Tom McCarthy

Agamemnon – a play in two acts

Act One

Lights up to reveal the entrance to a house. This consists of a free-standing doorway (frame only) installed in the middle of the stage and facing along the stage right to stage left axis, i.e. at an angle of exactly ninety degrees to the audience. On the floor immediately to the doorway's left (stage right), a doormat bearing the word 'Welcome'. Several feet to the doorway's right (stage left), a bathtub. At the base of the doorway itself, a block of wood or metal three feet long and one and a half inches high. This must be firmly attached to the stage floor.

Enter, from stage right, Agamemnon, a man in his mid-forties. He walks from stage right towards stage left in a straight line that runs through the doorway. As he passes through the frame, he trips on the block and falls over.

Lights down.

Act Two

Lights half up to reveal a set cleared of doorway, doormat and bathtub, i.e. consisting only of the block. Across the stage's back wall the events of Act One, which have been filmed by a camera installed in front of the stage exactly in line with the doorway, are replayed by means of a video projector. The replay must take place in extreme slow motion, at such a speed that the sequence from Agamemnon's entrance to his arrival at a state of rest on the floor lasts forty minutes.

Lights down.

1. Agamemnon's fall must follow the same stage right to stage left trajectory as his walk, so that he falls through and from the frame towards the bathtub, coming to rest face down with his feet pointing back towards the doorway and his hands towards the bathtub.
2. If the video replay equipment being used for the production is not sophisticated enough to replay Act One in extreme slow motion within Act Two immediately, Act One should be filmed and the footage slowed down to the desired speed using appropriate editing sofware prior to the performance. In this case, the actor playing Agamemnon must ensure that his movements are identical both times he performs Act One.
3. For this version of Agamemnon, the camera must be placed among the audience seating exactly in line with the doorway, as stated. The director can, however, choose to stage different versions by placing the camera on the theatre's ceiling directly above the doorway pointing down towards the floor, in which case the play's title for that particular production should be amended to Agamemnon (Gods); or by placing it off stage left pointing across towards stage right, in which case the play's title should be amended to Agamemnon (Clytemnestra); or by using three cameras, one placed in each of the positions indicated above, in which case the play's title should be amended to Agamemnon (Cassandra).

Tom McCarthy is a writer and artist. His first novel Remainder, which turns around trauma and re-enactment, has been translated into more than ten languages and is currently being adapted for cinema by Film4. In 2008 it won the Believer Book Award. His avant-garde art ‘organisation’ the International Necronautical Society (which may or may not actually exist) surfaces through publications, proclamations and denunciations, live events and conventional art exhibitions at institutions that in recent years have included Tate Britain and Moderna Museet Stockholm. McCarthy is also author of the non-fiction book Tintin and the Secret of Literature and of numerous essays that have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The London Review of Books, Harper’s and Artforum. His new novel C, which explores the relationship between technology and mourning, will be published by Jonathan Cape and Knopf in 2010.

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