close behind her, breathing on her neck.) After a little while, camera on the grass, moving as if walking, looking for something. We may catch her wellies occasionally as she walks.

It cost me several sleepless nights…

Camera stops on rabbit droppings. Her hands pick up some rabbit droppings. Camera shot of her hands. She inspects them. As if telling us, she looks straight into the camera.

but, I was finally able to identify the thief:

Mid-shot on Camila.

a white rabbit coming from the forest. He was the one pilfering a cabbage every night!

Of course, I set a trap and the next night I caught him.

She walks to homemade trap. Camera follows. Mid-shot. She sets the trap.

I locked him in a cage. Grunt. For several days, my cabbages breathed easy. But then, a second white rabbit penetrated my garden to pilfer a cabbage each night!

I captured him! I placed him in the same cage as the first. I had two night’s repose. And then, a third rabbit discovered my cultures. I trapped him as well!

Camera to the wall.

I made a meticulous inspection of the wall surrounding my garden, but I could not find a single hole anywhere…

Back to Camila, mid-shot. Sign and cabbages.

None of this stopped a fourth, fifth, and sixth rabbit from making their appearance. I captured all of them without difficulty.

Grunt. Alert look.

But the cabbages in my garden dwindled by half. And still the rabbits keep coming.

She walks to chair and sits. She sips her tea. Camera follows. Full body shot including table.

I’m vegetarian and never kill animals. There are now a good hundred rabbits in my cages, and I have no idea what to do with them.

Grunt. Look, ah…it’s the cat…

Selling them is out of the question because then they’ll be killed.

Camera close-up

To release them into the forest would be stupid because they’ll return to eat my cabbages and this’ll start all over again. To keep them would be worse, because I have to feed them, and I don’t have anything to give them but the rest of the cabbage from my garden!

I sowed cabbages and harvested rabbits.

There’s something amiss with this story. I’d even be tempted to say I’ve found a little of my theory on increased infinity, no? What do you think? And when I feed these rabbits, they look at me with a mocking gaze that drives me crazy.

She gets up.

Well, that’s that.

Camera points to the grass in the darkness and we catch Camila’s wellies as she walks. Suddenly she stops. Camera on Irish Rabbit Master, full shot. Irish Rabbit Master shakes his head looking at Camila. Close-up of Camila’s face, reaction. Close-up of Irish Rabbit’s Master face, still, looking at camera intently. Close-up of Camila’s face again, freaking out. Mid-shot to full body shot as Camila runs away screaming. Enters the house. Camera follows her. She shuts the door and stops behind the door for a few breaths. Camila walks back and sits at her desk. Panting, deranged. Camera follows. Camila picks up the pen and writes.

waiting to hear from you.

Yours affectionately,

Camila.

She collapses.

THE ANIMAL TRAINER

Music—La vie en Rose.

A man in his thirties enters from the kitchen of his small apartment with two white soup bowls. He is smartly dressed. A beautiful young lady is sitting on the table set for two. He walks to the table limping on the left leg, and places a bowl in front of her (the camera), and the other in front of him.

Music fades down (to hear the sips he will be doing) nice and loud. Progressively music fades down completely, very subtly, so the audience don’t even notice (this is something to try on tech day).

He sits. He sips his soup, making a lot of noise, twice.

I live alone. I limp on my left leg.

When people first meet me, they immediately invite me over to their home. But always I say: “Thank you madam, thank you sir. Not today but possibly some other time.”

But there never is some other time.

Everyone thinks I’m timid and introverted by nature, But really, most of the time I just think about my animals.

He slurps his soup again, twice.

My real life begins at ten o’clock, when the noise of the apartment building dies down. It’s then that I open the padded room where I keep all of my animals. I have ten snakes, twenty or so white mice, several frogs, a dog, three cats (a black one, a white one and a ginger one), two Cochin cockerels, a cyclone of scorpions, approximately sixty little red fish in a large aquarium, a hedgehog and thirty marvelously colored diurnal butterflies.

He gets closer to her (the camera). He looks at her eyes, skin, lips…taking it all in.

I also have a specimen, who’s still quite young, of a species I have yet to identify: a sort of stag with a horse’s mane, (he looks at her hair) red on the sides, black on the chest, and white on the neck. The more he grows, the more I realize he has human eyes and his mouth (he looks at her mouth) is the exact shape of a real woman’s mouth.

He gets up and takes a step towards the drinks area.

I give (looking at her)

warm milk to the snakes

He takes another step (looking at her)

soft bread to the mice

He walks to the end of the room, picks up a shaker and shakes the Martini.

cheese soufflé to the frogs

He serves one cup

meatballs to the dog

He laughs a little

chicken soup to the cats

He spills on his tie

corn to the cockerels

He serves the other cup

rice to the scorpions

He holds both cups, looks at her and fools around, moving his hips.

whole grain bread soaked in red currant sauce to the fish

Takes 2/3 steps towards the table

hazelnuts to the hedgehog

Close to her now

wild honey to the butterflies

He removes his jacket and lets it drop to the chair.

And the stag with the horse’s mane shares my food.

The music fades down to silence. He turns off the lights and draws the curtain.

Then I take off my clothing and run a scented bath. I rub my skin with lavender oil. I lie down in the middle of the room, on my back, naked. Silently, one by one and in strict order, my animals join me:

(as if he is reviling his secret to her, intimately.)

the first snake curls around my left leg

the second snake around my right leg

the third around my left arm

the fourth around my right arm

the fifth around my neck

the sixth around my testicles and penis

the mice hide themselves in my beard, as if in a forest

the frogs pack themselves on top of my stomach

the dog sleeps at my feet

the black cat curls up on my left shoulder

the white cat curls up on my right shoulder

He starts to laugh

the orange cat curls up on the top of my head

the first Cochin cockerel climbs up on my left nipple

He laughs more and more

the second climbs up on my right nipple

The laughter dies down and transform into a feeling of sadness. Almost crying.

the scorpions climb over my feet and rest in between my toes

the hedgehog sits above my heart

the butterflies sleep on my eyelids

the fish line up against the glass of the aquarium and watch us

and the stag with the horse’s mane walks around and around me all night.

This is how we sleep, my animals and I, in deep communion. We are truly together and I know the moment is approaching where all limits will be crossed. My animals have already begun to delicately taste my blood and flesh, and by morning I shall awake… wounded.

Music—La vie en Rose, fades up gently to accompany until the end.

Untying his tie.

Perhaps my little stag with human eyes will know how to tell the story, one beautiful day, of the night of grand universal love that is about to devour me.

He toasts and drinks his Martini. Possibly all of it. As he leaves, he lets his tie drop to the floor and starts to unbutton his shirt.

We see the empty room for 2 seconds. Music ends.

EPISODE 5. DIRECTED BY NICOLE WIESNER, THURSDAY, 14 JANUARY 2021

THE BRAINWASHER, QUIET MADNESS, LUCID MADNESS, FEVERED MADNESS 

Cast: Maryam Abdi, Venice Averyheart, Natara Easter, Miguel Long, David Lovejoy, Robin Minkens, Emily Nichelson, Ruben Nicolaescu, Tia Pinson, Matty Robinson

PROLOGUE: APARTMENT 2

Zombie Insect tableau

Piotr: The war is over. It’s now time to come together and bury the bodies. Now we have machines to collect and bury bodies. It’s quicker this way. The bodies were far too scattered so we invented machines to do the collecting and burying. The collector-burier machine operates extremely cleanly and efficiently to distinguish the bodies of the victors from those of the vanquished. It weighs each body and takes measurements, and then washes it after removing all the clothing. Then it digs a hole, constructs a coffin of plastic, places the body in the coffin and the coffin in the hole.

Scene 1 Apartment 1

Katia: Song: A little frog looked me in the eye/for she saw a tear drop from my eye/ and she said to me Katia would you lend me your tears/The universe is in your tears/ But my tears were in my mouth and I swallowed them/and with them I swallowed the universe/and the frog began to cry

Yuri: You know Katia, you are very beautiful

Katia: You’re not afraid?

Yuri: Afraid of what?

Brainwasher N: In our nation, brainwashing is free and mandatory. Each citizen must wash their brain at least once a year.

Katia: Butterflies have overrun our town. Gigantic, multi-hued and flesh-eating. We’ve never seen so many butterflies here before. They’re everywhere—on the streets, roofs, cars and trees. Anyone who was caught on the streets when they came swarming in was devoured.

Yuri: From the window, I can see the skeletons, the bones picked clean, of three humans and a dog.

Brainwasher R: We advise all members of the same family to carry out their annual brainwashing together and at the same time.

Katia: The butterflies go for your eyelashes first, then your eyebrows, eyelids, lips, vocal cords and taste buds.

Yuri: (ventures out) At this particular moment, the entire town is paralyzed. Everyone has barricaded themselves into their homes, peeking through windows covered in butterflies at the streets covered in butterflies. It looks as if the insects have come to stay forever.

Katia: And still they keep flying in, the butterflies, more and more like multi-colored snow.

Yuri: (to Katia) Our armed forces are powerless against the butterflies. We simply have to live with them.

Brainwasher N: Ancestral animalism is the source of individualism and selfishness, and thus compromises social harmony.

Brainwasher R: With brainwashing, we step closer to our fellow man.

Apartment 2

Dealer: Mesdames et messieurs, place your bets!

Patient 1/ Piotr: Woman, right side

Patient 2/ Solomon: You’re wasting your money. No woman ever comes from the right side.

Patient 1/ Piotr: Piss off!

Patient 3 and 4: Pfffff…. (breast squirt)

Dealer: Come on, place your bets!

Brainwasher R: Brainwashing gives you access to tested protection against nightmares, madness and split personality.

Patient 3/ Sasha: Animal! Animal! Dealer: How much Sasha? Shit! how much?

Patient 3/ Sasha: One

Dealer: Let’s go! Emilia, play!

Patient 4/ Emilia: A couple, right side, 3

Patient 1/ Piotr: Oh no. that’s too much—3 – she can’t do that

Dealer: Shut up Piotr. (to patient 4) That’s too much. You can’t do that.

Brainwasher N: Brainwashing is completely safe. It changes neither the personality nor the mentality of those who practice it.

Brainwasher R: The washing procedure removes only the morbid impulses of our subconscious.

Apartment 1: Katia and Yuri are in slow motion

Katia: Eventually we worked out that the butterflies only devour living things that make sudden movements.

Yuri: If you move very slowly, the butterflies won’t react. You can even squash them under your shoes and they won’t fly up but will instead die without a sound.

Katia: You can’t walk down the street without treading all over them. Because they are so delicate, almost transparent, the butterflies you crush vaporize into a fine powder made from their own bodies.

Yuri: Life in our town goes on in complete slow motion.

Brainwasher N: At the end of the workday, the washers will wash each other’s brains.

Apartment 2:

Piotr: Woman, left side

Sasha: Two times left? Impossible!

Dealer: Shut up. Place your bets, mesdames et messieurs!

Emilia: Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle

Dealer: Ok, ok… how much?

Emilia: Bicycle, Bicycle, Bicycle

Dealer: One? Two?

Piotr: Let’s go! Let’s go! Place your bets.

Dealer: I’m the one who gets to say that. I’m the one who gets to say “place your bets.”

Brainwasher R: Through brainwashing, we attain immortality, because nothing is closer to immortality than the one who has overcome within himself all fear, including the fear of death.

Piotr: The flesh-eating butterflies have been driven out of our town by the stink-snails. They emerged from every nook and cranny—from the depths of the earth, the canals, caves and sewers. They crawl up the walls and over the windows, leaving behind them fine trails of slime.

Solomon: They don’t eat anything at all, but the stench they give off is unbearable. People have to move at a run to avoid collapsing in the street with disgust.

Piotr: C’mon Solomon, place your bet.

Solomon: Dog.

Piotr: You’re losing it. They don’t have dogs here.

Solomon: Dog. Left side. One.

Sasha/Emilia: Pffff

Dealer: Shut up! No more bets!

Sasha: What an asshole!

All: Shhhh!

Sasha: The problem with the stink-snails is that they get into your house. You wake up in the morning and get out of bed only to find your slippers stuffed with snails. You go to the bathroom to find your washbasin is overflowing with snails. You can’t see yourself in the mirror because of the hundreds of snails already stuck all over it like gangrene.

Emilia: You go to the kitchen, cut your bread into slices only to find a stink-snail lurking in the loaf. It’s impossible to heat up a little milk or make yourself some coffee—in each pot or pan there’s already sitting a black snail with green horns, and highly mobile too. On each chair you’ll find perched a huge great stink-snail staring back at you guiltily

Brainwasher N: It is imperative that brainwashing is performed immediately upon every newborn child immediately after their umbilical cord is cut, to act as the entrance into social life for the new citizen.

Apartment 1

Katia: As a result of all this, as well as our slowed-down thinking, we talk to each other at the rate of just one word a day.

Katia and Yuri: And if we’re making love, we try to be just as slow, as well.

Brainwasher R and N: Any person denouncing brainwashing shall be declared an enemy of social harmony.

Apartment 2

Dealer: Mesdames et messieurs, place your bets!

Piotr: Civilian in handcuffs, right side

Solomon: You’re up a tree. No civilian in handcuffs ever comes from the right

Piotr: Lay off!

Emilia and Sasha: Pffff

Dealer: Come on, place your bets!

Emilia: They slide unbelievably quickly over the furniture, up the curtains and drag themselves happily along the ceiling. The second you open a book, a tiny flattened snail will plop out. Your old gramophone doesn’t work anymore—the snails have made a nest there. Even your tightly locked drawers are swarming with snails with their hairy little horns.

Sasha: Corpse on a gurney, corpse on a gurney! Right or Left!

Dealer: How much Sasha? Shit! How much Sasha?

Sasha: One!

Dealer: Go Emilia, play!

Sasha: You know, Emilia, that I am very angry with you.

Emilia: Yes, Sasha.

Sasha: You know, Emilia, that I am more than angry, I am out of my mind with rage.

Emilia: Yes, Sasha.

Solomon: Things were much better with the butterflies, we all realize that now. You can’t even shake hands with someone because in a flash a snail will zip in between your palms.  

Brainwasher N: It is scientifically proven that all the disruptive evil in our lives originates from inside ourselves. Let us then turn inwards to heal ourselves. Brainwashing is the only therapy that directly addresses the root of our misfortunes.

Emilia: Black car… from the right… 3!

Sasha: Oh no, that’s too much, 3?! She can’t do that!

Dealer: Shut up Sasha! That’s too much, you can’t do that. Two! Let’s go! Place your bets!

Piotr: Undercover agent – left side!

Sasha: But I’m the one who said undercover agent!

Dealer: Shut up. You said corpse. Place your bets, mesdames et messieurs!

Emilia: All right ,Solomon, speak.

Solomon: Dog.

Piotr: Shit, enough of your dogs. There are no dogs. You drive me nuts with your dogs.

Solomon: Dog, left side. I do what I want.

Piotr: It gets on my nerves. For two months, all you ever say is dog, dog, dog.

Sasha: He does what he wants. It’s like Switzerland. You do what you want.

Dealer: Shut up moron. No more bets!

Emilia: What an asshole!

All: Shhhh!

Dealer: No one bet on that. House takes all.

Sasha: If you buy a newspaper, you’re almost guaranteed that if you reach into your pocket for cash you’ll find a snail. The stink-snails that have been crushed under people’s shoes and car wheels have formed a fine layer of slush mixed up with their blood and little bits of flesh.

Piotr: Because everyone has to run all the time, we don’t say much to each other. Those who do dare to stop to exchange a couple of words risk immediate nausea. “The butterflies were so clean!” says the first person retching. “And they were so pretty!” replies the other before vomiting.

Sasha: To live with the stink-snails you first of all have to learn how to be silent. For every word you speak, there’s a little stink-snail that’ll take its place right inside your mouth.

Brainwasher R: Should the patient succumb during the washing, this is due to the fact that the emptiness has killed a seditious memory. The washer will continue to wash the brain in question even after clinical death of that brain.

Apartment 1

Katia: The stink-snails were driven out by a huge, all-pervading creature, whose body has the shape of a benign rain that never stops falling on the town.

Brainwasher N: Brainwashing restores our essential self to the core of our being. Instead of a labyrinth, we become the clearest mirror for the whole universe.

Katia: Yuri…

Yuri: Yes.

Katia: Nothing. Silence Yuri?

Yuri: Yes.

Katia: Can I recite to you my poem about frogs?

Yuri: Go ahead, Katia.

Katia: I have written thirty poems about frogs.

Yuri: Choose one.

Katia: A little frog looked me in the eye/For she saw a teardrop in my eye/And she said to me” Katia/Would you lend me your tears/The Universe is in your tears”/But my tears were in my mouth/And I swallowed them/And then I swallowed the universe/And I began to cry.

Brainwasher R: Thanks to brainwashing, we are able at last to purify our most intimate nature – the weight of animalism is relieved so that man may triumph in the balance. Brainwashing is the re-baptism of our being.

Apartment 2

Sasha: The stink-snails were driven out by a huge, all-pervading creature, whose body has the shape of a benign rain that never stops falling on the town.

Piotr: We soon came to realize that the rain wasn’t real rain because it leaves no drops or puddles.

Solomon: The rain-creature soaked everything.

Emilia: Now it’s in the very fabric of the town—in the stone of the walls, the glass of the windows, the asphalt of the roads, the wood of the trees, the water of the canals, in the air that we breathe.

Dealer: Let’s go. Place your bets.

Sasha: Street cleaner a month from now!

Dealer: How much, Sasha?

Sasha: One!

Dealer: Perfect.

Brainwasher N and R: It is the obligation and duty of every citizen to denounce enemies of social harmony.

Pan of bodies in all houses

Emilia: The rain-creature feeds on the substance of things. Slowly, imperceptibly, it empties out anything that has a heart, a soul, a thought

Sasha: Now you only see bodies around the town.

Emilia: There’s no point in buying apples, they’ll only be hollow on the inside. Loaves don’t have crumbs any more, hens lay transparent eggs.

Sasha: The trees are just inflated trunks. Pick up a stone and you’ll find that it’s strangely light. Fish with skin of just air float on the surface of our rivers.

Emilia: Each time a dog tries to bark, you’ll hear it wheezing instead and you might even see it collapse to the ground like a house of cards.

Dealer: Let’s go, let’s go place your bets.

Sasha: C’mon Solomon. Speak.

Solomon: Dog.

Piotr: Shit! Enough of your dogs already. You know very well there’s never any dogs! We’ve never had a dog!

Solomon: Dog that pisses on the window. One. Left side. I do what I want.

Piotr: Ah, it gets on my nerves. For 10 years all I ever hear is dog, dog, dog.

Dealer: No more bets!

Sasha: What an asshole!

All: Shhhh!

Solomon: Can I recite to you my poem about frogs?

Piotr: Go ahead, Solomon!

Solomon: I have written thirty poems about frogs.

Piotr: Choose one.

Solomon: A little frog looked me in the eye/For she saw a teardrop in my eye/And she said to me” Katia/Would you lend me your tears/The Universe is in your tears” /But my tears were in my mouth/And I swallowed them/And when them I swallowed the universe/And I began to cry.

Brainwasher N: Those who oppose brainwashing, even after their second or third complete brainwashing, will have their brain “shit-frittered”.

Sasha: The rain-creature seeps in deeper and deeper, further and ever wider.

Emilia: There is no shelter against the rain-creature, we’ve tried everything: metal umbrellas, armored capes, reinforced underground bunkers, resistance and silence.

Solomon: And now, the rain-creature is attacking time. No one knows any more whether it’s night or day, if you’re waking or sleeping, if you’re alone or swimming in a crowd, if you’re touching your own skin or the skin of someone else you’re rubbing shoulders with in the vast throng of empty beings.

Piotr: Because the rain-creature also lives in the flesh of us humans, in our blood, in our movements and in our dreams, it has the ability to be absolutely everywhere.

Sasha: You can do nothing to hide from it—it knows everything, each moment of the night, each moment of the day.

Emilia: It monitors all our brains at the same time, because it breathes at the same time in all our brains. And it speaks to us, like a second voice inside us.

Piotr: We desperately miss the time when the stink-snails were here, at least they didn’t make any noise…

Brainwasher R: Brainwashing is the ultimate freedom, the power to live individual and social ecstasy to the full. Here is your gateway to supreme happiness.

Solomon: A little frog looked me in the eye/for she saw a tear drop from my eye/and she said to me Katia would you lend me your tears/The universe is in your tears/But my tears were in my mouth and I swallowed them/and with them I swallowed the universe/and the frog began to cry.

Piotr: You know Solomon, you’re very beautiful.

Solomon: You’re not afraid?

Piotr: Afraid of what?

Piotr: If by chance the machine breaks down, a repairman is informed immediately. I’m one of those repairmen. I live inside my repair machine.

Often I get to see truly magnificent parts of the countryside. My greatest joy is writing short poems about the grandeur of all the places I’ve visited. Over time, I’ve discovered this gift I have for poetry.

I now have around one thousand poems about birds, trees, rocks, wind, snow, the moon, stars, clouds, rainbows, grass, meadows, and a thousand other things. One day, I’d like to publish them.

Brainwashers/All: The washer will continue the washing, even after their own death.

EPISODE 6. DIRECTED BY CRISTINA PRONZATI, 21 JANUARY 2021

THE BRAINWASHER, THE MAN IN THE CIRCLE, THE VOICE IN THE DARKNESS, THE ILLUSIONIST, THE ANIMAL TRAINER, THE MAN WITH THE COCKROACH

Cast: Davide Borella, Anarosa Butler, Gary Damico, Kasey Foster, Mike Steele, Keith Surney, Nora Lise Ulrey, and Kevin Webb

Intro music

All ensemble backstage activity choreographed to the music

Switch to live piano transition

THE BRAINWASHER (I), (II)

Everyone

Davide: Are you stressed? Anxious? Disappointed? Alienated? Are you tormented by existential doubts? Do you fear old age and death? Now you can forget it all! Brainwashing is just for you!

Keith: Let us turn inwards to heal ourselves. Brainwashing is the only therapy that directly addresses the root of our misfortunes.

Anarosa: In our nation, brainwashing is free and mandatory. Each citizen must wash their brain at least once a year.

Mike: Brainwashing is completely safe. It changes neither the personality nor the mentality of those who practice it. The washing procedure removes only the morbid impulses of our subconscious.

Kevin: Any person denouncing brainwashing shall be declared an enemy of social harmony.

Antonio: For those traveling, there are washing centers specifically placed at train stations, airports, harbors, and at all motorway tollbooths.

Kasey: Only through this process can we bring ourselves infinitely closer to God. Brainwashing is the ultimate freedom, your gateway to supreme happiness.

Davide: So hurry, ladies and gentlemen, to your Local Brain-Washing Center!

Transition music

THE MAN IN THE CIRCLE

Man1: Keith

Man 2: Davide

Man 1 (Keith): If I wish to be alone, I simply stop wherever I happen to be. I then take a piece of black chalk out of my pocket and draw a circle around myself on the ground. There in my circle, I’m safe. No one has the right or the ability to speak to me while I’m in my circle. No one has the right or the ability to enter it, touch me, or even look at me for long.

I don’t hear the traffic or the waves or birdsong. I can stay here as still as I like, as long as I like. I don’t have a care what goes on around me. My circle isolates me from the outside world and from myself. It’s total bliss, total peace.

Inside my circle, I no longer feel cold, hunger or pain. Time stops. I plunge into the abstract like a protective dream. I become the circle’s center.

Man 2 (Davide): Ever since the invention of the circles, the world has gotten better. There are no wars, famines or natural disasters. Crime has dropped.

Man 1: You can’t ever put two people in the same circle at the same time. People have tried but nothing happens. There’s no such thing as a circle for two, and there never will be.

Man 2: Some have tried taking small animals like dogs, cats and mice into the circle with them. But again, nothing happens. If there’s anything or anybody else living in the circle with you, it won’t work.

Man 1: The town has changed completely after people began to use the circles. Now circles are everywhere you look. Things are far quieter and cleaner now.

Man 2: And everyone agrees that the circle is the answer. No one’s unhappy any more. Whenever I want to leave the circle, I simply stretch my hand out and break the chalk line. No one can do this but me. No one else on the outside can break the circle for me. The magic of the circle is that it comes with total security.

Man 1: People are saying that the circle has a hidden trap, where you can get stuck forever. There are whispers of people being locked in the circle against their will. Some insist that the majority of circles have stopped obeying their creators. Once encircled, you can no longer exit.

Man 2: And you’ll never leave again.

            Live piano transition music

            Actors change and walk into next set-up

THE VOICE IN THE DARKNESS (I)

A: Keith (Animal Victim)

B: Davide (Animal Owner)

Sir!

—Yes?

Is this small animal with four mouths yours?

—Yes, it’s mine.

If I’m not mistaken, it seems to be biting my toes.

—Yes, I gather it’s always hungry.

I’ve never seen a creature like that before.

Strange. It’s biting my calves but I don’t feel a thing.

—It’s always like that, always very gentle with whatever it does.

What does it normally eat?

—Meat, sir, only the freshest of meat.

And you think it’s going to eat me?

—Oh yes, sir. When it starts gnawing at something, nothing can stop it.

I hope you don’t take it out a lot.

—No, we only go out once or twice a year.

—So it was bad luck really that I came along this way.

—Do you suffer from insomnia?

—I never sleep before four. It really likes gobbling people up.

—It’s one of those things, to be honest. It starts with the extremities. It doesn’t take it long to do that.

—That’s because you’re so calm. If people make a huge fuss, it doesn’t like that. So how much longer do I have to live?

—About five minutes. I have a packet of cigarettes in my pocket. Would you light one for me?

—Of course.

Thank you.

—Anything else? A word to your wife?

No, I’m all alone.

—That’s hard, being alone. For me as well solitude is a torment.

Yes, but you have your small animal…

—I can’t tell you how difficult it is to feed.

It’s at my crotch.

—I have tried everything. I wanted to turn it into a vegetarian.

I feel so lightheaded! It’s at my heart.

—I wanted to teach it to drink water. Can you believe that this creature never touches water?

It’s at my neck.

—In fact, if you watch it closely, you’ll see it doesn’t breathe either.

Now it’s looking at me straight in the eye. Do you think it’ll rip out my tongue?

—Yes, but it’ll never forget your words.

Live piano music transition

THE ANIMAL TRAINER

Kasey: I live alone. My name is of no importance.

When people first meet me, they immediately invite me over to their home. But always I say: “Thank you. Not today but possibly some other time.”

But there never is some other time.

Everyone thinks I’m timid and introverted by nature, and I do nothing to dissuade them of that fact. But really, most of the time I just think about my animals.

I have been working on a number of tricks with my animals, which the world has never seen before.

I also have a specimen, who’s still quite young, of a species I have yet to identify: a sort of stag with a horse’s mane, red on the sides, black on the chest, and white on the neck. The more he grows, the more I realize he has human eyes and his mouth is the exact shape of a real woman’s mouth.

First, I open all the cages and talk to my animals as I feed them.

What I give:

ANIMAL TRAINER 1, ORIGINAL SONG BY KASEY

warm milk to the snakes

hard-boiled eggs to the tortoises

soft bread to the mice

cheese soufflé to the frogs

fresh fennel to the snails

meatballs to the dog

chicken soup to the cats

corn to the cockerels

apricot stones to the parrot

grape seeds to the turtledoves

rice to the scorpions

cabbage to the rabbits

whole grain bread soaked in red currant sauce to the fish

hazelnuts to the hedgehog

pollen grains to the ladybirds

wild honey to the butterflies.

And the stag with the horse’s mane shares my food.

Then I take off my clothing and run a scented bath. I rub my skin with lavender oil. I light a candle whose flame burns with infinite reflections in the two mirrors placed at opposite ends of the room. I lie down in the middle of the room, on my back, naked. Silently, one by one and in strict order, my animals join me:

ANIMAL TRAINER 2, ORIGINAL SONG BY KASEY (ACAPPELLA WITH KEVIN AND MIKE AS CHOIR)

the first snake curls around my left leg

the second snake around my right leg

the third around my left arm

the fourth around my right arm

the fifth around my neck

the first turtle climbs up my left knee

the second turtle climbs up my right knee

the third turtle climbs upon my navel

the frogs pack themselves on top of my stomach

the two snails climb up slowly and sleep in the bells of my ears

the dog sleeps at my feet

the black cat curls up on my left shoulder

the white cat curls up on my right shoulder

the orange cat curls up on the top of my head

the first Cochin cockerel climbs up on my left nipple

the second climbs up on my right nipple

the parrot perches on my forehead

one turtledove on my left cheek and one on my right cheek

the scorpions climb over my feet and rest in between my toes

the rabbits gather in my armpits

the hedgehog sits above my heart

the ladybirds split into two rows and place themselves in the lines of my palms

the butterflies sleep on my eyelids

the fish line up against the glass of the aquarium and watch us

and the stag with the horse’s mane walks around and around me all night.

This is how we sleep, my animals and I, in deep communion. Together we form a single dream that tells the story of our common being. We are truly together and I know the moment is approaching, where all limits will be crossed. My animals have already begun to delicately taste my blood and flesh, and by morning, I shall awake wounded.

Perhaps my little stag with human eyes will know how to tell the story, one beautiful day, of the night of grand universal love that is about to devour me.

Recorded music transition

THE MAN WITH THE COCKROACH

Anarosa (+ KASEY ON LIVE PERCUSSION, NOT VISIBLE)

Whenever I go into the kitchen, it’s already there. It waits for me at the end of the table, and sometimes I have the impression it’s watching me.

It’s not a cockroach like the others. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen. Perhaps the darkest, as well. I always ask myself why I didn’t squash it the moment I first saw it on my table. Was it its fixed gaze that paralyzed my hand? Is it even watching me? Does it really see me?

Clearly this cockroach is endowed with a certain wisdom. It isn’t afraid of me. It must be very old as well, but it’s fast. Ten seconds to scramble down the table and disappear into its hole behind the stove. Thirty seconds to join me at the window. A minute to get comfortable on its stool when I switch on the television.

When I cook, the cockroach stays the whole time with me. It won’t eat in my presence, what a shame. We could have breakfast together.

There’s no question of killing it now. We often spend the weekends together at home. We look out of the window a lot.

It sleeps on the ceiling above me more often now, but that doesn’t bother me. I have to admit that I do sleep better when I feel that it’s above my head.

It’s amazing how well the cockroach knows all my reactions, my tics, my habits.

When it comes to music, the cockroach is a great lover of Vivaldi, Corelli and Handel. It struggles to digest Debussy. Once, while listening to Mahler, it lost his balance and fell into the abyss of the phonograph bell.

Everything I read, I read aloud to the cockroach, who usually doesn’t move a muscle until the last page.

But nothing is more fascinating than our walks through the apartment. If I invent extremely complex figures, the cockroach reproduces them exactly: nothing’s impossible for the cockroach.

But I never understand what it is it wants of me.

Whenever it jumps upon an object, I go up and touch it. When the cockroach stays without moving for an hour or two on a chair, I don’t move until the cockroach begins to move.

Oh, how ashamed I am of my inability to understand!

I find that in its own way the cockroach is communicating the mystery of its being.

On the table, the cockroach climbs up the side of my empty glass and, in what appears to be an act of suicide, throws itself in. What is it trying to communicate with a gesture such as this? The last time, while waiting for the cockroach to finish its dive and finally hit the bottom, I fell asleep, my head on the table. I awoke to the trumpets of a Vivaldi allegro. It was dark and I realized that I, too was in a freefall down the infinite abyss of an enormous phonograph bell.

Recorded music transition

Anarosa keeps falling in slow motion, while Mike’s Illusionist appears at the same time and lights his candles for “The Illusionist”

THE ILLUSIONIST

Mike, Part I

Kevin, Part II

Entire cast appears as silent audience vignettes throughout

Live piano by Gary

Mike: Ladies and gentlemen! Good evening! Permit me to introduce myself, Bartolomeo the Illusionist!

If you have never heard of me before, it’s because you haven’t yet tried to enter the large and generous door of magic—ha, ha!

Today I’m here before you to ensure that your voyage towards this new world is ever more pleasurable. I’m about to show you some of my most famed routines.

No, not the little trick with the playing cards—I hate that, that’s not conjuring at all. So perhaps I shall start by finding out, say, who among you has violated the regulations and brought prohibited animals onboard.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, many people don’t want to be separated from their white mice or their black rabbits or their other little beasts.

What’s this? Mice? But how can this be? Mice are forbidden onboard, but you, for example, you sir, you, why have you hidden this white mouse here in your pocket? This isn’t normal, really, this could very well degenerate, become a mania, a perversion.

And you, madam? What’s this black rabbit doing under your hat?

Wait, sir, I’ll get to you in a moment. Oh, what’s this you’re hiding? Would you hand me your glove? Thank you – and what’s this? Oh dear, a small snake in your left glove?

And here? A lizard? Unbelievable. I’d never dare to put on gloves with these two reptiles inside. Personally, I’d find that dangerous to say the least. Would you like to keep them? Go on take them, sir, they’re yours, they came out of your gloves, didn’t they? But no sir, they’re your gloves, here you go, everyone has witnessed it. Well, if you’re telling me that you no longer have a need for these creatures, I’ll keep them for you until the end of the journey. But are you really sure? Perhaps they’re your favorite animals, after all there are those who can’t make even make a move without their animals.

For example… for example… you sir, yes, you! What are you doing with that little hedgehog under your behind? What? There isn’t one there? Would you mind lifting up a little bit, ah there you go! It doesn’t bother you, a hedgehog under your behind?

And you, sir, why are you wearing a live butterfly under your tie? You might end up crushing it, the poor thing, Go on, take it, see how beautiful it is! Perhaps you’d like to attach it to your neck? No?

And you, madam, why do you have this frog in your handbag? Would you allow me? Frogs, madam, will eat anything, you know, so I’d advise you to check that all your belongings are still intact.

Well, well, well, what do we have here again? Sir, would you please pass me the tortoise climbing up your left leg? That’s it, thank you. And the two snails climbing up the lapel of your jacket, thank you, What’s this again?

Ah madam! There’s a squirrel in your scarf, does it keep you warm? Thank you. Now look at all this! What have we collected so far? Two rabbits, four mice, a snake, a lizard, a butterfly, a frog, a turtle, a hedgehog, two snails, and a squirrel – that makes quite a nice zoo! I’ll keep all of these in my hat for you, if that’s all right?

Hmm, I have the feeling they won’t get along very well together… Goodness me, aren’t they quite a cocktail! Well, let’s see what comes of it, shall we? Two rabbits with four mice, a snake, a lizard, a butterfly, a frog, a turtle, a hedgehog, two snails and a squirrel, one, two, three, hop! Hey, and a parrot!

Parrot comes up, speaks, then goes off

That’s an easy one to carry, particularly when it talks! How simple that was!

Thank you, ladies, thank you, gentlemen!

Perhaps we should stop here. No? Would you like to see another trick?

Gary plays live piano music transition, which escalates faster and faster while Mike and Kevin exchange scarf

Mike throws a scarf to Kevin, who picks it up. It’s several scarves tied together, he struggles to get them through as they’re never-ending. Increasingly faster and frustrated as music also escalates.

Kevin: Okay, I know another little trick but it’s a touch dangerous, it’s the one with the magic wand, but it doesn’t always work. I mean, sometimes the wand doesn’t always obey me.

Particularly when I want to make something disappear. Let’s say, like a hat. Sir, would you kindly pass me your hat? Thank you. Let’s see if we can make this one vanish. One, two, three, hop!

Oh, dear! That didn’t work, did it, madam? What? It’s your husband that’s disappeared? Oh well, but… it was his hat that was supposed to have disappeared. Look, it’s no big deal, the wand can make anything it’s made disappear reappear again straight away. Hang on, you’ll have your husband back. One, two, three, hop!

Strange… very strange indeed! Did you see that? The lady just vanished too. But that was just what she wanted, she wanted to be with her husband, and they are, no doubt, together right now but on the other side of the barrier, the barrier that separates our ordinary world from the world of fantasy.

But look, it’s no big deal. We’ll make both of them reappear. One, two, three, hop!

Oh, no! That’s a bit too much, isn’t it? This wand is playing terrible tricks on me, but I see, madam, I see that the entire first row of spectators has disappeared.

Well, what do you want me to do? There are only two possibilities open to us: either we just stop right now and accept these minimal risks, or else we try again and take some real risks!

Shall we?

One, two, three, hop!

Oh, damn, another row gone. Ladies and gentlemen, wait a moment, please don’t panic. I’ll make everything reappear, just be patient for a moment. One, two, three, hop! Oh, oh! What happened this time? Who disappeared? The lifebelts?

A moment, please. Allow me to concentrate. One, two, three, hop! What’s this? The masts? No, that’s no big deal, we can see the vaults of heaven so much better now. One, two, three, hop! What’s that? The stars? All together? It’s all going so fast now, eh? It’s fast with this shitty wand isn’t it? But what’re you all doing? You can’t leave me like this. Look, give us another chance. Wait! One, two, three, hop!

Strange, that one even made the sea disappear. Where are we now? What’s all this stuff all around us?

One, two, three, make everyone come back! Hop! Obviously I’m making the same mistake every time, but which one, good God, which one?

How many do we have left? One, two, three, four five… ten? Well gentlemen, now that we’re amongst men, I can tell you the secret of this routine. I’m going to tell you because I feel as if I’m going mad and I’m afraid, yes, the truth is I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the magic formula, that’s the truth.

One, two, three, hop!

Son of a bitch! What a scandal! What a mess! This is going to cost me dearly! Sir! Hey, good heavens, are you asleep? Wake up sir, the show has just finished, and yes, you’re the last one here because you didn’t give a shit about my act and fell asleep during…

Yes, everyone’s left, that’s it, so you didn’t see a thing? Well, look, could you do me a tiny favor? I’d be infinitely grateful, it’s no big deal, here, take my wand, point it at me and say “one, two, three, hop!”

That’s right, go for it! What? The wand disappeared? So that’s really it. Sir, I think we’re the only ones left on this vessel, and what worries me most is that just a minute ago we could see a strip of land on the horizon, and now we can’t…

Music transition

THE BRAINWASHER (I), (II)

(Same text as the beginning)

Everyone

Davide: Are you stressed? Anxious? Disappointed? Alienated? Are you tormented by existential doubts? Do you fear old age and death? Now you can forget it all! Brainwashing is just for you!

Keith: Let us turn inwards to heal ourselves. Brainwashing is the only therapy that directly addresses the root of our misfortunes.

Anarosa: In our nation, brainwashing is free and mandatory. Each citizen must wash their brain at least once a year.

Mike: Brainwashing is completely safe. It changes neither the personality nor the mentality of those who practice it. The washing procedure removes only the morbid impulses of our subconscious.

Kevin: Any person denouncing brainwashing shall be declared an enemy of social harmony.

Antonio: For those traveling, there are washing centers specifically placed at train stations, airports, harbors, and at all motorway tollbooths.

Kasey: Only through this process can we bring ourselves infinitely closer to God. Brainwashing is the ultimate freedom, your gateway to supreme happiness.

Davide: So hurry, ladies and gentlemen, to your Local Brain-Washing Center!

Finale music

All ensemble curtain call activity choreographed to music

EPISODE 7. DIRECTED BY NEEMA LAHON, 28 JANUARY 2021

THE RUNNER, THE MAN IN THE CIRCLE, THE MAN IN THE MIRROR 

Cast: Edward Joe Bentley, Lyndsay Rose Kane, Susan Mele, Benjamin Nathan-Serio and Nora Lise Ulrey

PRE-SHOW music by KID SUDA

VIDEO 1: 5 minute film, all actors doing daily rituals in their homes e.g brushing teeth/showering/ washing face/eating. Music by: Lullatone Track: Wake Up, Wake Up

SCREENS IN GRID MODE: All actors on screen continuing to do a daily ritual. After 10 seconds of watching the actors PLAY TRACK 1 RUNNER V/O.

THE RUNNER

[RUNNER IS A PRE-RECORDED V/O]

Lyndsay Kane int. Living Room cleaning the space.

Joe Bentley int. Office at desk with computer.

Susan Mele ext. In garden with a fire pit and ladder reaching the second floor. Ben ext. on a hill in his garden landscape. Climbing a tree and chopping wood with an axe. Nora int. narrow corridor with empty cardboard boxes.

I can’t stop. This hasn’t happened to me before.

This morning, I left for my usual run. I got as far as a couple hundred feet when I suddenly realized I couldn’t stop.

As I passed the newsstand, the seller called out

 “Hello!”—I tried to slow down to answer him and I turned my head but I was already too far away.

It’s funny how people still haven’t realized what’s happened.

Everyone knows that I’m the town’s marathon runner, that I run without stopping—always at the same time and always the same route.

Everyone’s used to me running.

I greet them as I run, answer their questions as I run, give them a friendly wave as I run.

But this time, I couldn’t, can’t stop. And what’s more, I can’t turn left or right, I’m forced to run straight ahead.

Obviously, something’s wrong. But what?

I’m approaching the outskirts of the town. People usually watch me pass with admiration, so Mr. Kuntz calls out:

“How’s it going?”

I shout back: “Badly!” But I’m already far away, too far, and he can’t hear me . . .

Oh, good God, won’t they stop clapping me? And there’s Mrs. Cantonelli exclaiming:

“How fast he runs! How supple! How graceful!”

“Enough, madam, enough!”

I start feeling dizzy. Evidently my body isn’t listening to my brain.

“Help me!”

Just look at them all, lounging on their terraces and in the cafes. They have nothing else to do all day but sit back and sip beer and white wine—and watch me running.

Oh Christ, stop, stop saying that I’m disciplined, that I’m handsome, that I’m admirable, that I’m strong, that I’m bursting with willpower.

Stop it because I can’t stop! “Stop me, please stop me!” Evidently, they can’t hear me. “Mr. Pippidi! Mr. Pippidi!”

That’s the baker . . . He blows me a kiss, the stupid bastard.

And here’s the last cafe, the last houses, the end of the town.

I’m drenched in sweat.

For the first time in my life, I’m afraid.

Here comes the last street to the left, but I can’t turn left.

Here comes the last street to the right, but I can’t turn right.

I make a superhuman effort to stop myself at the town gates, but I can’t. “Help me! Help me!” My final chance lies there—

there where the three old men who always sit on the bench in the sun in the same place where you enter the town. Whenever I pass them, the first one always says: “Very talented, that runner.”

And the second one says:

“He’s as handsome as an angel.”

“He’s definitely going to win.”

In a way, I’m glad that it’s all behind me. The town’s now a fuzzy shape that gets smaller and smaller in the distance. Christ, what are these, tears? I’m crying?

Well, there you go, I run and I cry.

But I don’t feel tired or scared. I simply cry. And I don’t try to understand. I can only feel the tears running down my face. They’re making me cold but I can’t raise my arms to wipe them away.

My arms are frozen into a shape that offers me the best aerodynamic profile to help me run like a racing car. I charge ahead with my head bent forward, carving the optimum passage through the air.

The road is more or less deserted. From time to time, cars drive in the opposite direction. I don’t call for help any more but simply smile at the drivers who give me a friendly wave.

Now I’m running through a forest—I had to abandon the road because it curved and I can only go in a straight line.

I take a path.

I climb a hill.

I run down into a valley.

I don’t have the energy to think any more. All I can do is watch the countryside go by. My main worry is avoiding the trees. When you run this fast, trees become dangerous.

Night falls, but I keep on running. I stumble across an unknown village and then a new town, also unknown to me.

Everyone is asleep at this late hour and no one knows I’m the only living thing running at night.

I’m running in the dark, in fact. The lights from the last village have disappeared. Now I can’t see anything in front of me.

I barely miss the rocks and trees, following my instincts, but occasionally a night bird flies into me. I count my injuries.

I’ve already killed a fair number of birds and even a few animals which I’ve inadvertently trampled over.

More and more often, I hear wild cries and screams of sadness.

And now it’s morning, and I’m nothing but a running wound. Behind me is a long trail of blood. Before me rise the mountains.

The air is cold. It’s going to rain. That’s good, the rain will cleanse my injuries.

The sea lies just beyond those mountains and, naturally, you should always be cleansed before you plunge into the sea.

All actors en in close-up shot; only their eyes are on screen

A 2.5 minute video plays of all actors pulling tights over their heads in reverse. At the end of the video the screen will B/O.

THE MAN IN THE CIRCLE & THE MAN IN THE MIRROR

MIRROR

JOE [PRE-RECORDED V/O] The audience will hear this in complete darkness.

A few days ago, I heard a noise behind my bathroom mirror. At first, I paid no attention. The mirror’s always been there. I’ve always shaved in front of that mirror. But the noise hasn’t gone away. It’s a muted sound, not at all human. It’s like a blind bird throwing itself against the wall.

I even checked to see if the other side of the bathroom wall had any marks on it. But no, on the other side, where the stairway is, the wall’s untouched. But the noise continues. Every morning, when I wash my face and look at myself in the mirror, the noise repeats itself.

Video End – Show Screens in Speaker View

Spotlight Nora

CIRCLE

NORA [int. Empty white room standing by open door.]

CAMERA 1: angled down – full body shot, blue filtered lens

Whenever I want to be by myself, I stop wherever I happen to be. I take a piece of black chalk out of my pocket and draw a circle around me on the ground. I step into the circle and there, I’m safe.

People can’t talk to me while I’m in the circle. No one can enter it, touch me or even look at me. When I’m in my circle, I don’t hear things like the traffic or the waves or birdsong. I can stay here, as peaceful as I like, as long as I like. I don’t worry any more about what’s happening around me out there. The circle cuts me off from the outside world and from myself as well. It’s sheer bliss, complete peace.

Inside the circle, I don’t feel cold, hunger, or pain. Time just stops. Like in a protective dream, I’m immersed in the abstract, I become the center of the circle. And whenever I want to leave the circle, I simply stretch out my hand and break the chalk line. I’m the only one who can do this. No one outside the circle can break it for me. The magic of the circle is that it provides complete security.

Ever since the circles were invented, the world has become a better place. We have no wars, famines or natural disasters. The crime rate has plummeted. If you’re feeling sick, all you need to do is draw a circle around you. If there’s someone who’s getting on your nerves, just draw a circle. If a burglar breaks into your house during the night, you just jump into a circle.

REPLACE Spotlight Lyndsay Camera 1 & 2

MIRROR

LYNDSAY [int. hallway with mirrored corner and ceiling mirror]

Camera 1: shooting the ceiling mirror

Camera 2: Up shot into the mirrored corner.

I have the feeling it’s a deliberately insistent noise, as if someone wants to tell me something. I can’t help but wait for the noise now when I look in the mirror. Some days, it comes immediately. Some days, I have to look at myself for a long time before it comes. I haven’t excluded the possibility that someone, hidden behind the wall in the stairway, is playing a practical joke on me.

I wake up several times during the night and look at myself in the mirror. Every time there’s the noise. Even if there was someone behind the wall, how could they know when I’m looking at myself in the mirror?

Replace Spotlight Ben Camera 1 & 2

BEN [int. living room and dining area]

Camera 1: angled down onto dining area

Camera 2: angled up the ladder going to the mezzanine.

I wanted to tell my landlady, but decided not to. Why worry anyone? It would’ve been like an accusation really, as if I suspected the other tenants. I must admit that for a long time I thought it was Mr. Dupont, one of my neighbors. He lives alone and hasn’t left his apartment in years. But he never makes a sound, and to say that he’s hiding behind my mirror would be silly in the extreme.

So I settled for taking the mirror out of the bathroom and putting it on my bedroom wall. It now hangs between the two windows. It’s like another window. My small apartment is on the fourth floor. So now I know that no one can climb the outside wall to make noises behind the mirror when I look at myself. I’m looking at myself more and more often in my mirror. I spend hours and hours in front of my mirror. The noise fascinates me, obsesses me. Sometimes it frightens me.

REMOVE Spotlight on Ben Camera 2

ADD Spotlight on Lyndsay Camera 1

LYNDSAY: And I am absolutely convinced that it comes from the mirror. There is someone there, who wants to communicate something to me. I click my fingers and I wait. After ten seconds or so, he repeats, nearly identically, the sound of my clicking. I clap my hands and he claps his hands. I knock on the mirror twice with my toothbrush. After a minute, he responds. If I knock three times, I wait a minute and a half for his response.

In any case, he’s learning quickly. I say “aah” and, five minutes later, I hear a sort of moaning in the mirror. Even if my “aah” is not reproduced exactly.

BEN: I can tell he takes great joy in trying to answer me. When night falls, I don’t turn the light on any more. I like to stay in the darkness with him on the other side. Sometimes we communicate in silence all night long.

LYNDSAY: Toward the morning, I fall asleep, exhausted but happy. My bed is positioned just in front of the mirror and I know he watches me while I sleep.

REPLACE Spotlight on Nora

CIRCLE

NORA [int. Empty white room upper chest and head shot. She is closer to the camera]

CAMERA 1: Eye level, Upper Body Shot, Yellow filtered lens

If you’re on a long journey and you’re getting tired, you can find the rest you need within a circle. If you have something on your mind, a circle is the best place to think about it. If you feel death approaching and you don’t want to die, you can vegetate in a circle forever.

Interestingly, you can’t put two people in the same circle at the same time. People who have tried it discover that nothing happens at all. A circle for two doesn’t exist, and it will never do.

The town has changed completely since people started using the circles. And now, everywhere you turn you’ll see circles. Some people just park themselves on the pavement or the middle of the street, surrounded by their circles. Some don’t leave them for days on end. As if they’ve been abandoned there. Things are much quieter and cleaner now.

In the beginning, you needed magnetic black chalk to be able to draw a circle. The chalk was expensive and most people couldn’t afford it. But gradually the price dropped and new, colored chalks went on sale. In the end, chalk started to be handed out for free down at the town hall.

And then, someone worked out that you don’t actually need chalk to draw a circle. You can do it with a pencil, the point of a knife, lipstick, a needle or even your own fingernail.

What everyone does agree on is that the circle is the answer. Here we all are, at the turn of the century, and no one’s unhappy any more.

REPLACE Spotlight Ben: Camera 2

MIRROR

BEN [int. Camera 2 angled down from mezzanine] Pre-recorded background of Ben running around the house.

Sometimes, he’s the one who wakes me up. I wait for either my “aah” or the clicking of fingers or my toothbrush knocking against the mirror. I love being woken up like that. The sounds that he emits are so soft, so personal . . . And I’m always teaching him new sounds. I say “ooh” to him, and he replies “ooh” to me. His “ooh” comes faster and faster and increasingly resembles my “ooh.” I say, “yes” to him and he responds, almost ecstatically, “yes.” All the noises in my room are already familiar to him. I eat in front of the mirror and he reproduces all the noises that I make as I eat. Most of all, he likes when my glass tinkles. I fill up a glass for him and toast his health. I laugh, and he’s learned to laugh, as well.

REPLACE Spotlight Susan: Camera 1

SUSAN [int. bathroom cupboard]: Sometimes, the dialogue scares me.

He’s learning too quickly. He captures the sounds of my life with far too much energy. He’s like a black hole that sucks away my whole identity little by little. One night, I thought I had a nightmare. In my sleep, I heard a sort of monstrous tick tock, as if my room had become an enormous hydraulic machine. I was too tired to wake. My sleeping mind tried to forget, to smother this noise, repeated over and over again and growing louder and louder. But when the pulsing turned menacing, I woke with a start. He was repeating my heartbeat back to me, from the mirror!

REPLACE Spotlight Lyndsay Camera 1 & ADD Spotlight on Ben Camera 2

LYNDSAY [int. Bathroom with mirrored corners. She sits on the sit. She has 4 reflections] Ben [int. bedroom w/ sofa]: He has learned all the phonetics of speech but he doesn’t speak yet. Clearly, he prefers vowels. He still has trouble repeating consonants. Sometimes I say “m” to him and he replies, a little mockingly, “i.” I articulate a “z” to him and he sends me a “u” back. I say “zero” to him and he responds “eyes”. For the most part, however, he will repeat words that I give him. I say “I am” and he responds, “I am.” I say “you are” and he responds “you are.” I realize that I am taking a huge risk in teaching him to speak, but it’s the only way to get him to tell me who he is.

REPLACE Spotlight Joe

JOE [int. bathroom. He runs through the door and stands in front of the mirror with a towel]: Today, he understood the logic of spoken language and said “help!” to me. I’m at my wits’ end. This has gone on for six months and sometimes it feels like I have slid into a parallel world that this is transforming me into a mirror. His cry is so desperate that I can’t listen to it any more. I often leave the apartment and hide, to avoid him, to forget him, and to forget my helplessness. I wander, pacing the streets alone until dawn. When I return, he greets me straight away with his “help!” To sleep a little, I put earplugs in. I also cover the mirror with a cloth, but he continues to cry out “help! help!” and I hear it in my sleep. I don’t speak to him anymore, because I have nothing to say. Perhaps I could kill him by breaking the mirror, but that would be a crime. Despite everything, I’m still searching for a solution.

REPLACE Spotlight Susan Camera 1

SUSAN [int. corridor to bathroom. Audience sees her reflection in the bathroom mirror cupboard]: He wants me to get him out of there. He no longer cries “help!” but “get me out of here!” Our conversation has broken off completely. We could have continued—he had a real gift for nuance, a real sense of humor. But no, he refuses to deepen our connection via the spoken word. He wants me to get him out of there at any cost, and ignores the fact that the deepening of our dialogue could perhaps have saved him in the end. His voice has become very clear now, almost human. It’s almost my voice but far more trembling, far more tired.

REPLACE Spotlight Nora

CIRCLE

NORA [int. Room]

CAMERA 1: Close-up shot of her face and eye. The background isn’t in view. Red filtered lens

Surveys indicate that people spend an average of a hundred days inside their circles every year. And, according to census figures, there are people who haven’t stepped out of their circles for five, ten, or even twenty years. You can be sure they’ve had their taste of eternity.

The rumors running through town at the moment don’t worry me. What people are saying is that there’s a secret trap in the circles, meaning that you can get stuck in them forever.

There are whispers of people being locked in circles against their will. Some are even claiming that people who have lived in their circles for ten or twenty years are, in reality, prisoners.

I’ve also heard people saying that, for quite a while now, most of the circles have stopped obeying their makers. Once you’re in, they won’t let you out.

And, what’s more, people are saying you’ll never get out again.

Replace Spotlight Lyndsay Camera 1

MIRROR

LYNDSAY [int. room of mirrors. Walking in circle filing from her phone]: Since I can’t actually get him out of the mirror at the moment, I bring him with me on my walks. I go out every day. With the mirror under my arm, I roam the town for hours, and this seems to have a calming effect on him. He now knows all the streets, all the public gardens. We have our favorite cafe where we spend endless afternoons. Naturally, I don’t speak to him when we’re out and about. He also has the decency not to ask me to get him out any more. Like this, in silence, we have visited all the museums, all the churches, all the monuments.

REPLACE Spotlight Joe

JOE [int. bathroom laying in the bath staring into cracked mirror]: Back home, it starts all over again. I know that he understands my powerlessness and makes a real effort not to ask anything of me. But his silence tortures me all the more now that I hear him breathe. I don’t ask myself if it’s my breathing or his anymore. I feel him inside my mirror, just as alive as myself. When we’re too tired from our walks, we read. I place the mirror on my chair, I sit in my armchair and I read short stories by Poe and Borges to him.

REPLACE Spotlight Susan Camera 1

SUSAN [int. bathroom cupboard. She is inside the cupboard now, closer to the reflection]: No, I could never throw him out and he understands it. For the moment, we talk of time, of rising prices, of work. I say “it’s beautiful today” and he says “yes.” I say “Mr. Bartolomeo was devoured by strange animals” and he says “really?” But, what he doesn’t know is that in the meantime, I’ve handed in my notice and settled my debts. I can’t leave him like this, and since I can’t get him out here, I’ve decided to join him in there.

Farewell!

Bring up each actor’s screen on at a time

Final close-up shot: the actors stare into the camera momentarily

B/O on time with music.

EPISODE 8. DIRECTED BY CATHERINE SULLIVAN, 4 FEBRUARY 2021

THE MAN WITH THE APPLE, THE VOICE IN THE BLIND LIGHT I, THE VOICE IN THE DARKNESS II AND III

Cast: Venice Averyheart, Cristina Pronzati, Bob Wilson

PERSON1: Venice

PERSON2: Cristina

PERSON3: Bob

GALLERY VIEW—AUDIO TRACK 1

ALL: lying in bed, showered in glorious daylight, expanding, noting borders between them

P1: Curious, the worm reflects.

P2: “Who am I? Where am I?”

P3: The worm smells only its own smell.

ALL: laughter or bemusement

P2: With the exception of the two questions just asked (who am I? where am I?), its memory is an empty void.

ALL: laughter, bemusement or relaxed enjoyment

P1: Well, let’s get on with it.

P3: First, it tries to establish its whereabouts, but the substance surrounding it is yielding and pliant. That must be the outside world. It starts to nibble the sweet softness and discovers that its taste is not disagreeable.

ALL: laughter, bemusement or relaxed enjoyment

P2: The worm now engorges itself with intense pleasure until it has tripled in size and now, feeling painfully full, it tells itself:

P3: Enough, have a little common sense!

ALL: breathing a deep sigh of relief, start speaking in ASMR mode

P2: Troubled and excited in equal measure by these discoveries, the worm decides to take a nap. Its nap is brief but fruitful, like a session with the psychoanalyst.

P1: Slipping into sleep, a new revelation strikes the worm—namely, that the world revolves around the concept of time.

P3: And the worm has its first dream: it is floating among countless gigantic spheres that whirl around and threaten to collide with the worm and crush it at any moment.

P1: That’s no laughing matter.

ALL: becoming alarmed

P1: Before it can grasp the meaning of life, its mouth floods with the bitter taste of tears.

P2: And then, pondering its size rendered so huge from eating, the worm is hit by the realization that infinity awaits on all sides.

ALL: begin thrashing about in bedding and pillows

P1: Now awake, the worm understands that it is merely an insignificant mote imprisoned in an ocean of food, that it must escape at all costs to give its life meaning. There is only one way to do this: to dig, by eating, a tunnel through its very own food. And so, the worm decides to escape through the soft surrounding substance.

P2: The challenge is a daunting one, but the worm has no intention of admitting defeat.

P3: Relentlessly, it burrows through the apple that I’m raising to my mouth. At that precise moment, when the worm bursts through the apple’s skin, thus creating its first window revealing the universe and God, my teeth bite greedily into the fruit.

LIVE SOUND

ALL: are blinded by light and in need of a safe word

P3: Oh, no . . .

P1: Say string, please!

P2: Strange. Why won’t he say it?

The group is still when speaking and moving when not speaking, trying desperately to communicate. Different things are happening: kitchen and bathroom drawers are being rifled through, things fly through the air, chase scenes unfold, neighbors are whispered at through walls, curtains are drawn, lights flicker on and off, cocktails are made, clothes are tried on, voices are impersonated and gestures are mimicked.

P3:

PERSON THREE. String.

P1:

PERSON1. I don’t know. He doesn’t give a shit.

P3:

PERSON ONE. Why won’t you say string? How long do you think you can take me for a ride? How long do you think I’ll put up with this?

PERSON THREE. String!

PERSON ONE. You’ll regret this.

P2:

PERSON ONE. Everyone before has said string, you know.

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON ONE. They said string and now they’re safe and sound. Every single one of them.

PERSON ONE. Perhaps he’s never said the word string before.

PERSON TWO. Possibly.

PERSON ONE. Perhaps he actually doesn’t know how to say string.

PERSON THREE. String!

P1:

PERSON ONE. He’s driving me crazy.

PERSON TWO. Say string, you wretch. Say string!

PERSON THREE. String!

PERSON ONE. String! Say string! What have you got against us that you won’t say string?

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON ONE. Look at me. Are you looking at me?

P3:

PERSON THREE. Yes.

PERSON ONE. S-tring. Come on, say string and the whole ordeal will be over.

PERSON THREE. S-tring.

PERSON ONE. Come on, don’t be so stupid. Say string.

PERSON TWO. Say string or I’ll smash your head in.

P2:

PERSON THREE. String!

PERSON ONE. Come on, just be reasonable and say string.

PERSON TWO. It’s better if we don’t have to force you to say string.

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON ONE. Do you want me to say something? String, there I’ve said it.

PERSON ONE. It’s easy, say string while there’s still time.

P3:

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON TWO. Is it so hard to say string? Say string, please!

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON ONE. String! String! String! Christ, just say the bloody word!

PERSON THREE. Yes, yes, yes.

P1:

PERSON ONE. Open your mouth and say it.

PERSON THREE. String!

PERSON ONE. Does saying string make you feel embarrassed?

PERSON THREE. No, no!

PERSON ONE. So say string!

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON TWO. Now don’t think, sir, for a minute that you’re not going to say it. Are you listening to me? Don’t think you’re going to get out without saying string! Get that straight out of your head! No one’s got out of here without saying string!

P3: Get it, shithead, get it?

PERSON ONE. He said string.

PERSON TWO. That’s right.

PERSON ONE. In fact, both of us said string.

PERSON TWO. That’s right.

PERSON ONE. Look, it’s as easy as falling off a wall.

P1:

PERSON TWO. Look, it’s as easy as falling off a wall.

PERSON ONE. Say string. Please.

PERSON TWO. Please. Say string.

PERSON THREE. String! String! String!

P2:

PERSON ONE. Oh, sweet Jesus, I can’t take any more of this.

PERSON TWO. This is going to be bad, bad, bad.

PERSON ONE. Say string and just get the hell out of here.

PERSON THREE. String!

PERSON ONE. Do you want us to beat the crap out of you?

P1:

PERSON THREE. String!

PERSON ONE. Or maybe you don’t actually know how to say string.

PERSON TWO. I doubt he doesn’t know.

P2:

PERSON ONE. Well, some people don’t know what string means. How is it, sir, that you don’t know what string means?

P3:

PERSON THREE. I know.

PERSON TWO. He knows.

P1:

PERSON ONE. Then why aren’t you saying it?

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON ONE. Go on, with all your effort!

PERSON THREE. Strinnnnnggggg . . .

P3:

PERSON TWO. What a complete and utter balls-up.

P1:

PERSON ONE. Just say it, Jesus, what do you take us for?

PERSON TWO. No matter how much time, you’ll say string, whatever happens.

P2:

PERSON ONE. There’s people who say string after a week.

PERSON TWO. There’s people who say string after a year.

PERSON ONE. Or after 10 years.

PERSON TWO. Or after 20 years.

PERSON TWO. I guarantee you’ll say string one day.

PERSON THREE. String . . . string . . . string.

PERSON ONE. Such a shame for a guy as young as you . . .

P1:

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON ONE. It’ll be such a shame for your mother.

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON TWO. Have you got any brothers? A sister? It’d be such a shame for your sister.

P3:

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON ONE. You won’t get a chance like this again.

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON ONE. No one’ll care about you.

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON ONE. Meaningless existence. Pointless passage into the ground. Nothing. Zero. Nil. Dust. Void. Emptiness. Spirit dejected. There you have it!

PERSON THREE. String, string, string, string, string, string, string, string.

P1:

PERSON ONE. Do you seriously think this is easy for us?

PERSON ONE. Get it into your head that we all share the same goal.

PERSON TWO. Think whatever you want, but just say string.

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON TWO. Close your eyes and say string.

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON ONE. Breathe deeply, fill your lungs. Open your ears. Try to speak with a closed mouth. Can you?

P3:

PERSON THREE. I can.

P2:

PERSON ONE. Mouth closed, ears covered . . . Mmmm-SSSS . . .

PERSON THREE. Mouth closed, ears covered . . . string!

PERSON TWO. Look at me. Mouth closed, ears covered, eyes closed . . . Mmmm-SSSS . . .

P1:

PERSON ONE. Place your hands on your stomach and think string.

PERSON THREE. Yes, yes, yes.

PERSON TWO. Are you thinking it? Eh? Think! Go on, think it! Are you thinking it? Go on, think!

PERSON ONE. Think, think . . . String . . . Strinnng . . . Stri-iinng.

P3:

PERSON TWO. He isn’t thinking.

PERSON ONE. He isn’t thinking?

PERSON THREE (sobbing). String! String! String!

PERSON ONE. Pile of shit!

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON ONE. What a nobody.

PERSON TWO. Son of a bitch!

PERSON ONE. What a worm! Piece of scum!

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON TWO. On your knees, you lazy scum.

P1:

PERSON ONE. Christ, say string! Don’t you get it? That’s what God’s telling you in your rotten brain. String.

PERSON TWO. That’s right.

PERSON ONE. Listen! Shut up and listen! What’s God singing in your head? You’re hearing him whisper string.

PERSON THREE. I’m hearing it.

PERSON ONE. So why don’t you say string?

PERSON TWO. There’s nothing nowhere that can’t say string. All of God’s creatures can say string.

PERSON THREE. String.

P2:

PERSON TWO. Besides, we know you’ve already said string.

PERSON TWO. I know someone who’s heard him say string.

PERSON ONE. Ah, there, my colleague even knows someone who heard you say string.

PERSON TWO. And it was me!

PERSON ONE. There, and it was my colleague himself.

PERSON TWO. Yes, me, me personally, I heard it with my very own ears when he said string.

P1:

PERSON ONE. There you are! It’s ridiculous, ridiculous, utterly ridicu- lous not to say string. Why don’t you want to say what you’ve already said before?

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON TWO. Maybe you want to take our place? Go on, say string and you can take our place.

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON ONE. Ask us to say string. Are you listening?

PERSON THREE. Yes.

PERSON ONE. Tell me to say string.

P3:

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON TWO. Me too. Tell me to say string.

PERSON THREE. String.

PERSON ONE. Order me to say string three times.

PERSON THREE. Say it, say it, say it!

P1:

PERSON ONE. String! String! String!

P2:

PERSON TWO. Me too! Me too! Me too! Three times, order me to say string three times!

P3:

PERSON THREE. Yes! Yes! Yes!

PERSON TWO. String! String! String!

P1:

PERSON ONE. And now all three of us! Let’s all three say string! One, two, three!

ALL THREE: String! String! String!

BLACKOUT, then P2 runs outside.

AUDIO TRACK 2

We see P2’s fallen view, we hear only the voices of P1 and P3.

P1: What are we going to do now?

P3: I have no idea.

P1: Can you see anything yet?

P3: Nothing.

P1: Can you hear anything?

P3: Nothing.

P1: Do you think it’s still night?

P3: Possibly.

P1: I think we should stop.

P3: If we stop, we’re lost.

GALLERY VIEW

We are outside. We see P2’s fallen view, we see P3 standing over “it”, while P1 searches for something in her yard.

P3: Disgusting!

P1: God, what is it?

P3: It looks a bit like a dog. Well, in any case, it has a dog’s head. Maybe more like a stag’s head than a dog’s. But the eyes, those are definitely dog’s eyes.

P1: It’s not normal—the sun hasn’t come up.

P3: Why’s that important to you?

P1: But, God, what could have crushed it like that?

P3: Actually, it dropped out of the sky.

P1: Look, I’ve had enough. Can’t you see we’re going around in circles, like blind dogs?

P3: If we panic, we’re screwed.

P1: Three days, I swear. And here we are, the sun hasn’t risen and we’re headed deeper and deeper into this mess. The important thing is that we’re free.

P3: Yes, but don’t you see we’re going blind? In any case, I don’t think it’s a stag’s head.

P1: It’s more like a wild boar’s.

P3: A wild boar, here in our town?

P1: Hey, does it look like it’s still moving?

P3: Seems to me that it’s dead but still staring at us. 8

P1: Look at its lips though. It’s still breathing, isn’t it.

P3: Looks like it has human lips. Well, I think it looks like a sphinx.

P1 moves back onto her porch, takes a wide panorama of the city

P1: We should have stopped when we heard the scream.

P3: What scream?

P1: There, where we heard the scream. We should have stopped there. Think about it. We shouldn’t have gone any further after the scream.

P3: I heard no scream.

P1: You heard it because I told you we heard a scream, and you asked me what scream, so you heard.

P3: The scream’s got nothing to do with it.

P1: We should have stopped after the scream.

P3: Scream, scream, you’re driving me mad with your scream.

P3 goes inside leaving us with the view of “it”. P1 goes inside leaving us on her porch. We see P2 inside, moving as if she’s putting on stockings.

GALLERY VIEW—LIVE SOUND

P2: It was run over by a lunatic. It was a black car. It did it deliberately. It was flying through the air and all at once it just fell. Perhaps it was escaping. So, it’s an angel. An angel with horse hooves. No, it has a horse’s mane, but the hooves are more like a goat’s. Looks as if there’s tears in its eyes.

GALLERY VIEW – We see the hooved feet of the group as they slide back into bed. Now showered in glorious moonlight.

P3: We can go back if you want to.

P1: And if they spot we’ve come back?

P3: That’s not the point. The important thing is to find the same hole, and the hole has to be the same one where we jump over the wall. Then we put everything back in its place, close the windows behind us, clean up, wipe everything, get rid of the filings, and make it look like we woke up with everyone else, and we turn up for breakfast.

P1: And the bars? It’s obvious they’re bent.

P3: Calm down, that’s my worry. I’ll bend them back just like before.

P1: So what on earth was it doing here in the first place?

P2: (to himself) It flew.

P3: It was obviously roaming the streets.

P1: Did anyone see this creature alive?

P3: No one did.

P1: It made a sound before it died.

P2: Did it moo, bellow, or roar before it died?

P1: I heard words.

P2: And what did it say?

P1: I think it whispered something . . .

P2/P3/P1: What? What?

P3/P2/P1: “I’m sorry . . .”

THE END

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