Welcome to As It Appears In Dreams, an immersive performance. For part of this experience, you will be the only audience member. Don’t worry, you’re quite safe, the headphones will explain everything you have to do.
You’re about to be handed an envelope, containing an emergency map of Regent’s Park, in case you at any point feel unsafe or lost. Please only open in case of such an emergency, which is unlikely to happen. Someone is always close at hand if you’re feeling uncomfortable.
Please let me know if you feel your headphones are too quiet or too loud?
Are you ready? Wonderful.
Now, wave goodbye. I’ll be seeing you very soon.
Rachel leaves, going out of the park. Conor, who is incognito, takes off his coat, and starts to walk towards the lake.
On arriving at the park, you stop at the entrance, feeling exhausted from a day of searching. You’ve been all over the city. It’s felt like days, weeks even. There’s a small sense of relief in your chest, and you’re quite grateful your search has taken you away from the busy streets into a green, open space, a canopy of leaves shielding you from the sky above. You move to the tree on your left, (pause) feeling out for the caress of rough bark underneath your fingertips. There’s so much life here, you feel it beneath your hands and under your feet. The park has rejuvenated you.
You look ahead towards the lake, (beat) and there he is. It feels as though the red of his shirt has taunted you for so long, you might as well have followed him into sleep. You can only see the back of his head, but it’s as though his sly, charming smile is looking right at you. Teasing you. He wants to keep playing the game. He wants you to follow. And you know, for all your doubts you just can’t help but keep chasing him.
Slowly, you step away from the tree and start moving towards him. He’s so close after all. And this game is only just beginning.
Audience member walks to water’s edge/Conor. On almost reaching him, Conor places red origami boat 1 on the ground, containing miniature Conor. Delay.
You watch as he places something, in the same shade of red as his shirt, on the ground. It’s tiny, toy-like, but you know it’s for you. Your pace quickens, wanting to get close, but so does his, as he turns left, heading away, further up the path.
You stop and watch him, feeling torn between what he’s left and where he’s going. Do you follow? Or reach out for what might be a clue? You head towards the lakeside – you can’t ignore the gift he’s left for you.
You kneel down, and pick up what appears to be a small, red, origami boat. You can’t deny it’s pretty well-made, the folds perfectly in line. Inside is a small miniature man, seeming to resemble the very man you’re following, red shirt and all. You’re bewildered, frustrated. What’s it all meant to mean?
You turn the boat over and over in your hands. It’s simple, delicate, but at the same time clever. How it was made eludes you.
You notice on the sail, in small hand-writing it says, ‘open me’.
Feverishly you do, carefully unfolding and smoothing out the creases until the boat has disappeared into a flat sheet of paper.
On it is a note. It reads:
‘Only traces of me remain.’
You read it over and over. Traces. Remain. Me.
You look back to the small figure, now in your hand. It feels whole, tangible. Sturdy but at the same time, as though if it were to fall, it would shatter, turning to dust.
‘Only traces of me remain’. It echoes through your mind. You keep a hold of the note, and hold the miniature figure in your hand, protecting it.
Looking up, you see him, slightly distant but still distinguishable. You turn left and carry on up the path, continuing to follow him, though keeping a distance. Where is he going? Why does he want you to follow? You wonder why you’re playing this game, but at the same time it’s thrilling.
Musical Interlude. Delay.
You pass the boathouse on your right, a small circular pond on the left. You see him turn a corner, disappearing into the shrubbery. You keep following, turning right towards a blue bridge.
Walking across the bridge, you stop and look right – a parting in the trees allowing you to see across the lake. It’s tranquil, picturesque. You could look at this view forever, but a glint of red catches your eye. He’s close. You keep moving.
Stepping off the bridge, you head left, the surrounding wilderness pulling you into the dark metal archways that rise from the ground to meet the trees. Passing underneath you are washed with dappled light and a fleeting feeling of peace. You find yourself reaching up towards the branches that entangle the archway. (Beat)
Nothing matters. The world might as well be empty and an eternity could pass but nothing would change in this place.
The archway guides you to face the lake. You stop in the last arch, and obnoxiously there he is, facing the water. He seems to be bent over something, his shoulders hunched forward. By his feet is another red object – it must be another boat, another message. He slowly places a second and a third by his feet.
He turns, his gaze meets yours, he’s smiling at you – there is something behind his eyes. You can tell he’s enjoying this. All the moves and countermoves. Suddenly the park no longer feels like a haven. It’s a game board, and you don’t know who is a piece and who is a player.
He’s on the move again, moving away from the lake, away from this brief moment of respite, on over another bridge. This time there’s no doubt in your mind – you walk directly to those little red boats, knowing he won’t be far ahead.
15 second delay
You reach down, picking up all the boats at once. You need no instruction this time – you begin to unfold the little gift. The paper seems to unfurl itself in your hands now, the sharp folds of the boat no longer seeming complicated.
You open one note, and there’s one word splayed across the centre of the page:
That’s all? You start opening another note, your fingers fumbling, wanting the next word.
The next one reads, again:
As you go to open the final boat you sense you already know what it says.
You hold them together, looking from one version of the word to the other, its shape disappearing into its very meaning. You look out across the lake, the reflection of the trees shimmering on the surface of the water. It feels like an illusion now.
You turn, he’s watching you from the bridge, his face obscured by leaves and branches. You see his arm rise up, his hand beckoning you.
You move first this time, turning and heading straight for the bridge on which he stands, purposeful but you still keeping your distance.
He’s on the move again, his pace slightly faster than before. Is he in a hurry? Or just trying to lose you? You feel your breath sharply hit the inside of your lungs, the fear of losing sight of him taking its toll.
4 second delay
You reach the other side, the path opening out into a wide circle surrounded by trees. You watch as he walks toward a smaller dirt path, heading into the woodland. You instinctively move towards him, the sounds of other people seeming to be washed out by his footsteps, his tread seeming to echo through the surrounding trees.
30 second delay.
You’ve lost sight of him. A sinking feeling pervades through your stomach, but you know which path he took. You make your way towards it, this path formed not by concrete but by the many feet that have passed along it before you. You look along it, and see a glimpse of red. He’s there, he’s not as far ahead as you feared.
You look up, and he’s standing underneath a large oak tree, its expansive branches creating a sheltered space. You move along the path, seeking him out. His stopping seems deliberate, almost an invitation. You feel like this time, approaching is necessary.
As you get closer you notice there are lines drawn onto the trunk of the tree, in white chalk. He’s there, looking over the makeshift game board he’s created. He looks up at you. It’s the first time you’ve really seen his face, been able to make out the colour of his eyes. He looks back at the board, and then makes his first move.
Musical Interlude. 20 second delay.
Suddenly he moves off, the game board left entirely intact. He’s heading down the path, out of the trees, seeming not to care who won or lost. You watch him saunter off, passing a tree and heading out into the light.
You follow, suddenly feeling a weight in your hand. It’s the miniature figure. Though you’ve held onto him the entire time you’d forgotten he was there. You hold him up, next to the man walking away from you, and wonder what all the games mean. Its weight in your hand is a reassurance, though why you don’t know.
Keeping a hold of it, you carry on along the path. You’re back on the chase, once again keeping your distance.
You see you’re nearing the end of this path, nearing a junction that appears to spread out in many directions. He’s nearing the end – which way will he go? Suddenly he stops and turns. You stop too, watching. He pulls out something red – another boat – from his pocket, and places it on the ground. You start moving towards it, he sees and goes on, carrying on towards the main path.
You near it, you bend down and reach for it, and begin swiftly unfolding and unfolding. It’s as though he has made a move you can’t quite follow, but this is the clue. The game changer, as it were.
It takes a moment to decipher the slanted handwriting. It reads:
It echoes in your mind alongside all the words that have come before. Fading, traces, fading, only, me. Your body moves you forward, out onto the main path, the need to follow no longer a curiosity, but a longing.
10 second delay
You pass over the crossroads, taking the path to the left of the bridge, the red of his shirt a beacon in the sea of green. The sounds of slowly shifting water come from the lake on your right, and a convergence of trees shields you. Though this strange pursuit pushes you on, you know there’s no hurry. Time slows here.
You see him abruptly turn right, off the path towards the lake. Your pace slows, and for the first time you realize there’s a great part of you that doesn’t want this to end.
30 second delay.
You turn the corner, stepping down into what must be a lookout point. The sound of the water grows louder, and you notice the waterfowl swimming between the two islands in the lake.
He’s there, sitting on one side of a chessboard. He’s playing blacks, only there’s one piece present. It’s his king, sitting almost in the centre of the board. He’s looking over it, his brow furrowed, as though he’s waiting for his opposition to make the next move.
Bewilderment passes through you. Then you remember, the miniature figure. It’s still in your hand, but so often forgotten now it’s as though he’s become a part of you, his small frame fusing into your skin.
You hold him up, then look back at the board, and that’s when it hits you. This game didn’t start at this board, or the noughts and crosses board that came before. It started the moment you picked up that first note, the moment you decided to hold onto the piece that’s in your hand now.
Without thinking, you place your piece on the board.
5 second delay
There’s a moment, the tension between you and this man you’re playing against almost a tangible, physical thing. Then his head drops slightly, before looking up to meet your eyes. He smiles, almost sadly, at you as he stands up.
Immediately he goes past you, back out onto the path.
You look back at the board and there it is. Another red boat.
Without thinking you reach down and pick it up, unfolding its points and creases.
5 second delay
‘Into lovers limbs and strangers faces.’
You want a moment to sit and question all this, but an urgency fills you. You too step out of the lookout and turn right, continuing along the path after him.
20 second delay.
You feel a calmness return as the man puts distance between the two of you again. Each moment of closeness brings out a slight fear in you, though you know its not a fear of this man and what he might do. It’s deeper than that. It’s a fear of the end of this chase, this journey. Of what it would mean to truly catch him, or even worse, to lose him altogether.
15 second delay
The path seems to curve. You look right, and notice you’ve reached what seems to be the tip of the lake, the bank circling back around, creating an seemingly endless body of water.
He takes a fork on the right, guiding you on. You keep your distance still, waiting for him to do something, make a new move, make a board appear from nothing. But he doesn’t. He just walks on.
Slight murmuring starts.
Suddenly the trees around the path disappear, and you see a green expanse in front of you. Is it just you or does his pace quicken a little? What’s he trying to reach? What else could be waiting up the path? An anxiety begins to whisper in your mind, a tightness spreading through your chest. You keep following.
You notice you have passed under a canopy of trees. He’s still going, rushing almost. You continue, and then you see her. A woman in a white dress, waiting for him.
You freeze, in shock. She’s facing him, smiling at him as he moves towards her. The woman is small, her hair cut short. You don’t know why but she seems familiar.
You watch them, wishing you could reach out and pluck her out of the frame.
Until now you had no idea how intensely you felt about this man.
The white of her dress seems blinding.
You watch as they turn to one another and embrace. It’s a moment of warmth but it tears at what might as well be the very fabric of your soul.
The woman turns to you, moving along the path towards you. You want to run but it’s as though your anger has poured out like molten lava over the ground, fusing you to the very spot you stand on. You know she’s coming to you, and you have to stay.
She comes right up to you, staring into your face. Her’s is blank, unreadable. She reaches down and pulls something, a red boat, from her pocket, and hands it to you.
You take it, watching her face. She says nothing, but there’s a glint of mischief in her eye, before she turns and walks away.
You look back to the man in the red shirt. He looks up at you. He’s waiting for you to open it.
The paper comes undone. You notice your hands are shaking a little.
The words are sprawled across the corner of the paper:
‘Into empty pages.’
You look back to the man in the red shirt. He’s not looking at you anymore, he’s watching the woman as she walks away.
You know you should keep moving, go on towards him. And yet your feet still feel stuck, the image of this man and woman and their parting fused in your mind.
He lifts an arm, beckons. Eventually you go on.
The journey seems to become a haze, all the moves and counters and this strange tandem. A chessboard with only two kings, a game of noughts and crosses that’ll fade with the morning rain. It’s all collapsed into this. Something that no longer feels like a game.
The man heads out a gate. You follow, feeling the tautness of an invisible string between you. He stops and turns at the gate, making sure you’re there, still following. Something in you makes you lift an arm and wave. He smiles and waves back, before turning and continuing right along the path.
You follow, realizing there’s nothing game-like about this anymore. That part of the journey is over, all that’s left is to follow.
You head out of the gate, coming to a roadside. You follow him on, perfectly pruned hedges on your right. He keeps looking over his shoulder, checking you’re there. Something tells you he’s comforted by your presence.
You watch as he pulls another red boat out of his pocket. He passes it between his hands, and then slowly lifts it up, beginning to let it rise and fall with an imaginary tide. The man begins to turn around and around as he walks, letting the boat sail through the air. You smile at his childishness, at his freedom.
Delay with murmurs. Begins to build.
Abruptly he stops on the path. Something makes you stop too, watching him, waiting for him to motion, to make another move. Perhaps the game isn’t over after all.
He does nothing. There’s no board to manoeuvre, no pieces anymore. You don’t even have his miniature, you left it behind long ago.
You walk towards him.
He still does nothing. You walk up right behind him and stop. He knows you’re there. You can see his shoulders rising and falling, the life moving in and out of him.
Your hand lifts up, and gently you place it on his shoulder. It’s as though your touch brings him back to life, and he turns to face you. There’s a look on his face you can’t quite read. He looks down at the boat in his hands, and then passes it to you.
And there it is. The final move.
You unfold the paper, all the other notes still in your hand. Fading, remains, into days, lovers, traces, pages, me, empty faces. All the words and all their meanings cascade upon you.
You flatten out the sheet of paper. It reads:
‘Come and find me.’
Immediately you look up into his face, but it’s too late, he’s turning, walking away.
You look down at the words. Come and find me. If this is the final move then it feels unexpected. All the notes and all the words that came before it were riddles, metaphors. Lines of a poem you couldn’t quite follow. But this, this is an instruction.
Come and find me.
You look up and he’s there, ahead, growing distant. Come and find me.
Come and find me.
Into Into into –
A gameboard made of
The path and the road curve in what feels like a perfect circle. You pass entrances on your right, into houses, into other parts of the park, but all are ignored. Left to explore on other days. All that matters is the man and the smattering of red that seems to fill your vision.
Fading. Fading. Fading.
Into days. Into lovers limbs and stranger’s faces. Into empty pages.
Only traces –
Fading Fading –
Keep following me.
Days limbs pages days limbs days pages
Unfolding and unfolding
Abruptly he turns right, into a gateway. You follow, your pace as quick as his. Your close so –
Only traces –
Come and find me.
He goes inside and you follow.
Lovers limbs and –
Only traces of me remain
Come and find me.
Empty empty empty pages.
Moves and counter moves.
Come and find me
Only traces fading
Into days into lovers limbs into days Purgatory
FADING FADING FADING
Moves and counter moves
A chess board with only two kings
Empty pages A woman in a white dress
What would happen if you didn’t follow?
Of me remain Welcome to purgatory Traces
the image of this man and woman and their parting fused in your fading
Into into into
Welcome to purgatory noughts and crosses
Lovers limbs and empty faces
A man in a red shirt
Welcome to purgatory
The audio dissolves in anarchy.