As part of The Living Record Festival – a grassroots digital theatre festival, Covert Firmament’s contribution includes 40 separate plays and films, which are written and directed by Dan Horrigan. These include three audio plays – monologues that are very different to each other in terms of subject matter, but also in their execution.
A poetic meditation on life, Depths is set around a timeless, almost mythic river. The narrator paints a picture with his words about his link with water, inextricable to the point when there’s no knowing where he ends and the river begins. Equally important to this piece is the sound design, which is integral to the atmosphere of the monologue and incorporates a soulful cello throughout.
There is a John Berger-esque quality to the writing, speaking both matter-of-factly about things, yet has an air of profundity. One can imagine an actor such as Sam Shepard saying these lines.
As a metaphor for life itself, the analogies of the desire to live with the imagery of water are explored imaginitively, though it’s the attention to detail and observations about relationships that lingers long afterwards in one’s thoughts.
If You Cry We Will Kill You
The subject of child soldiers in Africa has occasionally been a subject found in theatre. Even so, it’s often forgotten about, despite it being a practice that hasn’t died out. If You Cry We Will Kill You, actor John Kamau plays one such child soldier, relating the reality of such an existence.
The power of the piece lies not in graphic details or countless yarns, but what isn’t said by the ‘soldier’ in question. The protagonist uses an anecdote about a maimed spider to convey how he functions when atrocities are an everyday affair. Sadly, we learn how anyone with an ounce of humanity in his shoes ‘survives’ – the atrophying of the capacity to feel and the self-denial of any hope for the future…
As with the other monologues, the sound design and music play a major part in subliminally setting the scene. In this particular case, it’s reminiscient of Antonio Pinto’s score for Lord of War – itself a beautiful counterpoint to the harsh cynicism regarding global arms trade.
Read To Me
Plays where the protagonist seeks redemption are usually rich in backstory and character development. In Read To Me, we find the main character (played by Al Barclay) unrepentent – but only because he thinks his ‘crimes’ are proof of unsullied love.
As he sits in Strangeways prison, Roland receives a letter. The plot twist – Roland is dyselxic and has never shown an interest in circumventing this learning difficulty. Roland isn’t a paragon of virtue by any definition – ‘ducking and diving’ and conning people to make ends meet. But while he lacks the wherewithal to read without difficulty, he has an aptitude for tarot cards and divining their true meaning. It is during one fateful day, at the fair that he met a woman who would change his life…
The strength in this piece of writing lies in its original premise and in its central assertion that the highest expression of love isn’t through romantic gestures, but through sacrifice – even if the other party may never know what’s transpired. Tonally, there’s nothing didactic about Roland or his motivations. But precisely because he’s the sort of person to ‘get his hands dirty’ and not flinch from a challenge, ‘going the extra mile’ is part of his nature.
© Michael Davis 2021
The audio plays Depths, If You Cry We Will Kill You and Read To Me are part of Covert Firmament’s contribution to the The Living Record Festival online until 22nd February. Tickets can be purchased at: https://live-stream.zarucchi.com/events/covert-firmament/feed