Heather and Ivan Morison work collaboratively and make art as an active engagement with materials, histories, sites and processes. They have produced sculpture, photographs, installations, buildings, and site-specific projects internationally, including the establishment of an arboretum in a remote village in Wales. Recently they have received acclaim for their architectural structures that relate to ideas of escape, shelter and refuge, the transformation of the modern city, weight and levity, solidity and transparency; the construction of which are often part of a broad community effort.
Puppet show based upon the novel Ice and the life of the book’s author Anna Kavan. First performed at Eastside Projects, Birmingham on 9th September 2011. The voiceover artists were Dermot Keaney as thehe Warden, Victoria Lewis as the Girl, and Rain Peak Morison as the Child. The puppeteers were Owen Davies as the Girl and Ivan Morison as the Warden.
A concrete stage, a vase of flowers, a cracked jug of water with two glasses beside it, a cage with a red cloth placed over it, a rock, and a candle (unlit).
ACT 1 (INTRODUCTION)
[ANNA moves slowly around the stage from one item to another.]
WARDEN: This is the Girl. Albino white skin with hair of spun glass. She represents the purest of ideas. [ANNA stops in front of the flowers.] But she is a woman now, lost and remade.
ANNA: [Turning to address the audience directly.] This is the Warden, burnt black.
[THE WARDEN, standing at the back of the stage, motions to audience.] He has come to take me back.
WARDEN: This is a love story, and we are the lovers.
ANNA: Our love is like a jug of pure water.
WARDEN: The fate of our love is the subject of the story.
ANNA: The jug is old now, cracked and remade.
WARDEN: Our story is an allegory for the fate of the place in which it is now being told.
ANNA: Our story began when the world was a beautiful late summer’s afternoon, before the troubles, before loss, before the ice began to spread. Sunlight through birch, dry moss under foot, large flat pebbles next to dark waters. I was young. He was already old. He was a collector of things, of ideas.
WARDEN: She was the purest of things. An idea so perfect, held within a fragile translucent skin.
ANNA: Startling blue eyes looking down at me, holding me suspended. I was pulled into his orbit, too much for a young girl to escape.
WARDEN: I knew I had to shield her fragile gift from the world as soon as I saw lying there by the shore. That was before I was burnt black, before I was the Warden.
ANNA: The Warden represents the history of the place in which this story is being told, the collected actions and thoughts acted out upon it.
CHILD: I represent this place in which you are now, my fate is the object of the allegory. I am also a child that never got the chance to become a woman. The story of The Girl and The Warden is also my story.
ANNA: The story starts with me alone. The Warden has not yet come to take me back.
ACT 2 (PRESENT)
WARDEN: The story starts with the Girl alone, she is alone in the present. The Girl is the daughter of cold and wealthy parents. Her remote, selfish and glamorous mother is represented by a vase of achingly beautiful flowers at the moment before their petals fall. Her sadistic mother has left her in a state of perpetual terror. The same vase of flowers also represents the physical manifestation of an idea.
[The GIRL pours water from the jug into a glass.]
WARDEN: The jug of pure water that stands for our love also represents the man who collects ideas in the place this story is being performed.
CHILD: There is a rock next to the jug. It has been split in two and put back together again.
WARDEN: There is also a candle that the Girl, who introduces herself as Anna Kavan, will light before I arrive to take her back.
CHILD: She will not leave with him. She will pour him water from the jug into a second glass.
ANNA: My name is Anna Kavan.
WARDEN: The world Anna exists in is a catastrophic place. She has fled through cold black forests, to escape the dark soundless room, to escape a secret organization and to escape me.
ANNA: This candle is like a man who conceives of things in the place where the story is told.
WARDEN: Beyond the black forest, in a room beside a dark frozen ocean, Anna waits. She uses the objects around her to read her past.
CHILD: This is the same world as the place in which the story is being performed, only at some future time. I knew the Girl before she was Anna. That’s when our story began.
ACT 3 (FAR IN THE PAST)
ANNA: [She has assumed a pose with her hands up above her head, her body trembles very slightly.] Can we stop now?
CHILD: One day I came into a room to find her standing in the centre, naked, her fragile arms held high above her head, her body pulled long and thin. He stood in the corner watching her. I saw her wrists and ankles were tied with cord, pulling and holding her into that unnatural pose. Ice formed on the windows, a gale blew snow in between the gaps and broken panes. He wore a great woven coat with glistening fur collar, but no heater was provided for her shaking fragile body.
WARDEN: What is it that you want? [No answer]
WARDEN: I can’t live in this silence. I can’t sit here in silence for hours, just because you choose not to open your mouth. [More silence]
WARDEN: What is wrong with you these days? Why can’t you behave like a normal person? I might as well be in solitary confinement; I might as well be out there.
ANNA: Can we stop? May I rest?
WARDEN: [Who is intently looking at her from the back corner of the stage.] Rest?
ANNA: Stop this.
WARDEN: Stop? [He walks over and very begrudgingly and unties her hands and feet.]
You may dress.
[ANNA’s body collapses onto the ground, she staggers up, rubbing her wrists.]
CHILD: The cord had left deep angry lines around her wrists and ankles. Still he watched her, not moving, as she tried to pull clothes around her with dead limbs.
ANNA: Always, your eyes upon my eyes. I won’t give you what you want.
WARDEN: [Turning away from the GIRL sharply, but talking to her.] You’re shaking. This cold, it’s not normal. There is trouble coming.
ANNA: The ice?
WARDEN: Yes, the ice. But something more.
ANNA: The child?
WARDEN: You’ll be safe here.
[The WARDEN turns and leaves the stage.]
ACT 4 (BACK IN THE PRESENT)
ANNA: This jug has been broken many times but each time mended. Now it slowly leaks.
[There is a cage covered in a red felt blanket. ANNA removes the blanket. In the cage is a myna bird.]
ANNA: [To the bird in the cage.] You forget things. You forget things. You have to. You forget things. You forget things. You have to. Du vergisst Dinge. Du vergisst Dinge. Du musst. You forget things.
WARDEN: The bird represents Anna’s addiction. The ice laden world in which she lives, the terror of losing her mind. The unlit candle her lost daughter.
ANNA: Du vergisst Dinge. Du vergisst Dinge. Du musst. You forget things. You forget things. You have to.
WARDEN: The bird is a force at odds with the jug of pure water, the candle (when lit), and the vase of flowers.
ANNA: You forget things. You have to.
ACT 5 (PAST)
CHILD: The girl, Helen, remade herself as a character from her own imagination. An idea once broken then remade, Anna Kavan. The man, no place left for him, went away and was remade as the Warden.
WARDEN: I travelled for many days, first through the mountains in the big powerful motor car my old position allowed for, then by foot when the roads became impassable down to the coast, after that switching from boat to boat through the freezing sea, small vessels carrying supplies up to the front. Always traveling against the tide of dispossessed, I said I was on official duties, a correspondent sent to make a report, to assess the situation for others far away.
The Girl had changed me, the glasssharp perfection of her being cutting through everything else I had every known, everything I had collected through my lifetime, leaving me lost, terrified and then angry for how foolish she made me feel. I manipulated the terror her mother had instilled in her, punishing her, trying to pollute her spirit. But finally the image of the Girl cowed in subjection before me was too much, and I knew I had mutated into something dreadful, that I had to leave her if she was to have any hope. I had become a different man, one of aggression and war, and I was drawn away toward the dark centre of the trouble we had both felt coming.
The launch barely slowing to allow me to jump from it into the shallows before making back out to sea to rejoin the old frigate that had bought me this far. I waded ashore and across the wide black silt flats towards the outline of the city that was appearing along its edge now that a dull grey light was creeping across the sky. I found the city to be a deserted ruin, but thin trailing paths through the carpet of ash sug- gested survivors. I took up a position and waited. Indeed there were people living there, behind boarded up windows or hidden with food stashes deep in basements beneath the rubble. Through the subsequent days I made myself known to them and they to me. I found lodgings on the floor of a long since closed bar. I used the money I had to buy information and a harsh homebrewed spirit to keep me warm and my mind away from the Girl. A great-fortified tower loomed silently on a craggy rise above the city. I was lost for how to gain access or even a way to begin a dialogue with its occupiers. To the locals the tower may as well have not existed, no amount of mo- ney could elicit the slightest suggestion of what might go on in there. And although it rose high above them, visible from almost all parts, I never saw a single person look directly at it, all instead averting their gaze downward or outward away from its great walls: A black hole, a collective lie, at the centre of a city.
And then one night, as I lay semi-conscious on the bar floor, an empty bottle beside me, it began. A wall of noise fast approaching. Closer, single shouts, shots and screams definable. In the streets people fled past me, a naked woman cut across her breasts, other people who would soon be dead. I saw the glow of buildings burning in adjacent streets, the sound of large machines moving through them. I ran toward the tower, its silhouette illuminated by rockets bursting off its sides. I came closer and saw that the forces had amassed around the tower’s base. I stood and watched from a small rise for many hours through that night as the enemy forces engaged in the towers destruction. And although rock fragments flew from its walls as their shells exploded against it, they never breached those walls. Then, just before dawn noise began to swell from the very centre of the tower, barely perceptible at first, gradually it built and rose to an unbearable pitch and intensity. The sound filled me forcefully, pushing out from inside me, pressing behind my eyeballs, expanding my chest until it felt like it was splitting down the centre and exploding through my skull. At the very edge of my consciousness, as I began to topple downward into a freshly blown crater, I felt the sound contract back into the heart of the tower, and almost instantly detonate out again in a single shock wave of devastating pure energy.
I awoke in a soundless room, a huge domed ceiling arching over me. I lay on a bed, on a platform directly beneath the domes centre. White sheets, a vase of flowers, a jug of water with a single glass, a candle lit beside me.
They brought me back inside the tower. They remade me more than mended me. I had been lost, saved and then remade. The flash of the energy wave had left me deaf and burnt black, but slowly my hearing returned and they introduced themselves. They remade me as The Warden. But that took time. Time to learn my way around the dark corridors, to distinguish soundless room from soundless room. Time to forget my old self and apply myself to what was asked of me. Time to learn how to remake others, time to become part of the organization. Time passed.
Then I heard that the battle was spreading back down the coast and over the mountains. That’s when I thought for the first time again of the Girl, and what was approaching her.
ACT 6 (PRESENT)
CHILD: The warden will want to take Anna back but Anna won’t go. The warden calls her Helen, her name before he left her, before her breakdown, before her loss, and before he had her brought to the tower.
[ANNA lights the candle. The WARDEN enters, as if for the first time upon the stage. Finding her finally after a long search.]
ANNA doesn’t move or acknowledge him.
WARDEN: Come with me.
[ANNA still doesn’t move or acknowledge him.]
WARDEN: Helen, what do you want?
ANNA: [Quietly to the bird] You forget things. [To the WARDEN] You have to forget things.
WARDEN: Forget what, us?
ANNA: It was never love, only possession.
WARDEN: Helen, what do you want from me?
ANNA: I don’t want anything from you, that’s for sure.
WARDEN: Why don’t you want anything?
ANNA: Because I don’t think anything is going to help.
WARDEN: What do you mean by that?
ANNA: You see this rock? It has been broken and put back together again. This rock is like you, Warden. When I met you were whole, but one day something within you shifted and your old self was cleaved in two and what came out was abominable to me. You will forever bear that scar in my eyes.
CHILD: She thinks of the Warden as that rock, forever broken. She thinks of her mother as the vase of dying flowers, petals refusing to drop, and how her mother made her not to love but to suffer. She thinks of the burning candle as her dead daughter. She says she is like the caged bird unable to forget. She looks at the cracked and mended jug, now almost empty. She looks at the two glasses of water, but can make no sense of them. She thinks of the ice, and when it will arrive in this place. Beyond that she has nothing left to think with.
ANNA: Warden, I am like the bird, unable to forget.
WARDEN: I need you to forget, I want you to come with me.
ANNA: They came so suddenly. It had been getting colder every day since you left us, but I hadn’t expected them, not then.
They tied me and raped me and cut me and they left me for dead. I found the Child not far from the house lying face down by the edge of the frozen stream. Her neck was twisted at an angle no living person would hold themselves in. Blood ran from her lips not long before kissing me. Bruising spread fresh across the cheek I so recently stroked. Hair, this morning so lovingly brushed, remained twisted as if still in her attackers grasp. Her young strong arms fractured, forced back behind her. Splintered bone tearing pale flesh where she had been beaten. Blood still fresh soaking through her torn clothing, bright against the whiteness of the snow. I alone had the right to touch that blossom skin, to hold and crush her hands, to destroy that body of my body. I lent down and stroked her now cold skin; I pressed my lips to those now blue lips of hers, I kissed her huge dark eyes closed for the last time. I lay down beside her, and pulled her to me; mother and daughter asleep in the snow. Others came for me, and took me from her. They kept me alive against my wishes. There was a long journey, then a soundless room, so vast I couldn’t see its edges, so dark I couldn’t see my guard, on a huge cold bed, beside which they placed a shallow bowl, a jug of water and a bar of soap for washing myself with, along with a candle they never lit. I often sensed the presence of my guard, though no one ever spoke to me. Sometimes I would wake and know that I had been touched. When I thought that no one else was in the room I smashed the jug of water and tried to cut myself with it, but arms came out of the blackness and forced me down into the bed. When I awoke the jug had been mended and refilled.
Time passed. Then I awoke, and for the first time since being in that place I saw a thin vertical line of light far off coming in through the wall of my room. I held my breath and listened hard for my hidden guard, for a trap that had been laid, but heard nothing. I bolted from the bed, across the room, through the open heavy door, and away down twisting long corridors, out across black silt plains, though cold sharp forests, and on until I came to this place besides a freezing sea.
I came here to understand what has happened, I have used the things I find to act out my past, but I have come to an end, I have nothing left to think with.
[Pause, then the WARDEN takes a blue duck egg from his pocket and places it at the edge of table.]
WARDEN: I want you to think of this blue egg as our future.
ANNA: Now I have this I have a way to think of as my son.
WARDEN: Your son?
ANNA: Yes, a son who died in a war at the hands of a secret organisation.
[ANNA rolls it slowly to the edge of the table upon which it has been placed.] There is no way to think of our future.
[The WARDEN takes a bar of worn white soap from his other pocket. ]
WARDEN: I want you to have this. One more chance.
[ANNA takes the soap and places it in one of the glasses of water. She stirs the water in the glass. The water turns white as the soap dissolves.]
ANNA: You see the soap has turned the water white. The soap is slowly diminishing in the water, disappearing before our eyes. I wish to be like the soap dissolving in a glass of water, no longer like the bird, unable to forget. Now the bird represents a secret organization that killed my son in a war long ago, a war that recently killed my daughter, an organization that kept me locked up in a soundless room as the terrors of losing my mind slowly engulfed me.
WARDEN: No, this is not what matters, come back with me, back to that summer’s afternoon.
[ANNA moves the rock over towards the caged bird.]
ANNA: Warden, I understand now that the rock and the bird are connected. I understand that you are connected to them. You were my jailer; you are the Warden of the tower. You sent for me to be brought to the tower after my child was killed, you planned my escape, and now they have sent you to bring me back.
WARDEN: All I wish for is a time before all this, before we changed. Anna places the rock that was split and put back together again into the other glass of water.
ANNA: The same water from the jug that can make the soap dissolve cannot make this rock split again nor can it mend the rock, and I will not leave with you.
WARDEN: And I shall not leave without you.
ANNA: You see this white soap? It represents the atrophy of desire and will.
WARDEN: And this balanced blue duck egg represents an imminent disaster in the place our story is being performed.
ANNA: I will not leave.
CHILD: Anna wills for the rock to split into two, the bird to forget her, the petals to tumble from their stems, the candle to keep on burning, the blue egg never to roll over the edge, the soap to dissolve and finally for the ice to come and take her away.