Doing Time

Performance Research Sep 2009English
Volume 14, Issue 3, September 2009, pages 71-80

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Contextual note
This text was the script of a lecture performance given at the conference European Dramaturgy in the 21st Century in Frankfurt am Main, 27-30. September 2007.

Official / Unofficial

Officially I am here to speak about dramaturgy and will do so in a voice that lends itself to such a task, here, sat at the desk, perhaps with some quotations or examples, making statements, constructing theories. Unofficially though I might break the ranks I establish, tell something about myself, let slip a phrase or story, come round to sit at the front of the desk, whisper or yell, confess a little or accuse, lose it (as in lose my place), think that I am somewhere else, slip off the map of my discourse, lose something like my temper or my marbles, get a bit lost, digress, get very lost and then very very lost and then pause and find myself, suddenly, as it were unaccountably, here before you, without the costume of my reason, without the camouflage of my stated purpose, without the professional stratagems, structured modes, behaviours that would shelter my being here from you, or that would filter my self from the scrutiny of your gaze, my self from the full risk and nakedness of encountering you more directly, here now, in this moment.

As if all discourse were a matter of surfaces. A surface being a code, an agreement, a formal instruction expressing expectations about what will be said or otherwise expressed here and how. And as if our dramaturgy might be the controlled and deliberate setting up and then cracking of these surfaces, the slow and/or rapid breaking of these agreements, the dynamic play between what is legally, officially said here, and that which is not meant to be said, that which is denied in the situation, that which is too much or too little for the context, that which is illegal, literally ‘obscene’.

As if now, having said this much, I might say without further warning that at the airport this morning I was suddenly and unaccountably extremely tired of all this travel and that I would have paid good money then and there for the flight to be cancelled, which would have provided an excuse that I could not be here now to speak about dramaturgy. Or as if I might say now that I scrolled through the texts in my phone as I sat there at the airport looking for something and that by accident I read what X wrote me as she sat in a cafe on such and such a street in such and such a city and that I was suddenly thinking of her, and the time we first met, properly, I guess the time we first slept together in such and such a town. That was something, the sex then, on a wide bed, with an open window and the sound of wind in the trees and sunshine outside. She was jet-lagged and we hardly knew each other, then. I said maybe we wanted to wait till later. If we fucked right then, it would have to be a rush. I had to leave for something. But she said no, no, let’s not wait. So we rushed, wonderfully. On the wide bed, with the open window and the sound I mentioned before, which was wind in the trees. Or whatever.

Such a crack in the discourse serves to say, perhaps, that I, who came here to speak about dramaturgy, might also be some kind of person, a human creature with a life that extends beyond this small room and with interests that extend beyond the topic we are supposedly here to discuss. It serves to say that I am flesh, and bones, not just ideas, that I’m guided as much by a body as by a mind, by my thinking, which is what, officially speaking, we might think we’re here for. A digression like this might also serve to suggest or threaten that there will be more here than was bargained for, more put on the table, or perhaps not ‘more’ but something altogether-else spilling over, or more ventured, and that the venturing will take us off somewhere else, somewhere more-or-less unexpected, at least in the frame of what was established initially. We came to talk about dramaturgy, and now he is talking that he had his doubts about coming here at all as he rode here in the taxi from Sheffield or sat in the terminal at Manchester Airport to get the Lufthansa Flight operated in conjunction with British Midlands Airlines, and about fucking someone in an apartment, not a hotel, in Vienna in 2001. It’s getting more specific also. It’s not even hidden any more, the name of the city or the year. If this goes on, then soon he will do names, dates, flight and telephone numbers.

As if all it were – our dramaturgy – was the positioning of information, the positioning for the most part of some things as being more proper, some things less proper, or maybe some things apparently more real, some things apparently less real than others. A matter of giving weight to information, of creating hierarchies. A matter of sequence and managed revelation arranged across time. First the dramaturgy, then the airport, then the bedroom.
The official for us then, might be (now and other occasions) not much more than a place to hide behind, an excuse or a prop for being there, a ‘McGuffin’ as they say in Hitchcock narrative terms – a place to stand or a tree to stand under, a thing that simply buys one the right to be there – the clearing of a way, or the opening of a space.

In the work of Forced Entertainment at least we used many official positions to hide behind – centres that bought us the peripheries we were interested in, fronts deployed to simply hold the stage and then crack as the other stuff we wanted took place. Seeming diversions. I saw an interview with the visual artist Walid Raad who talked about one of his pieces Hostage: The Bachar Tapes (#17 and #31). About assuming the voice of a hostage in that work, about appropriating it as a recognized mode of address – describing this appropriation as ‘a strategy to delay challenge’.


We loved them. We could think of a thousand things to do at the edges of the stage or a thousand more to do in the background at least ‘while someone else does something in the middle’. We were, in a certain way, all edges, all peripheries. As if the official did not suit us much. Time after time after time after time we built stages in rehearsal – little platforms, little nightclub stages, little amateur theatres, placed them in the centre of our own larger stage and then groaned under the misery of thinking up anything to actually do on them. What belonged on these smaller stages was pure official after all – acts, songs, speeches – completed and proper things that knew what they were and why they were there. We had a million figures that loved to be sat or wandering at the edges, making cheeky unofficial comments, but the centre. Ughh. It put us in a cold sweat.

Even when we did have a centre – a person, a place, a strong official reason – we were often quick to forget or threaten it. The guys own the show in First Night, officially speaking, Richard and Robin with their bitter double act or violent ventriloquism at the centre of the whole performance as failed vaudeville-cum-cabaret – but most fun and of most interest to us are the women, the ones who should by all rights be manequin-still, and totally silent – the magician’s assistants, the score-card girls. Those are the ones we really want to hear from though, coming out, from the periphery, laying waste to the show, speaking that hate and disdain for the audience that the guys can only hide, internalize, direct backwards at themselves.

As if our dramaturgy were all positioning of information, not just temporal (first the lecture, then the airport and the bedroom) but also physical – a matter of where things are coming from. You notice a tendency to occupy the centre or even the strong place stage right at the front, there as framing position, as MC, as narrator – but a simultaneous tendency to make a mockery of it, or to abandoning it in favour of other places. In Bloody Mess, Cathy after a lot of standing in the middle of the stage and diva-esque ranting and critiquing and demanding of how-it-should-all-be-otherwise looks like she might be there to run the show, but after two such interventions or outbursts we have her wander off to the edges, making vague statements as she goes that she has to lie down, that she will come back ‘later’.
Here’s a beautiful thing – how much attention one pays to that figure sat on the side, or at the back, the one who, one has been told ‘is not important right now’, the one who is there improperly in some way, off-duty, or illegitimate, the one who’s ‘not really in it at this point’.

Is it because getting tagged this way as ‘not really in it’ ascribes an authenticity? A not-intended-ness and therefore invokes a ghost of something real? Or because ‘not in it’ (watching from the sidelines, changing costume, having a beer and waiting) such figure(s) on stage are (in some partial and temporary way of course) released from the tyranny of representation, released simply into being in place of ‘meaning and showing something’?
I can’t be sure.

Perhaps the dramatic attraction to that figure at the edge comes because the watching eye (in some consistent perversity) prefers to find things rather than be shown them? And that thanks to this, the eye always strays from the centre (literal and otherwise), away from the thing it’s being sold, off, away and out to the sides, to the background, in search of something it might like to find.
I still can’t be sure. I mean – in any case – we know that this is illusion, don’t we? We know that the ones at the back of the stage, sat chatting, or the ones who speak when they ‘should not’ (or who don’t speak when they should) are still part of a representational mechanism, still part of a machine that makes meaning. Still foot-soldiers in an army of meaning. It’s not real life back there; those asides, those upstagings, those wanderings off from the point are all planned, those cracks in the surface aren’t fundamental.

But still despite all this it’s hard to doubt the charm and the charge that goes with position and energy – periphery, downbeat, human scale and back there, versus more theatrical, more placed, out there in the centre, or sat here at the highly officialized lecturing desk – still that charm and charge of the edges can’t quite be dispelled, at least (I guess) if you build your use of space as we did, on these dramaturgical ergonomics.


I know that often I talk about mistakes in performance (or in text), about errors, and about the liveness and dynamic force (of rupture) that comes from those things... about error’s fecundity... but watching a kids’ pantomime – Aladdin – late last year I was suddenly aware of how controlled the work I’ve done, alone and with Forced Entertainment is, always, in fact – how very stage-managed and on top of the game we like to be. That first night of the pantomime – a performance involving thirty-eight kids – was a huge rolling exhibition of distraction, nervous ticks, absent-mindedness, costume-tangles, nose-picking, disputes about cues, mis-timing and generally ill-advised stage behaviour. I’m sure it wasn’t at all out of the ordinary as a performance with kids goes, but it was pretty complex.

My favourite scene was the one where the whole of the Royal family, the court, Aladdin, Widow Twankey and a motley crue of hangers-on, servants, merchants, dancing girls and townspeople were supposedly frozen into statues by a spell from the genie, as instructed by the evil Abanazer. The sight of thirty-eight kids on the stage, thirty-six of them attempting to be perfectly still was pretty captivating, mainly because so few of them could even get close to it. Almost everywhere you looked there was wavering and blinking, fidgeting, cramping or just a good-natured lack of concentration. The kids performing were so very very there in it though, so revealed, so visible in everything they did, intentional or not, that it was impossible not to love this scene, for all its failure as an illusion of magically induced stillness.

I guess the big difference (between the kids as performers and ourselves) is that if we ever did such a thing as this ‘frozen scene’ in improvisation for a theatre performance we’d very likely spend the next six weeks studying the tape of it, notating and plotting the timeline, trying to understand its dramaturgy, isolating key or feature moments, comparing one improvised version to another and another and another, cherry-picking good bits. This done, we’d probably end up trying to fix some things, or simply letting them settle by dint of repetition, so that in the end the scene’s broad shape could be more-or-less reproduced (a scene with a structure, a piece of time that unfolds with a particular direction, a piece of time with a particular weight that can be used as an element in a larger dramaturgy) even though the scene’s detail would stay live, playable, endlessly contingent in the way that performance always is.

But in any case, maybe this whole thing about mistake might best be seen as a rather particular version or a special case of the official/unofficial dynamic I mentioned already. The mistake – the thing that apparently goes wrong – as the unofficial, unexpected, unwelcomed. Apparent mistake as the intervention of that which the discourse seemed to deny – ineptitude instead of mastery, slippage, fracture and weakness instead of control, strength and singularity. The placed mistake, the deployment of something that seems to fail, seems to court failure – like the English comedian Tommy Cooper perhaps – a means of mastering the stage by apparently falling apart on it, or a Zen model of weakness deployed as a strength.

Sense / Nonsense: The art of starting badly.

We – at Forced Entertainment – had, by our own description, a penchant for unpromising beginnings, beginnings that floated impossible combinations of persons and actions, inaudible or otherwise troubling dialogues and texts, mystifying dances, high-speed events that appeared to take rather too little account of the viewer, seemingly incompetent and thoroughly doomed performance projects, initiatives, ideas.

If ever things somehow started well, they had a habit of going wrong, very wrong, quite abruptly and very deeply. In First Night they get to the front of the stage, there, in their sequinned suits and their broad rigor-mortis smiles and stand proudly before us. So far so good. But from this precise moment – only a fraction from the start – they are already well on the slippery slope downwards. There’s long silence that does not get filled, except with nervousness, fidgeting, the endless re-stating of the ‘welcome’ smile as if it, blank and alone, might be enough. Then the painfully slow realization that one of their numbers is missing, and that he has to be fetched, dragged from backstage in a headlock, and the words of welcome must then be forced out of his mouth by a petty violence of finger-twisting and strangulation.

At the start of Club of No Regrets Terry remains behind the house, crossing and re-crossing, muttering, reading from texts and then hurling them across the stage in frustration only to start again in some other unrelated place. Alone on stage and thrown to us as a central figure/narrator, she’s already a disaster. But when her stage hands and actors arrive the latter are gagged and bound to chairs and things go from bad to worse. The flimsy scraps of text they are supposedly meant to perform are inaudible, muffled, hopelessly garbled, the constant arrival and shunting of props by the stage hands makes the whole thing almost impossible. ‘Good’, says Terry, apparently pleased or at least satisfied with their lifeless, cut-up and incapacitated rendition – a satisfaction that doubles the strength of our own feeling from the outside as we think ‘oh dear, oh dear’. This ‘does not bode well’ for what follows... The gloriously bad.

We were drawn to some strange dance between what could be called sense and what could be called non-sense, drawn to present things, which perhaps, in the first instance looked ‘unresolvable’.

In the early rehearsals for Bloody Mess, Richard and Robin danced with some bedroom exuberance to the Heavy Metal anthem Born to Be Wild, meanwhile Cathy lay centre-stage on the floor as though dead and Terry wept above her as though grieving, splashing her face with bottled water to stand in for tears, while on the far side of the stage Claire stood, eyes toward me, the audience, took off her own clothes and stepped into a gorilla costume. By maybe one third into the track the mask would be on, gorilla face covering her own, making her blank, unreadable.

What I loved was the way my eye roamed the stage of this triangle – moving from the dancing men (all air-guitar and head-banging) to the complete stillness of Cathy as corpse to the opera-cum-pantomime of Terry’s grief to the blank figure of Claire – the gorilla – stood still, completely impassive. And that then my eye would trace back again and back again and and back again from one of these things to another again – as if, I think, endlessly trying to reconcile them, to find some point of connection or reason, delighting in the way that they were there together but that I could not really find a way to close down or account for that simple fact – the fact of their vivid co-presence. That one’s attention was not directed to one particular of these three actions more than another – that instead attention is endlessly dispersed and deferred. The things are unvalues, we liked to say. Simply present. That the ‘story’ – a ‘dead’ woman with another grieving her, a gorilla, two men dancing – all of this in no context – that this ‘story’ would not come, would not appear, would not stabilize.

The bare stage then as this place – a container – in which one can say simply – these things are here – you have to deal with it – you, watching, must find a way to reconcile. I guess we loved the abruptness, the vividness, the directness of this. Richard steps out in front of the stage in Showtime wearing a fake bomb – cartoon dynamite and ticking alarm clock. Then come the trees, Cathy as a dog, and Robin as a cartoon bank robber with stocking mask and stomach wound. There are nursery songs – Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes – dances and questions about diverse topics, a conversation about suicide. The question in a certain way remains – as with the initial triangle of material in Bloody Mess – how, if at all, can these things be together, how they can chime with, speak to or even co-exist with each other. As if our dramaturgy, dramaturgy for us, were at first the creation of precisely this tension – this unresolvability (at the level of genre, at the level of ontology, at the level of narrative) – and from there the maintenance, development and expansion of this – the unresolved.

In many (but by no means all) of the shows it’s an approach much like this one – the disparate and irreconcilable elements are placed side by side and left to fight it out. Connections are encouraged to emerge, parallels, echoes, fights, conflicts in the strands of material are teased out. But the whole is not allowed to cohere. The aim is that the mixture – by our will, our dramaturgy – is kept in a kind of indefinite and always-dynamic suspension. The task of making sense is delegated elsewhere.

Ron Vawter told me once, when I interviewed him in Belgium, ‘What we tend to do in the Wooster Group, and in my own work, is to appropriate from several different sources at the same time. That way we can juggle all these separate things until the weights are familiar and then a new kind of theatre text is created between these different places.’

I love this thought – that the text is what happens in between the material – the friction, the sparks, the silences that happen when two objects pass by each other.

Each bird has its own branch

Separations are proceeding. Each alternative Zone speeds away from all the others, in fated acceleration, red-shifting, fleeing the Center… The single roost lost… Each bird has his branch now, and each one is the Zone.

That’s what Thomas Pynchon writes in Gravity’s Rainbow, and we used a badly remembered version of this in describing some of the shows and the structuring principles behind them. Each bird in its own tree we said. As if to say – little or no social cohesion, little or no group project, little or no shared understanding of the situation on-stage, little or no shared grasp on anything.

In these shows it’s an art of making things almost-meet, of making narratives or worlds or textures that cross each other without quite touching – a dramaturgy of ontological tension, a dramaturgy that knows the viewer will have to be active, will have to make her own connections.


You can perhaps afford a place where the lines and echoes/mirrors you are tracing get broken. A gratuitousness, a space, a shift of tack. The random pop song. The lone actor in a lengthy aside to the audience, apropos of nothing, a dance, a 5-minute video. A long conversation about something not strictly relevant.

A way to bridge from one thing to another. Creation (literally) of space. A buffer/barrier between two longer movements. Middle Eight.

This too can be dramaturgy. A break of the logics that otherwise you are trapped in. Or perhaps a return to a mode that you had more or less forgotten.

I have to go faster.


It took us many years to realize that time, more than anything else, was what we were dealing with. The unfolding of actions over duration, the economy of events in the frame of hours, minutes, seconds and split seconds. Our work, our trade, our business, like that of drug dealers, certain doctors and psychiatrists perhaps, musicians, filmmakers and choreographers is the slowing of time, the shattering of it, the stretching and the speeding of it. The forgetting of time, the strange yet necessary job of making time drip, pulse, echo, loop, freeze, shimmer, explode.

And if we were, as a strategy and as a manifesto commitment, off-hand about the other materials in and with which we worked (crudely hewn fragments of text, second-hand costumes, homemade props, a halogen lamp for lighting, a bunch of cardboard boxes stacked to make a wall), we learned that time at least could not be cheated or faked, that the good things (good shows, good actions, good gags, good moments, good lives) take their own time, the time they need.

Trash (and time again)

A favourite dream was that all the material used in a particular project could be ‘weightless’, trash, nonsense or throw-away, but that somehow the arrangement of these pieces would make them sing. Pure dramaturgy. An art of unfolding. The dream that somehow the fact of its arrangement alone would make the show a hundred or a thousand times more articulate than any of its raw materials.

Thinking this way, performance for us was always closer to certain schools of painting or musical composition than it might have been to drama. Less a case of narrative structure than an art form based on the dynamic deployment of pictorial and non-pictorial elements across the surface of a stage, building layers, contrasts, echoes, repetitions over duration, or simply: the structured unfolding of text, action and image over time, or more simply: doing time. Pure dramaturgy. Making shape out of seconds.

This fantasy show constructed from trash would resist scrutiny, so that any part of it, if pulled from the ‘mess’, would seem unsubstantial, weak, disposable, even absurd, but once placed back in the whole would continue to play its part in the confoundingly articulate structure. In some ways, perhaps, each show we have ever made has been an attempt to realise this fantasy. Some more overtly so than others.

I have to go faster.


Starting with lines, coherent groups, social contracts, communally held beliefs. Going to (or at least through) chaos, social fragmentation, the chaotic, the unruly.

Or. Starting with the unruly, the over-the-top, the impossible, the explosion of action. And then entropic decay to stillness. Collapse of the theatrical. Huge pretences crumble to show ‘people underneath’.

Two stories. One on top of the other.

Liz Lecompte says somewhere that there are two stories in Brace Up. The story of the Three Sisters and the story of the actors making their way through the Three Sisters.


Thinking of our own Speak Bitterness, 12am, Quizoola! or And on the Thousandth Night... all of which proceed from a single rule that determines and governs the possibilities for speech or action. Or Jérôme Bel’s the show must go on, with its dances to a sequence of thirteen pop songs, each dance a literalization of the lyrics. Or of Eva Meyer-Keller’s Death is Certain, which enacts death on thirty-six cherries – burned, crushed, skinned, car-crashed, buried, eaten in inexorable sequence.

In each of these cases the show is at first teaching or establishing a rule, expanding upon it, developing its possible uses – a rule the public soon knows as well as the performers, and thanks to which there are no surprises as such. No variety, except within the frame so clearly marked out. These pieces – enemies of the gratuitousness found elsewhere in artistic expression – serve instead as fully functioning diagrams of dramaturgy.

Schematics with moving parts. Strange, but something like this, as cold and formal as this, can really send shivers down the spine, make you cry.


I had this uncontrollable crying attack for no reason that I can explain in front of a painting by Cy Twombly one afternoon last year at the Guggenheim in New York. A big picture of white scrawl and scribble overlaid a million times on a dark gray ground. Like chalk traces. A filling of the space and an over-filling of it. My parents were there, they were ahead of me, I sat on a bench. V. came back to find me, I kind of waved her that I was fine. But I couldn’t move.

I remember that after a time I was distracted by thinking about the security guards. I wondered how often they saw this happen. If maybe they had training for it. What to do if people were somehow overcome, there on that functional bench.

There’s something overwhelming about that picture, I don’t know the title. I get the same thing with Basquiat. I can’t explain why. Do you think there’s a dramaturgy to painting? There is time in the Twombly for sure. All those marks – you feel the hands, the work, the presence.

Sequence (not rule). And time again.

That in any case what you do first sets the frame on the stage and what you do second develops it. That what you don’t establish or get on the table in the first, what? twenty? thirty? minutes is probably hard to get on there later. Because of the gratuitousness problem – no one wants to see something where anything can happen. It sucks. And in any case right from the get-go you’re making your ground rules, setting up your set of permissions on how to use this space. Creating an economy, a practice, and you can only do that, in this performance, once, in this particular piece of unfolding time, tonight. You can only start once, only open and develop the dialogue once. Only build your track, your line, your trace the one time. Starting with A. To B, to C. There is no undo. You can go back to A and try again, but there’s no undoing of what has already occurred.

We joked about and pointed to this – to the binding and absolute nature of what has taken place already – in The World In Pictures where Jerry, after almost killing the audience in a headlong imagined-plunge to the ground from atop a tall building then abandoned his narrative millimeters from impact at the pavement and asked them to ‘put what he’d said to the back of their minds’ and allow him to start again, to ‘forget everything’ and so he could begin again in earnest. But there is no undo. The time has elapsed and a line has been drawn through it, bring us to here, now in this room.

I should go faster. I am typing on the plane. Looking out of the window. I am typing in the cafe down the street. I am reading back and changing things in the apartment just up above the theatre. I am reading back again and rewriting, and reading back again. I am thinking of this and how this can be spoken, how these words will fall in your ears, in that room which by the time I speak it anyway will be this room.


That there is a thickening. For all I love the one-rule shows I mentioned above, with their schematic and sequential iteration of variables inside a form, I’m also drawn to more complex, less apparently rule-driven structures. Here – rather than the line A B C D – we have A and also B and meanwhile C, the one running through the other.

The fact of me here and you there.

So in Bloody Mess the clown’s long-expected fight erupts in full violence just as the big dance number of Terry, Jerry and Davis goes all over the stage and at the same time as Wendy’s lecture or workshop about tears and how to make them hits its climax and the song that plays for all of these things... the song that plays into all three narratives is Cry Baby by Janis Joplin. What follows then is at once a scene and somehow a different event for three, maybe four separate people or pairs on the stage... a hybrid happening that takes places somewhere in three worlds, or in none of them. I guess what I am interested in here, is that multiple stories are advancing at the same time... the brutal conflict between the clowns gets overlaid with the camp rock spectacle of Terry/Jerry/Davies diva-esque burlesque, all flashing stars and rock chick antics. It’s all overlaid. The stage is not so much a sequence as a tangle of diverse intentions.
A threading, mirroring, echoing, space.
A dramaturgy of knots, collisions, tangles.

What if the end were the beginning?

Or what if the beginning were the end? Or what if the middle were not the middle at all? Or what if the thing you long have tagged as an aside is in fact the frame for the whole thing? Or what if she took all his text and vice versa, of if he did her dance? What if that scene played twice, three times? We were always shunting things around on the timeline, dragging them backwards and forwards, dragging them to the trash and then dragging them back again.

Close to me / Far from me.

Or Talking to me / Ignoring Me. Or frame / content. Stuff that supposedly helps me read what’s happening, and stuff that is just stuff... exposition and otherwise. Talking and not talking (not all talking is frame though). Things that are up at the front of the stage, very concerned with the audience, speaking directly to them. And on the other hand things that are pushed deep into it, away from them, pushed back into fiction. Imagine – even here – if my table were back there – what would I be trying to say? Space is already dramaturgy.

Going faster and faster. I am in Frankfurt.

I am doing time. Which is what this is anyway, and what, I said it already, we were always dealing in. Time and its unfolding. Making the seconds tick. Making the minutes go faster and slower. Making an hour disappear. Making a moment seem to last forever, a year. Bending one moment into another.

Doing time. There on the bed in 2001 rushing and rushing but making the rushed moments of that fucking there on the bed somehow last longer than any others in the whole world. The way she touches me. Looks at me. The way time slows. The space of the bed. The space of the room. The space of the building, the neighbourhood, the city. The space of the room. The sound of outside. It’s not a theatre but I guess there is a dramaturgy to it. An arrangement to these events, a rhythm, a way through. The way the check-in leads to security, the security leads on to the waiting areas with their cafes and shops, and these in turn lead on to the gate. Feeling the seconds tick in all of that. Bringing me closer to you, and doing time.

And then almost resolving, for a moment.

By the end of Bloody Mess the tension is still there – Richard as rock gig roadie is still doggedly asking John (as creation of the universe-lecturing clown) – if he is going to do an encore, if he needs a guitar, if he’s the lead vocalist – goading him as he has done through the whole show, goading and pick pick picking at his reality.

RI: Why is it that the best bands always split up?

JO: I don’t really know. I’m not really interested in that kind of thing.

RI: Yeah. But why is it that the best bands always split up?

JO: I just said, I really don’t have an interest in that kind of thing.

RI: If you had to have a guess.

JO: Well I guess it’s because they’re not having any laughs anymore. No more laughs, no fun. Is that it?

RI: Can you say more?

JO: They’re too sad to carry on. Just too sad.

RI: So tell me. Are you thinking about pursuing a solo career?

JO: I’m not in a band am I?

RI: Well, Not anymore. Not now the band’s split up.

JO: I’ve never been in a band. Can I ask you something?

RI: Sure.

JO: That’s not really your own hair is it?

RI: It is human hair.

JO: It’s not your human hair though is it?

RI: Its 100 per cent human hair.

JO: It’s a wig.

RI: Can I ask you something?

JO: Yeah.

RI: Have you got any big shoes?

JO: No.

RI: Have you got a funny little red nose?

JO: No.

RI: Round the back of the theatre at stage door have you got a funny little car with a funny little horn on it?

JO: I can see where you’re going with these questions – you’re trying to piss me off, now aren’t you?

RI: Will you be doing an encore this evening?

JO: I’m not in a band am I?

RI: Oh. Come one. It’s late. Let’s be friends. Come on. What do you say?

JO: Yeah. OK.

RI: Come on. We can’t sit here chatting all night - someone’s got to clear this shit up. Come on. Let’s go, let’s go.

And they walk off together.

RI: So. Are there any girls in the audience that you want me to invite backstage for the party?

J: 1 think I saw some twins, wearing green, in the fourth row somewhere.

And with that line he bends a little, accepts Richard’s absurd desire or misapprehension that this has all been some sort of rock gig. A kind of making the peace, and a making of the piece.