I chose to write this response as a play-script, to force me to focus on dramatic tension and characterisation. It’s on the theme of ‘Surveillance’. I enjoyed thinking visually and physically about the piece and the possibilities opened up by staging a performance. But I still need to work on characterisation, dialogue and dramatic tension! 1025 words.
A six-foot translucent crystal ball is suspended centre-stage, appearing to float in a sea of bluish mist and smoke. As the audience enters, a series of random images of themselves from various angles around the auditorium are seen in the ball. Tayana, a female mystic dressed in a ragged blue velvet cloak over stained white robes, wearing an otter mask and holding a simple hand-mirror made of polished iron, holds her mirror up to the ball and looks out to the audience responding to the projected images through gesture and expression.
Fade to darkness.
Lights up – low and greenish. In the crystal ball we now see images of a teenage girl, Mi, trapped and lost in the dark caves beneath the earth.
Throughout the scene that follows, both characters are on stage – always separated by the presence of the crystal ball. They circle and move around it, and each other, without ever coming face to face or being in the same space. The images in the ball remain focused on Mi during the exchange, and show her moving through tunnels and underground chambers. Tayana continues to use her mirror to watch the projected images.
… And holds my mirror to your face
Until it makes you scream.
But wait! Follow me,
Don’t run this time:
I’ll give you what you need.
Through frost and snow I lead you
Down into the warm dark earth …
MI So hot. I can’t breathe down here. All this earth piled up on me like a tomb. I can’t bear it. Down among the dust, where the dead get swallowed up and only the indigestible bones are shat back out to remain. I can’t remember what I’m supposed to be doing. I can’t remember anything.
TAYANA … Your memories are mine now,
Your past belongs to me:
I see the secrets that you hide
And live inside your dreams …
MI Don’t know if it’s day or night. I haven’t slept in ages and I’m shattered. Shattered? What does that mean? Splintered like broken glass. Is that me?
TAYANA … In the blink between your eyelids,
In the cracks you never see,
In the silence that surrounds you:
The dark within is me …
MI Who am I? I don’t even know any more. I feel more dark than light, more dreaming than awake. Down here on my own in the pitch black. Nobody can see me or hear me. Do I even still exist?
TAYANA … Dream and weave, my little one,
I feed on your desires.
My spirit rises with your blood
I need you to be me …
MI Am I still alive? Maybe I’ve become one of the skeleton corpses, long dead and long forgotten. How would I know? I can’t see anyone, I can’t hear anyone. I wouldn’t know if I was really dead and just imagining I’m still alive. Maybe I was never really alive, never really real. I can’t remember, now. But I do feel something strange. A weird feeling of being watched and heard. It’s creepy and it makes me shiver.
[They begin to move more closely together, mirroring each other’s actions]
TAYANA … Your life gives me a heartbeat,
My breath drawn from your chest …
MI [Laboured breathing] What was that? An eerie echo. I need to leave!
TAYANA … Stay in my darkness, let me breathe,
MI [Choking and crumpling to the floor like a marionette whose strings have been cut]
[Mi and Tayana come face to face, both crumpled on the floor as though lifeless]
MI Who are you? What do you want with me?
TAYANA I am Tayana. For one hundred years I have walked in the dark. Waiting for you. Trapped and enchanted by The Sorcerer, I cannot live in the world, except by your blood.
MI What do you mean? Get away from me!
TAYANA I am the shadow of yourself. He made me your reflection and tied your fate to mine. I waited for you to be born; I waited for you to grow; and I trembled as I waited for this day. All the time you lived up there I was here, locked underground: I withered and faded. But now we are face to face, only one of us can live.
MI You’re crazy. This is madness. I don’t believe in you. I must be mad. I’m hallucinating from the lack of air down here. I need to get up, get out.
[Mi tries to scramble to her feet, but Tayana catches hold of her and pushes her back to the ground. She rises slowly to sit on Mi’s chest like a hag-rider, constricting her breathing and pinning her down, as though fighting to enter her soul]
TAYANA … I live
MI [Writhing in despair, yet unable to move her arms or raise any strength in herself]
TAYANA [Gaining strength and power, almost complete]
MI [Choking and stuttering. Unable to form sounds, desperate]
MI [With a final attempt to free herself, she wrestles with Tayana, eventually throwing her off]
No! I live!
[Mi stands above Tayana, who screeches in agony as Mi’s image fades and her own appears in the crystal ball. Suddenly, the ball is filled with the giant silhouette of an antlered head and The Sorcerer – an ancient shaman dressed in furs and wearing a stag-skull mask – appears on stage. He holds a shallow dish made of smooth black flint, filled with water. As he peers into the bowl, stirring the water with a feather, the reflected watery image of both Mi and Tayana is seen in the crystal ball. He makes movements with his hands like a puppet-master. Mi and Tayana correspond as marionettes under his control.]
SORCERER See, they live.
[The Sorcerer manipulates their movements until they both crumple to the ground. The images in the crystal ball fade to black. The Sorcerer remains on stage, stirring the water in the dish. Gradually, watery images of the audience members begin to appear in the crystal ball until eventually the stage becomes black and the house lights go up.]