50: Don’t Say the Words

10 May

Fifty plays! Feels like a milestone to me. Think it might be time to crack open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate…Or perhaps a glass of red, instead.

play, wine and salt and pepper

Today’s play is Don’t Say the Words by Tom Holloway. He’s based this contemporary Australian drama on Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, so there’s a returning war hero, A (for Agamemnon), a duplicitous wife, C (for Clytemnestra), and the cousin, AE (for Aegisthus), who betrays blood for love.

Unlike Aeschylus’ play, we don’t know what the lovers’ motives are for killing A. There is no child sacrificed or terrible betrayal that we know of. In fact, it’s hard to know what is real in this cleverly intricate word-maze that Holloway has created.

K: How. How do you. How do you write about. How do you write about something. Something so. Something so elliptical? How do you know what really happened when the sentences are so. So. When the sentences are so filled with the words not said. So stop and start. So filled. So filled with possible meanings.

This is my attempt to write a thought in the fractured and elliptical way that Holloway has his characters conversing. These are written words that need to be spoken. You need to roll the words along with the stops and gaps around your mouth. I imagine it’s in saying them aloud that the meaning becomes clearer.

A is a soldier who’s come back from a bloody war with his wife’s name tattooed across his knuckles.

C: He ripped. He ripped my hair back with his fist.

A: Ripped. Good. He ripped your hair back with his fist. And?

C: He said –

A: Said?

C: Yes.

A: Not shouted?

C: No.

A: He wasn’t. You know. In a rage? In some kind of fiery rage?

C: No. Not yet. He ripped my hair back. Yes. Ripped it. But like a warning or a statement or something. He wasn’t yet in a fiery rage. Not yet.

Because the husband and the lover are always referred to in the third person and the events are described as if they have already happened, it’s hard to know what is being planned, what is history, and who the characters actually are in the situations they describe.

Holloway captures the tension and the sense of impending doom beautifully. Don’t Say the Words is a disturbing text – made all the more so because you’re left wondering if the woman is the victim of terrible domestic violence, driven to kill her husband in self-defence, or if she has connived and planned for his murder all along, preparing each word of her statement so that it gains the most sympathy.

Publisher: Currency Press

Cast: 2M, 1F

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