Life is better when we’re together, although connecting has never felt so hard as it does right now! But we will be together again, soon… one day, soon.
Where’s my head at? Where’s your head at? Body issues? Body positive? In the wrong body? Want that body?
This new project, ‘Head & Body’, aims to play with the idea of what it means to be truly disconnected from our selves. It’s a culmination of years indulging in the quirky delights of the cabaret, two years of a Masters at RADA and many minutes and seconds thinking up idiotic puns. When will we see the Head & Body together? Will they ever see eye to eye, or hand to foot, to finally do the right thing and listen to each other?
Soon, I hope to get this comedy show up and running, when bodies can just be bodies and play with each other, and let our busy minds soak in the comforting pools of nonsense.
Some photos from lots of trying and testing in 2019…
THEATRICAL PLAY TEXT – SCRIPT TASTER FOR HEAD & BODY
This was written in the time we called ‘Lockdown One’. This draft betrays my frustration at the situation – taking on a Masters to develop a play abound with physical comedy and collaboration and instead had to write it in solitude. I ended up with a ‘work in progress’ awaiting rehearsal … and a burgeoning interest in fascia as the ‘organ of consciousness’.
The central premise is an exploration into the idea of Medusa’s discarded ‘Body’ as a symbol of the ruination of women by the patriarch. In this play, Medusa’s ‘Head’ holds court in her infinite realm, welcoming other legendary and discarded women of pop culture (eg. Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Amy Winehouse), until a broken, though not ruined, woman arrives (Bombshell) and introduces Body to a world of the living and the loved. Complete with lobotomies, wrestling lesbians, Rhianna and bleeding hearts, Hoarder is an attempt at gifting the brutally severed with a sense of connection.
‘HOARDER OF HEARTS’
by Anna Byrne
Bombshell – a defective yet full bodied, ‘good head on her shoulders’ type
Head – a demanding, narcissistic drunk, lost in their own ego and desire for a better body
Body – a loyal, hard-working, somewhat abused pushover with a creative flair and a yearning for a bit of kindness
Wrestlers – a group of four ‘alternative’ wrestlers; part grotesque, part poetic – each has a story to tell
Music. ‘Incapable’ by Róisìn Murphy plays (extended version) play in blackout.
The house lights (or spots) will light the following action taking place in the auditorium.
BOMBSHELL enters through the audience. She’s dressed almost completely in bandages, like a mummified corpse. There’s a bloody stain over her heart. Her face is obscured by the bandages, although her lips can be seen clearly and at least one eye is visible.
Four other bodies, the WRESTLERS, enter through the audience as a group (partying, dancing, kissing) and at the end of the scene they will exit through the audience.
A spotlight (or keep house lights on) will follow BOMBSHELL as she slowly meanders her way towards the stage. The stage remains in blackout.
When BOMBSHELL steps on to the stage, the music warps. BOMBSHELL clutches at her heart, as if in a great deal of pain. She steps off, and the music returns to normal, and she doesn’t appear to be in pain anymore. She tries this out a few times. The lights flicker as she steps on and off. When BOMBSHELL stands on stage, the music abruptly stops, and the lights turn off in the auditorium and up on stage.
The stage is a mess. Part laboratory, part green room. There are remnants of a party, mannequins, anatomical diagrams, a sex doll is sitting behind a desk in a school uniform, radio sits on the desk. There’s a dressing up/make-up area with wigs on wig heads (one is HEAD, though it is not immediately obvious). The legs of BODY can just be seen peeking out from under a table. BOMBSHELL looks at the legs before speaking.
Bombshell I was fourteen when I learnt I had nice legs. He walked around the bar and sat down on the stool next to mine. He took a squashed pack of cigarettes from his back pocket of his ripped black jeans, tapped one out and flicked it up, catching it in his cracked, dry lips. I felt my heart beat then. Magic. He offered me one, I took it, I’d always liked smoking. With a single stroke, he ran a match along the edge of the bar, the flame making his face glow. I drew in the smoke. That was when I felt a clammy hand on my bare thigh. He told me I had such nice legs. Then he asked if he could hold me …
I said yes. We sat like that for a long time. I stayed in the bar all night until his shift ended, sipping at my whiskey and smoking his cigarettes. We went to the park. We walked, we held hands, we hugged for hours and hours, then he walked me home. My mother had called the police and I never saw him again.
BOMBSHELL picks up a skull, inspecting it as she talks.
I started wearing short skirts after that. I got a lot of compliments. It was nice. So, when my future husband… a pot-bellied, balding, old, ginger moustached man I’d met in my twenties, when I met him and he told me I had nice legs, I wasn’t surprised, it’d just been a while since anybody had said it. I needed the compliment. It was my undoing…
I’d come apart long before that, though. Broken was something I was used to feeling, so much so it took me a while to realise what my husband was doing to what was left of me.
I can hear me rattling around inside. Can you hear it? Unravel me, see beneath my flesh, the texture, the tissue, my red blood, it’s all been poisoned. Sinew and spit, my nerves, they pierce through my muscles. I’m in no pain, though. Pain is a privilege; it’s how you know you’re alive.
Music. ‘La Vie en Rose’ by Edith Piaf crackles noisily, like it’s coming from the radio. Groaning can be heard, and the legs peeking out under a table move slightly.
BOMBSHELL hides behind SEX DOLL. One of the wig heads turns around to face the audience, it is HEAD, she’s wearing a turban and an eye-mask. Her face is contorting, like she’s about to throw up. She’s moaning loudly. The legs move a bit more, eventually coming to a stand, it is BODY. BODY has a bucket over their head. BODY stumbles around a bit as though still drunk, then grabs the bucket, revealing she has no head. She just manages to put the bucket in front of HEAD as she vomits.
Head Owwwwww! I regret EVERYTHING! … Shuddup, Edith!
BODY turns the radio off, then slumps down somewhere.
My head, my head… it HURTS! Agh… why did you do this to me? I hate you, Body! I hate you! Coffee. Now! (Beat) Pretty please… Body?
Body! Body, where are you, my love? I’m blind… oh my god, I’m blind, Its happened… You got me so drunk, you’ve blinded me! Body, what did you do to me? I can’t… I can’t see… /
BODY crawls over and pulls the eye-mask off HEAD.
There you are! Hello.
Body (Signing) Every. Day.
Head (Slowly, patronising) I don’t understand you, you idiot … You were a right state last night, stumbling all over the place.
BODY starts making coffee.
I barely slept … again … my babies and their whispers, they clamour with their sibilant sweet nothings. (Sniffs air). Shit, Body, you stink. Body! (Overly dramatically retching) That’s disgusting! Bucket! Now!
BODY produces the bucket, for a retching HEAD. Then HEAD’s nose itches, her face contorts and twists as she tries to scratch her own nose, she gets overwhelmed.
BODY itches HEAD’s nose and serves her some coffee with a pink, curly straw, which she slurps down, gratefully.
Did you put my special sauce in it? Did you? I can’t taste it. Come on, now.
BODY is reluctant, refusing to obey. (Shouting) Gimme! NOW!
BODY fills up the coffee mug with some whiskey.
(Sweetly) Thank you, angel, love you, princess, you’re the bestest. Ain’t nobody like you… (Singing) ‘They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said NO, NO, NO!’ Body …. I’m sorry, I am. Really sorry. You know how I get… stupid, stupid, stupid me. I just get all filled up with stupid thoughts, and then I get to thinking about how my thoughts shouldn’t be stupid, but they are stupid, and then I feel stupid, and I hate to feel stupid, there is nothing worse than feeling stupid, stupid, stupid. (Crying) The stupid thoughts just go round and round and round and round and round and round and round and…
HEAD starts sobbing melodramatically. BODY adjusts the radio. Music. ‘Get Happy’ by Judy Garland plays. BODY makes some attempt at getting HEAD to sing along, which she does eventually, somewhat mournfully.
‘Pack up your troubles and just get happy, Ya better chase all your cares away
Sing Hallelujah, come on get happy
Get ready for the judgment day…’
No, stop it, Body. I can’t bear it today. Turn it off.
BODY turns the music off and starts playing with her dolls.
I remember those stares, when we were young. Do you remember the flicker of eye- lids as I glided past? The gentle patter of my light feet, the flutter of my heart as I felt the sweet stares of my admirers, of which there were so many. So many. Old and young, they all wanted me. Do you remember? No… no… of course you don’t. How could you? You can’t see. You can’t hear. You can’t taste. .
It was all your fault. You know that, don’t you? I don’t blame you, I did… but not anymore.
What are you doing over there? Why don’t we play a game? Would you like that? Charades? Or the usual?
BODY is excited, she claps her hands and jumps about a bit.
Oh, you like that don’t you? Ok, then, the usual, it is.
BODY gets a new sheet for her drawing board.
Ok… right. Draw for me, dearly disconnected Body of mine, what shall you draw? I see…I see… I see the sea, I see a boat, I see a storm coming in the distance and dark clouds, draw for me the monster in the deep… what am I thinking about? Ready? Twenty seconds on the clock, and… GO! Twenty… nineteen… eighteen… seventeen…
BODY draws enthusiastically whilst HEAD counts down.
Time’s up! I said draw me a monster and you drew…
BODY reveals her picture. It is a rough drawing of a woman, head intact.
(Angry) Enough! We are not talking about this again. Do you hear me? Body? No. NO! I don’t want this. You. Me. This is it, Body. I can’t…no, I don’t want this. You… it’s just so… it’s so easy for you. You just walk around doing your little things, your jobs. To… to do what you want, what you’re suggesting… it’s impossible. Impossible. That’s a prison I don’t ever want to know again. It will kill me. It will kill you, us, this. We’d shrink from the memories and be consumed by them. We’d devour each other until there’s nothing left of us. I don’t want to disappear. Everybody thinks they’re a somebody, Body. But they don’t know what I know. They’re nobodies, most of them. And we’d be just like them. We wouldn’t be special. We would shrivel and fade and be lost in the mess of the ordinary.
BODY is annoyed and starts taking the heads off all the dolls and throwing them around, aiming for HEAD but misses and one of them hits BOMBSHELL.
HEAD screams and turns around, hiding her face. BODY is instantly on the defence and grabs SEX DOLL thinking its BOMBSHELL, strangling her.
I’m over here.
BODY checks who she’s strangling and, realising her mistake, she quickly hugs and pets SEX DOLL, like she’s a beloved companion.
Head Whoever you are, whatever you are, stay right where you are. …
(Whispering) Body! Come here, quickly.
BODY goes to HEAD who is still turned away from view.
(Hissing) How do I look, Body? Am I beautiful? Is it beautiful? Mirror, Body. For goodness sake!
BODY holds up a picture of Marilyn Monroe as though it’s a mirror for HEAD. Perfection! (Turns around)
Well then. Who might you be?
Head Please to meet you, Nobody
Bombshell Is this your body?
BOMBSHELL puts her hand out to BODY to shake it
Head You will NOT touch my body without my consent!
Bombshell Your breath… it’s… um… it’s
Head / Excuse me, Miss Nobody. Body! Teeth! We have company!
BODY sets up her toothbrushing kit for HEAD. BOMBSHELL starts looking around at everything more closely. BODY brushes HEAD’S teeth, preventing her from responding.
Bombshell Does she have to do everything for you? (Beat) You’re lucky, you know that? To have a body who’s on your side.
HEAD will try to respond but BODY is vigorously brushing her teeth, maybe on purpose, whilst attempting to pose seductively.
Bodies are brilliant. Don’t you think? They’re hosts to villages, cities, whole communities of autonomous, self-governing organisms existing inside of you. Any concept she has of hers, is a fantasy, a mere collection of stories. What can anyone truly know of themselves when we are the sum total of trillions of ‘others’? Bodies are sites of archaeological sublimity. They should be preserved, like the icons of art. Bodies are life, they’re death, they’re oceans, they are miracles. They get sick, crippled, abused, beaten, starved, drowned, scorched, raped, fumigated, painted, licked, worshipped, shaved, envied, bullied…. And not a single one is complete without an arsehole.
HEAD spits out some water at this