a moment of suitable silence

Three women are outside on the subterranean patio. I see them through the plate glass from inside the vaulted chambers of the chq building where pebbles, crumpled newspapers and bottles with secret notes in them, are set here and there. They play a game of snakes and ladders, with a large, fluffy dice. They enter, joining us, each donning a man's grey suit jacket and sit back to back on coloured pouffes making flicking, swirling motions with their hands as a soundscape of utterances flows through the five chambers. They seem to be plucking words out of the air. I catch something coming from the speakers; 'Splish, splash' and later 'There's scorpions in the walls'. Then one of them begins to speak. She tells a story; a man is found on a beach in 2005; no memory, no past, an object of curiosity. The media speculate, discuss, adding to the enigma. He communicates through the piano as if pushing his hands through an imaginary star. While the woman speaks, the others assemble coloured letters on a clothes line. And then, all of a sudden, they stop. “It's not going according to plan”, one says. They need to start again. We follow them to another chamber where they start the story over, but in a different way. This chamber is the same as the last, but the arrangement changes, new sounds emit from the speakers on the floor. The performance repeats in each chamber and ends just like the beginning, with a game of dice.What Monsters and Players do here is to play with story versioning or how we inhabit part a story as we pass it on to the next person. A single story changes with each person, with each place, with each perspective.Watching them pluck words out of the air, dance, sleep and wake and spin stories evokes an image of a benign, liberated version of the female 'precogs' in the movie Minority Report. In this performance I felt I was peeking into the inner workings of the part of the mind that drives, invents and plays with our own imagination to create narrative. The women seem to act out that creation of a narrative from a universal imagination. I found the experience an insightful journey into the interior of the mind, despite some reservations of the piece to engage. I felt that there were opportunities that could have been taken advantage in the underground space and the use of different mediums for story - newspaper is only one of the ways we receive information. The single story that forms the central device of the piece is based on a true event. It helps inform the piece if you have some knowledge of the impact of that event. The words used in the soundscapes come directly from media reports and comments by people on the topic. I found, for instance, the phrase 'There's Scorpions in our walls' in the comment section in an online version of a BBC report. A resident of the locale where the mysterious man was found, made this statement as an allusion to their human fellowship and welcoming whatever the bizarre circumstances.Reportedly, on April 7, 2005, in the English town of Minster on the Isle of Sheply, a young man was found by police, wandering, confused and soaking wet. He did not respond to any questioning and was taken to a local hospital. He maintained his utter silence confounding attempts to identify him. He was able, however, to draw and play the piano. After four and a half months of intense media speculation, hyperbole and pure journalistic invention, the 'The Piano Man' spoke. He turned out to be twenty year old Andrea Grassl from the tiny village of Prosdorf, Germany. He was declared 'improved' and went home. The real story, however, is not one about a young man's mental illness and memory loss but about the elaborate myth created by the news media who were presented with an intriguing story but had little facts to go on. Even when his true identity was revealed, news stories would regularly contain conflicting detail. The UK Mirror reported that he could play only one-note on the piano, while the BBC maintained that he was able to do a pretty good Tchaikovsky. Both were 'according to sources'. I started this paragraph with 'Reportedly' because all the data here is unverified. My sources were Der Spiegel, BBC, The Age, The Independent and the UK Mirror. Without direct access to Grassl, police and clinical reports, his doctors, direct observers and people who know him, the above is just another thread in this myth and my myth. When you see A Moment of Suitable Silence, perhaps you will add to your own.

The Blurb

A man found by the sea; he never speaks, only plays the piano. One morning he awakes: the playing stops, he disappears. What happened the night before he woke up from his long silence? Three women perform a triptych of stories and unveil the man's shadow in the vaults.

Memories, sounds and photographs merge during a night that reveals what it means to be observed, looked after, imprisoned and alone. Inspired by the true story of a voiceless man, this is a site-specific performance about falling asleep, waking up and moments of silence in between.

Conceived by Kevin Wallace and Marilena Zaroulia.