This week I took part in a 24-hour plays style fundraiser for a company here in London called Etch. They called it The Daily Plays. 6 playwrights responded to 6 newspapers over 6 days and made 6 new plays which were performed last night. Here's how it worked:
I was assigned The Guardian for Thursday, September 17th. I bought the paper at 8 AM, read it, and then had to write a play by 8pm. The play had to be 5 minutes long and be written for one female performer. (Other plays had different lengths and company sizes).
I reference the other Daily Plays here, but I think the monologue stands on its own as well. Here it is:
Seven thousand years ago
Seven thousand years ago the sea rose.
We know because of geology.
How else do we know?
We know because they told us so.
21 of them.
On this island.
Told across generations.
Re-told to keep them alive.
Nowhere else do they have this kind of record keeping.
Everywhere else the stories got flooded.
But we kept telling them.
That’s how we know the water rose.
That and geology.
We know people moved in big groups.
We know because we swab the insides of mouths and see where similar genetic traits live: on islands that no longer touch.
And then we listen to the stories.
Like the one about the girl on a boat.
That’s how we know people moved in groups.
Seven thousand years ago,
People used their fingers to talk.
We find bodies in ruins.
Earlier kinds of humans.
You can see the bent shapes of their hands.
That’s how we know they touched.
Seven thousand years ago,
There were politics like today.
We know because we found the places they met.
But also because of the stories of rulers.
We don’t know if the names of rulers are real or made up but we know rule existed.
It wasn’t anarchy.
Anarchy came when the water rose.
With the Cataclysm.
There are no stories from that time.
Some people survived.
But they could only focus on remembering the stories.
Not creating new ones.
They lived in the ruins of buildings. They killed people who tried to kill them. And told the 21 stories.
Do you know the 21 stories?
The girl on the boat.
Do you know the one about the tiger?
There was a tiger named Simi.
She was severely beaten to make her behave.
Then she was put in a cage.
For two years she lived in a cage.
A king on our island heard about this tiger.
He decided to save her.
He brought her here.
She was happy.
Until people who lived in cages somewhere else heard her story.
They said, a tiger can move across borders but not us?
The king didn’t know what to say to them.
So he pretended they weren’t there and played with Simi the tiger.
This was close to the time the water rose.
Do you know what a tiger is?
They don’t exist anymore.
It was big and mean.
It could eat four people at once.
It had two eyes and four feet.
It had huge ears.
With two horns.
It had a nose like an arm.
Every tiger’s name started with the letter S..
We know about tigers because of archaeology.
There are 19 other stories.
Every time someone has written them down, the stories get lost or hurt.
We stopped doing that.
They call storytellers Guardians, which is an old word.
There are things we will never know.
After the Cataclysm, nobody made it their job to remember songs. –
Sometimes I wake in the morning and there is a song in my head.
But I don’t know where it came from.
I wonder if it could be an ancient song.
But how would I know it?
And words. There are words we hear in the stories, but they have no significance to us. Names, mainly.
One story is very short. It goes like this:
“What Sutherland painted was a magnificent ruin. That was not a disrespectful thing to do in 1954. Britain in 1954 was a magnificent ruins, that was its story and magnificence was as important as the ruin.”
That’s my favourite story.
I do not know what it means, but
It reminds me of the music I have in my head sometimes.
I don’t know why.