Performance Writing – 'The Warp Monologues'
The Warp Monologues
A series of surrealist radio monologues to be accompanied by the ambient soundscapes of Warp Records’ Artists ‘Aphex Twin’ & ‘Boards of Canada’.
Dr. Hans Kauffman
(To be read in a subtle German accent very monotonously, almost too slowly, with few changes in expression)
Oh yes, I’ve had complaints. More than that in fact, I’ve had tears. One man even attacked me. He fashioned a sort-of truncheon out of his syphilis test results. It didn’t hurt, though. It was made of paper. But my answer remains the same; the work I do is unequivocally professional.
Music has forever been a passion of mine. Yes, whilst my peers were compiling mix-tapes featuring the likes of ‘The Sex Pistols’, ‘The Rolling Stones’ or ‘Iggy Pop’, I was assimilating the works of Stravinsky, Beethoven and Rachmaninov, My love of whom fell somewhat by the wayside when I reached Oxford. I fell in love with a young rugger boy called Jake. You see, within that rugged, sporty exterior, Jake harbored, like me, a delicate affection for the classical works. It was during one of our first discussions in the great dining hall of New College that we stumbled across such uncanny common ground. I was sat at the far end of the room with my medicinal companions. Such a lackluster bunch they were. Fredrick in particular, I couldn’t bear the sight of his carbuncle-infested face. One pustule erupted ferociously during a biomedical lecture and saw him running to the toilet clutching the gaping boil. Anyway, into the hall walked Jake and his masculine pals, and they sat down beside us. Their guffawing banter consisted mostly of balls and breasts. Mary, a bland girl sat opposite me, whose face I can’t and never shall remember, asked me “Who are you listening to at the moment? Stones?” “Rachmaninov” I replied proudly. “Rachmaninov?” Came the rugger voice next to me. “He’s just candy. No depth”. My world was brilliantly shattered. I wanted to take this boy upstairs, to ravish and be ravished by him, such was my delirium. We never spoke again, but that didn’t stop me watching him daily, with fantasies of simultaneous ejaculation to the strings of Beethoven’s 4th.
That’s rather a pointless little story to be honest. But it does go some way to depict my passion for music, still alive now as it was thirty years ago. I do sometimes ask myself if I’ve entered the wrong profession. Perhaps I’d be better off as a composer or a secondary school music teacher. However, I always reach the same conclusion; I was made to help people, and being Doctor has allowed me to do that for years. It is only now though, that I feel fully satisfied with my work. You see, at first, there was something missing. Patients came and went, received good and bad news with a vast multitude of responses. But something was missing; the room was too quiet, the mood was stunted. I needed my patients to feel what I was telling them. If I told a woman she was pregnant, I wanted her to hear the joy of this news. If I told a man he only had months to live, I wanted him to experience the tragedy of the fact. So I hired a pianist.
Katherine was an accomplished musician. Our relationship (platonic, naturally), was, at first, very successful. She would stand in the corner of my Office with the Yamaha YPT210 I had selected for her, and play only when signaled. We would look over the patients’ files and decide whether their diagnosis was likely to fall into the ‘bitter’, ‘sweet’ or ‘bittersweet’ category, which would then dictate the chords Katherine would play whilst I did the talking. One woman, upon receiving the ‘all-clear’ and no doubt succumbing to Katherine’s delightfully triumphant chords, launched at me passionate elation and managed to put her tongue inside my mouth. Listerine was soon employed. We even shared the odd musical joke. Katherine played beautifully sparse minor fifths whilst I told one man that he was suffering from nasal congestion. He left looking rather flustered, but Katherine and I were in hysterics. Unfortunately she became conceited. Once, to accompany the news that a sensitive old lady would require knee surgery, I had precisely instructed Katherine to play a calming, prolonged B major scale. Just as I was reassuring the lady that it would be a painless procedure, Katherine launched into what can only be described as a disgustingly indulgent arpeggio. She had to go. I now use a rather more humble gentleman called George, who plays exactly what I ask him to. Our relationship (platonic, of course) has remained, thus far, productive.
Even I myself, however, am prone to artistic misjudgments. There was a young boy, a lovely little thing called Simon. A real joy, full of life. He always brought his toy dinosaurs to my Office. Tragically, Simon was diagnosed with a form of Leukemia, one which is in fact extremely rare in children. It became all too clear, as Simon’s condition worsened, that he wasn’t going to live beyond the winter. This was in October. Now, with the prolonged strain on his parents, the incredible rarity of his condition and indeed Simon’s sheer child-like exuberance, I decided to do something special for Peter and Janelle. Those were his Parents’ names. So I hired a full Symphonic Orchestra to play whilst I told them the news. The players were in fact the Badische Staatskapelle, based in Karlsruhe, Germany. Not only did I travel to Karlsruhe to meet with Kazushi Ono personally, but I also requested, and indeed funded, an original composition. There was to be a Flugelhorn solo whilst I gave Simon’s parents time to process the information. It was a magnificent piece, a bittersweet joy. There was enough staccato to capture Simon’s buoyant, bouncy nature, but the underpinning cellos acknowledged the tragedy of the situation. Unfortunately, the gesture proved too much for his parents. His father tried to wrestle me to the ground whilst his Mother sobbed. I have since apologized to Peter and Janelle, and they were very accepting. I now appreciate that my passion can prove somewhat overpowering and invasive, and I am careful to monitor its presence. The music now takes a somewhat ambient, subconscious quality. I think this is for the best. It helps my patients, and it helps me.
(To be read in the voice of an elderly Woman with a Northern accent. Her mouth moves faster than her mind, so there are a lot of stumbles and pauses. Her voice echoes, clearly through a microphone to a crowded room)
(‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ by Handel starts to play. It fades out slowly) Hello! Me name… me name is… (The music starts again, then stops). Er. Oh dear. Me name is Ce… (Again the music plays, cutting her off, then it stops. She pauses for a long time to check it has really stopped). Right. Me name is Cecelia Tetbury and I’m (The music starts again, then fades out). Oh dear! I always left the technical side of things to Jim. Right. Me name is Cecilia Tetbury, and I’m very, very delighted to speak to today. Sadly, however, today is a sad day. I mentioned Jim. Well today is the first anniversary of his…of his…his…he died. Yes, he died. He were out doing the weeds like he always did on a Sunday afternoon while I watched ‘Strictly’[Come Dancing]. That were our Sunday routine. Well a policeman walked by and mistook him for a mad man with his shears. So he tasered him. It weren’t that that killed him though. Oh no. The electrical current messed with his pacemaker. So he blew up. Bless him…smithereens. But I suppose that’s one of the reasons I’m here to talk to you today! You see, I did mope about a bit after Jim’ demise. But then I thought, y’know what, there’s no point moping! I’m going to use this time to do the things I’ve always wanted to do! So I joined Warwick University to study Creative Writing. I’ve always said, I’m a poet, but I didn’t know…I was one. So what better place to become a famous poet than Warwick? Its lovely! I’m living in Rootes accommodation with a lovely bunch of young lads and girls. They are very welcoming indeed. Now, I’d very much like to read one of my poems to you. Would you mind if I did that? It is about my first experiences at Warwick! Ooh! I will, then! Ok. This is called ‘Fresher’s Night’. It’s a sonnet!
I pulled up on the Sat’day, it were noon-time
Me bags were all packed full of bits and bobs.
Me first thought of the SU was ‘Divine!’
And me flatmates. Well, some were hot-rods!
I were told that night there was to be a shindig.
And I was thinkin’ “well what will I wear?”
I decided that I really ought to think big.
“Tonight I’m wearing silky underwear!”
Well Darren told me it was time to ‘Pre-lash’.
Which sounded like it might involve a whip…
But it was in order for us to get smashed.
Listen to me, I’m sounding rather hip!
But I had too much to drink and ended up being rather ill in the corridor
Before Darren put me to bed and tucked me up with a cup of cocoa.
I went a bit off-meter at the end there, did you notice? It was a bit cheeky! But they’re always tellin’ me to take risks in the writing sessions at Warwick. Now, another routine of mine and Jim’s was our weekly Saturday-night visit to Pizza Express. We were members of the Pizza Express club. Not only did they give us vouchers but we each got a birthday email every year! Jim always said it was probably automated, but I like to think it was personally written. Now, we could never decide what to eat at Pizza Express, and that is the foundation of my next poem. Its called ‘Pizza Express’ It’s a bit groovy, this one:
You say Romana, I say Legarra,
Should we start with tomatoes or olives?
Then comes the time when we really should decide
What is going to be our chosen dish.
What should I go for?
(Very slowly)Quattro Formaggi?
Funghi Di Bosco?
Piccante? No, the pastas are never sufficient.
(Back to normal speed) Soon we have to have to pay,
and you turn to me and say,
“Have you got your vouchers?”
I say, “I thought you were printing then?”
“No, you said you can show them on your iPhone”
“No, Jim, they need a hard copy of the vouchers”
So we end up paying full price.
Thank you very much. You see, I’m a bit of a natural! Now, one of the things that does irk me about student accommodation is the din. They’re noisy buggers in Rootes! Darren (he’s me next-door-neighbor a bit like Doris used to be at home), Darren is always listening to what he calls “Thud N’ Bass” music. Its sort of got this “um-cha” sound in the background while they ‘spit lyrics’ such as ‘Going to catch me riding dirty”. But I do want to stay contemporary so I’ve got a little surprise for Darren. I’m going to embarrass him now, he said he was coming to watch me. Darren? Darren? You here, Darren? (Silence). Oh. Anyway it goes like this: (She ‘lays’ down an awkwardly slow ‘Um-cha’ beat)
(To the tune of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’)
They tried to make me go to Smack and I said, “No, No, No.”
They tried to make me go to Kasbah and I said, “That’s too far!”
They tried to make me go to The Copper Rooms and I said, “Well that’s more feasible because it’s on campus so I could go home when I get tired.”
Thank you very much! It’s still a bit of a work in progress. Oh. Oh, there’s a man waving a sign saying ‘Time Up’. That is a shame. I had another poem ready about the Royal Wedding. Oh well. I’ve enjoyed this ‘open microphone’ lark. I think I’ll do it again. Goodbye!
Dr. Hans Kauffman- A really interesting and surreal idea, very well delivered. Nothing much to criticize here, although you may want to watch specifically English slang if your character is German. However, since he was at Oxford it’s not really out of character (a few years at an English university would leave him with some slang) but you might want to stick it in the commentary to be certain. Really riveting and original.
Cecilia Tetbury- Very very funny, and you’ve captured her voice perfectly. Favourite quote: “They tried to make me go to The Copper Rooms and I said, “Well that’s more feasible because it’s on campus so I could go home when I get tired.””
28 Apr 2011, 09:57
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