Part of the Invisible Diaries series
Week 1/Day 3
Believe it or not, I write these posts on my phone, at night, after the children are in bed, sitting on an old pink sofa, exhausted. Today I’m particularly tired – too tired to even consider a wind-down drink – and still, the phone somehow seems easier, less expectant, more forgiving than a computer.
I’ve sat in front of my computer for a full eight hours today. Eight hours is not that different from any other normal day in the office, to be honest, but somehow, watching shows and Zooming (is that a word yet?) seems to take more out of you.
Flora and I were platform-hopping between Skype and Zoom between 2.30 and 6.30 this afternoon. First, there was an internal catch-up on Skype, immediately followed by a two-hour interview with an artist on Zoom, immediately followed by an internal debrief on Skype that evolved into a leisurely chat around screen fatigue. Why is it, we wondered, that talking to each other via the screen feels more tiring than doing it in the flesh?
The screen itself exerts a type of captivity of its own, it suctions in your attention, it limits your movement, it makes you feel awkward if you have to do anything that disrupts the frame. ‘It makes you more aware of your hairstyle because you stare at yourself all day!’ exclaims Flora in quiet exasperation. ‘It’s not as though you’d stare at yourself in a mirror all day otherwise’.
That feels like such a searing insight – is the lockdown potentially turning us all into latent narcissists?
I guess we could just be talking to each other on the phone instead. My day today had in fact started with a spontaneous return to the audio. My eyes are getting worse and I decided to take a break from scrolling without my glasses on waking up, by listening to this new Howlround podcast series instead: 'Revolutionizing the Way You Hear Theatre with Iyvon Edebiri of The Parsnip Ship and Playwright Andrew Rincón'. At first it felt cosy, and a bit indulgent to just lie there, half-awake, taking the information in solely through the ears. But then I gradually caught myself fixating on the words I had missed because they got obscured by the speaker’s voice coming down a telephone line or by my unfamiliarity with their accent. And then I quickly found myself scrabbling for my glasses to read the accompanying transcript while listening... This did feel a bit like it was defeating the point of the existence of the podcast - and the author and her guests made some really good points regarding the very particular delights of ‘adventures in audio fictions’ – but I must say I’m grateful that podcasts are the kind of audio media that come complete with transcripts and that the internet has somehow made this convention of accessibility possible.
And then a friend sent me a video just in time for my morning coffee – sending me off on a research trail on audio ambiguity.
(It’s Yanny for me, suggesting I hear higher frequencies better, which might feel somewhat reassuring if you go for the idea that ability to hear higher frequencies decreases with age. Which one is it for you?)
In all, today has been a lot about the eyes vs the ears for me, not least because I’m currently looking into the performance works that privilege speech and sound over movement or text. But then I realised that I probably need to clarify that I am definitely not interested in speech or sound per se – not radio drama - but more accurately, the Theatres of Speech and Sound. In 3D space with a real audience present, preferably.
And now I probably need to give some rest to both, and go and ply my sense of taste with something pleasantly anodyne.
And so should you!
PS: An entertaining snippet from the family dinner table earlier:
4YO: Mama, would do you prefer chickens or dinosaurs?
Me (mildly surprised): Let’s say chickens. What do you prefer?
4YO: I like unicorns.
Images courtesy of Duška Radosavljević
Duška Radosavljević is a writer, dramaturg and academic appointed as Reader at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She has worked as a dramaturg in the UK for twenty years and has been a member of the Dramaturgs’ Network from its beginning, joining the Executive Committee in 2009. Duška writes regularly for the Stage Newspaper, Exeunt and the Theatre Times and is the author of the award-winning book Theatre-Making: Interplay Between Text and Performance in the Twenty-First Century (2013). She currently holds a Leadership Fellowship funded by the AHRC investigating dramaturgies of speech and sound in partnership with Battersea Arts Centre, Digital Theatre Plus and Victoria and Albert Museum, leading to a new book, a conference and a podcast.