Attempts on her Life: seventeen scenarios for the theatre was first produced at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London, on 7 March 1997. In each of the seventeen scenarios of this “open”, post-dramatic text attention is focused on the un-definable, un-locatable ‘her’ of the title. The scenarios taken together collectively “create” the primary, but absent “character”. But who is this she - this figure who seldom(?) if ever (?) appears on stage? Who is this ‘her’ that the speakers in each scenario imagine, recollect, remember, project, talk to or about--each in their own way? Attempts on her Life ‘plays’ meta-theatrically with both the nature of (theatrical) representation per se, and with the “death of character” - the (non)character who constantly “appears” in various guises, even though “she” never appears.
I have worked on Attempts on her Life in several pedagogical/laboratory settings because of the resonance of the text with reference to post-911 issues of terrorism, its post-dramatic structure, the issues of representation raised by the fact that the primary “character” or “subject” is absent, the role that mediated images play in constructing our world today, the fact that the text includes several scenarios requiring bi-lingual performance, and the openness of the text. Attempts on her Life is written specifically “for a company of actors whose composition should reflect the composition of the world beyond the theatre” (Crimp 2005:202). When teaching I am often working with an internationally diverse group of students. The text allows flexibility in casting and numerous opportunities for the application of the psychophysical training to work with text as well as the inhabitation of psychophysical states. Working with a diverse cast ensures a rich blend of accents for the scenarios when only English is spoken. The “composition of the world beyond the theatre” is also evident when multiple languages are used in the bi-lingual scenarios.
I conducted preliminary work on selected scenarios of Attempts on Her Life in 2005 with an international group of twelve MA/MFA and five BA actors from eight different countries in a laboratory setting at the University of Exeter. I subsequently directed a full production in 2007 with an international cast of eleven hailing from ten different countries (Singapore, UK, USA, India, Hong Kong, Korea, Ireland, Spain, Mexico, Malaysia) at the Esplanade Theatre Studio in a TTRP production (Singapore).
Of the eleven cast members in the Singapore production, eight were non-native English speakers. Their rich blend of various accents with which English was spoken reflects the “composition of the world beyond the theatre”. Crimp designates the use of two languages other than English for Scenario 7 (“The New Anny”) and Scenario 16 (“Porno”). In “The New Anny” the primary speaker delivers text in her native language which is then translated into English. In “Porno” part of the text is delivered in English and is simultaneously translated into another language. In the Exeter workshop, Scenario 7 was delivered in Greek, while in Singapore it was delivered in Spanish. For “Porno”, the primary text was simultaneously translated into Arabic in Exeter, while in Singapore it was translated into Korean.