The Assassin, the Medium and the Massage Girl

Quah Sy Ren and Tan Ing How

Photograph by Kevin Kunstadt

Although this script was written entirely in Chinese, in its first production it was performed in a variety of languages: Scene Two in Cantonese, Scene Five in English, Scene Six in Hakka, Scene Seven in Hokkien, Scene Eight in English (PRIEST), Hakka (GREAT-AUNT), and Cantonese (MASSAGE GIRL), Scene Nine in Mandarin.


The Medium.
The Man.
The Massage Girl.
The Priest.
The Great-Aunt.
The Director.
The Guest-of-Honour.
The Medium's Assistants.
The Soldiers.
The Court Officials.
The Guards.


The audience enters the space to find the air thick with the fragrant smoke of incense. Traditional Hokkien folk songs are played. As the performance begins, these songs fade away, to be replaced by spiritual music.

Drums and cymbals can be heard, growing louder. From the four corners of the space, eight of the MEDIUM'S ASSISTANTS enter, followed—as the percussion music grows in intensity—by the MEDIUM himself. The MEDIUM begins the elaborate ceremonies preparatory to going into a trance. The instant before he speaks, the lights snap out, and all sound stops.


Lights come up on the MASSAGE GIRL sitting on a stool. In another darkened area of the stage, a MAN lies face down on a massage table.

MASSAGE GIRL: I travelled a long distance to be in this place. I came here to make a living.

The year I turned fifteen, for the very first time a girl left our village for the outside world. She came to this place and stayed for a year. When she returned to our village, her appearance gave me a shock. She was my uncle's daughter. When she came back, the clothes she wore looked exactly the same as before. There wasn't even any make-up on her face, and her hair was the same too - I thought it would be permed into twists and curls. That she still looked the same surprised me very much.

The only thing was, I noticed a strange expression on her face. Kind of wooden. Even when she smiled, she looked as though she had just finished crying. When I saw her come back, I was so happy - I took her hand and asked, 'Was it good over there? Was it really good?' But she didn't say a word. Just that wooden expression.

She didn't say anything either, when she left. The whole two days she was here, I don't think she spoke once. Just before leaving, she gave her dad cash, two big notes. I think they were blue with a bit of purple. I was peeping, I couldn't see clearly.

So I decided that I would be just like her. Except I wouldn't be silent.

A year later, I came to this place.

A voice from outside the room: 'Number Seven! Customer for you.'


The MASSAGE GIRL stands and crosses to the massage table. Lights up on the table. Soothing contemporary music can be heard. She begins to massage the MAN. After a while, he rolls over and sits up.

MAN: Let's just talk for a while.

She stops massaging him

MAN: Come on, sit down. Just here.

She sits.

MAN: Have you been doing this for long?

MASSAGE GIRL: Three years.

MAN: Do you enjoy it?

MASSAGE GIRL: [silence]

MAN: [laughing] I shouldn't have asked you that.

MASSAGE GIRL: It's fine.

MAN: What made you want to do this?

MASSAGE GIRL: It's not a bad life. What do you think I should be doing instead?

MAN: I meant, have you tried any other type of work?

MASSAGE GIRL: No. I started doing this as soon as I arrived here.

MAN: You're not from around here?


MAN: Where, then?

MASSAGE GIRL: A village. Very far from here.

MAN: Very far from here?

MASSAGE GIRL: My whole family is there. Parents, three sisters, two brothers. I'm the oldest. When I lived at home, every single day I would wash the clothes, clean the floor, scrub the toilets. I worked till I was half-dead. So I decided to come here to work. At least here nobody looks at me as if I'm useless, just another mouth to feed.

MAN: Hey, aren't you Ah Soh's daughter?

MASSAGE GIRL: [surprised] How did you know?

MAN: I come from the village next door to yours.

MASSAGE GIRL: Yes. I think I've seen you before.

MAN: Maybe you have.

MASSAGE GIRL: I think I was still little.

MAN: I've been here so many years, I've forgotten how many. At least eight or ten.

MASSAGE GIRL: You look like you're doing well.

MAN: I'm so bored. So bored.

MASSAGE GIRL: Isn't village life even more boring?

MAN: [abruptly] Let me buy you supper.

MASSAGE GIRL: All right. I can go now, anyway. There won't be any more customers at this hour, you were the last one.

MAN: What would you like to eat?

MASSAGE GIRL: Teochew porridge?



Lights up on the MAN entering. He shuts the door behind him, sits down, and takes off his shoes. He turns on the radio, which is tuned to the news. He takes out some bread and eats it. He washes his hands, rinses his mouth, then sits down to read the newspaper. When he has finished, he puts away the newspaper. The news finishes, and the National Anthem is played. He turns off the radio, takes off his shirt, and settles down to sleep in the chair.



A crash and bang. Lights up on five Qing dynasty COURT OFFICIALS sitting in a row, a guard standing beside them. A PERFORMER in the Beijing Opera costume of a 'martial role'—a brave, young man—is performing solo in front of the OFFICIALS. There is a barely perceptible tension in the air, in the PERFORMER's every glance or head movement.

The music grows quick and tense, and then slow again. The PERFORMER moves his weapons in time with the music. When he comes close to the OFFICIALS, they and their GUARD grow tense. When the music slackens, the PERFORMER moves a little farther off, and the OFFICIALS relax.

With each change, the OFFICALS relax a little more, now murmuring to each other, now drinking a cup of wine.

The music suddenly grows loud and fierce. The PERFORMER stops and strikes an aggressive pose. The GUARD is alert and begins to draw his sword, but an OFFICIAL smiles and raises a hand to stop him. Suddenly, the PERFORMER pulls up the wide legs of his trousers and, with a battle-cry, draws out a four-foot short sword. Its blade gleams like ice. He comes forward in a single fluid motion, and before the GUARD can move he is already before the OFFICIALS, having slit the GUARD's throat. The OFFICIALS are unarmed, and panic.

The WARRIOR pulls open his robes. Explosives are strapped around his entire body, trailing long, black fuses. He lights a match. Silence.



Lights up. The MAN and the PRIEST are in the space, facing different directions. The MAN is kneeling in the attitude of confession, the PRIEST appears to be listening.

MAN: Bless me father, for I have sinned.

PRIEST: My child, you must sincerely repent of your sins before the Lord, in order to gain his forgiveness.

MAN: Yes, I am a sinner. I have a thousand unpardoned sins.

PRIEST: The Lord is merciful.

MAN: My biggest sin is not coming to confession.

PRIEST: Do you still believe yourself to be a child of the Lord?

MAN: Yes. But I haven't been to church for a long time.

PRIEST: When was the last time?

MAN: Soon after I was born, my mother brought me to be baptised.

PRIEST: And never after that?

MAN: Never after that.

PRIEST: My child, that is truly a grievous sin.

MAN: I always thought I had nothing to repent.

PRIEST: You are wrong, my child. Every one of us sins every day, even every minute.

MAN: But what sins have I committed? What sins?

PRIEST: You do not have God in your heart, and that is the gravest sin of all.

MAN: But I haven't done anything wrong.

PRIEST: Then why have you come here today?

MAN: I, I....

PREIST: You feel evil taking root in your heart.

MAN: No, no....

PRIEST: You feel yourself drifting further and further from the Lord.

MAN: That's not...

PRIEST: You were compelled to come, because...

MAN: No, I felt something, coming closer and closer to me.

PRIEST: Yes, that is the Devil.

MAN: No, it's people. Pairs and pairs of human eyes, staring at me. From such a close distance, they glare at me.

PRIEST: Who are they?

MAN: I don't know, I don't know.

PRIEST: You know perfectly well.

MAN: These eyes are watching me every minute, as if to stop me from sinning. I dare not kill, nor steal, nor commit adultery, nor visit prostitutes.

PRIEST: Those are all great sins.

MAN: But those eyes also seem to be encouraging me, making me think of even bigger sins to commit.

PRIEST: Poor confused child.

MAN: I am, I'm so very muddled. I hardly know what I'm doing. Every day is the same: work, work, eat, sleep, work, work, work...

PRIEST: Have you done something wrong at work?

MAN: No. I come and go on time. I hand in reports on time. I finish all my tasks on time. But otherwise, I have no idea what else I should be doing. No one ever tells me. And I don't want to be told. I don't know anything. I don't know.

PRIEST: Let the Lord guide you, my child. You have lost your way.

MAN: I'm not lost, I just want those eyes to stop staring at me. It's those eyes that make me not know what to do.

PRIEST: The Lord is the best guide for you. Tell God everything you have done wrong.

MAN: The only thing I've ever done wrong, since my birth, was to come to this place for confession. No one can help me. No one. No one.

PRIEST: My poor child. May God be with you.

The music of the mass can be heard. Blackout.


In the darkness, the chanting of scripture is heard, growing louder until it fills the entire space. Buddhist chanting from outside the space. As the lights grow brighter, the GREAT-AUNT is holding prayer beads, chanting as she paces up and down. The MAN is standing in a darker area of the space, staring blankly. She turns suddenly and stops in front of him. Lights come up fully.

MAN: Great-aunt, I've come to see you.

GREAT-AUNT: [Buddhist chanting]

MAN: [gently] It's me, Ah-Boy. It's me, Ah-Boy.

GREAT-AUNT: You, you...

MAN: It's me. I've come back.

GREAT-AUNT: Oh, oh—it's Ah Boy! What are you doing here? Go back, go back, quickly!

MAN: You're so lonely, all by yourself here. I came back to see you.

GREAT-AUNT: I pray to Buddha every day, I chant the scriptures. I'm contented. I eat vegetarian on the first and fifteenth, I offer incense morning and night. Buddha protect me, protect me. I feel so safe and happy.

MAN: You must be bored to death, let me keep you company. We'll talk.

GREAT-AUNT: [Buddhist chanting]

MAN: Is your leg better? Does it still hurt at night?

GREAT-AUNT: It doesn't hurt, not at all.

MAN: Can you see clearly? Are your eyes growing blur?

GREAT-AUNT: I can see. Let's be honest. I'm so old, what's there to look at? This house is still a house, the trees are still trees, I've been looking at them for almost eighty years, and they haven't changed a bit. You young people are different, the great world is all around you, so  big, so many colours, and you have so much time to see it. Look at it, see it. Take your time.

MAN: Great-aunt, why don't I take you out for a walk?

GREAT-AUNT: I've walked too far already. My legs are tired. They ache. I need to sit down.

MAN: Great-aunt, I'd really like to come back to be with you. I'm afraid we might not have much time left together.

GREAT-AUNT: [Buddhist chanting]

MAN: You know, all the time I was working abroad, I missed you a lot.

GREAT-AUNT: [loudly] Why would you waste time missing an old crone like me? From a godforsaken village like this?

MAN: Every night, tired from a day of work, I'd begin thinking. I'd think about everything, everything except the work I have to do all day, the same every day. I'd think about the past. And then, I'd think about you. Apart from you, who else could I think about, Great-aunt?

GREAT-AUNT: I'll be in my coffin soon. Why think about me?

MAN: It makes me a little happier.

GREAT-AUNT: After going so far away, you should be happy.

MAN: Really? Do I look happy?

GREAT-AUNT: Don't come back to see me again. A village like this is only fit for old hags like me. This place isn't right for you.

MAN: Don't say things like that.

GREAT-AUNT: Go back.

MAN: I want to spend more time with you. Tell me stories about when I was young.

GREAT-AUNT: Go back quickly, and don't come here again. Don't ever come here again.

MAN: Let me stay a little longer, Great-aunt.

GREAT-AUNT: [Buddhist chanting]


Lights up briefly, to show GREAT-AUNT alone, pacing back and forth.



Lights up on the MEDIUM and two of his ASSISTANTS. He is sitting at a desk, as the ASSISTANTS putting furniture away.

MEDIUM: [lighting a cigarette] Ah Kim, get me some beer.

The ASSISTANT obeys him.

MEDIUM: [thoughtfully] Hmm— [seeing the tea on the table, he pours and quickly drinks a cup of tea] Long ago, when I was a boy, my master would tell me a story every time he had a drink. Ah Kim! Hurry up!

The other ASSISTANT, AH HOCK, raises his head to look at the MEDIUM.

MEDIUM: [returning his gaze] What are you looking at? [continues drinking tea]

AH HOCK continues to tidy up.

MEDIUM: It was in the Qing Dynasty. There was a young fellow called Wu Yue. Seventeen or eighteen, a big chap. He didn't have a father or mother. Who knows how he grew up—he ate whatever he could get, a mouse if he was lucky, a stone if he wasn't.

AH KIM returns with a case of beer. He opens a bottle and pours it for the MEDIUM.

MEDIUM: Seventeen or eighteen, a big chap. The village elders tried to find him a wife, but he could not love. He just sat there with a stupid smile on his face. Finally, the priest in charge of the village's Earth God Temple took him in as a helper. [He notices that AH HOCK is still tidying up.] Ah Hock, stop working, you can do that later. Come and have a drink—come here. [takes a big swig himself]

AH HOCK stops what he is doing, exchanges glances with AH KIM, then sits at the table. AH KIM pours himself and AH HOCK each a glass of beer, then sits too.

MEDIUM: There was this one year, the village suffered a terrible harvest. The sparrows that would normally have eaten the harvested rice all flew far, far away. The ones who couldn't fly away, they starved to death. They tried, they flew and stopped, flew and stopped. They flew until they ran out of strength, then they fell to earth and died.

AH KIM: [interrupting] Master, what story is this? How can you be so sure what happened? When did all this happen?

AH HOCK: Master is telling us a story he heard when he was a child.

MEDIUM: Of course I'm sure, I heard it so many times that year. Once my master and his brothers started drinking, this story would always come up. Of course I remember it clearly. [drinks] Where was I?

AH HOCK: The sparrows.

MEDIUM: That's right, the sparrows had nothing to eat and all starved to death. The people were hungry too, what could they eat? They picked up the dead sparrows by the side of the road and ate them, yes, they even fought over them. They say people were beaten to death over those sparrows. Around that time, an outsider arrived at the village. He wouldn't say anything, but he had a knife wound in his belly, dripping with blood. Horrible. [raises his glass] Drink up, come on! [swigs at his own drink] This outsider was also a young man, and was also allowed to stay at the temple. Every day, Wu Yue would wash his clothes, clean his wound, cook for him. As the wound slowly healed, the outsider began to help Wu Yue with his work. The two young men had a lot to say to each other, but whenever anyone else came close, they would stop talking. Then one day— [drinks] One day, Wu Yue left with the outsider. He didn't say anything to anyone, he just left.

The three men drink silently.  It is uncertain whether the ASSISTANTS are listening to the story.

MEDIUM: A year later, Wu Yue returned to the village. He didn't say anything then either, but went straight to the temple and spent the night there. He stayed up late that night, saying many words of thanks to the priest. The next day he had disappeared. The priest woke at dawn to find him gone, leaving only a small bag by his bed, full of shiny pieces of silver. It turned out that the outsider had been a revolutionary, dedicated to overthrowing the Qing dynasty and restoring the Ming—and Wu Yue had been persuaded by him, and decided to strike a blow for us Han people. [drinks]

Then one day, Wu Yue walked into my master's hall, all red in the face, and asked my master to tell his fortune. He wanted to know if he would succeed the next day, when he was due to assassinate five Qing court officials. Now, under normal circumstances, when random people come in off the street to ask us questions like that, we mediums refuse to answer them. But my master could see how urgently he was pleading, how red his eyes were, and thought that he had courage, daring to assassinate the great Qing court officials. He decided to help him, just this once.

[Raising his glass] Come on, drink up! Drink.

AH KIM and AH HOCK drink

MEDIUM: Wu Yue told my master his life story, where he had come from, and my master raised an altar and set to work. Ah, but it was strange, it took three tries before the spirits came, and the message they brought was bad: you will fail, you will fail. When Wu Yue heard this, he was inconsolable, weeping like his heart would break. After that, he stood up and left, just like that. [drinks] The next day, we heard the news: Wu Yue had wangled his way into a Beijing Opera troupe, singing the martial role. He strapped explosives around his entire body, prepared to die with the five Qing court officials in the audience. But the explosives became soaked in his sweat and didn't go off. And so he was the only one who died, hacked to pieces. They say his guts were dug out and fed to the palace dogs. Ah... everyone who heard this story said what a great man he was. He was only twenty-nine when he died. Twenty-nine. And me, I'm fifty now.


MEDIUM: Come on, drink up! Cheers! [raising his glass]

ASSISTANTS: Cheers! [raising their glasses]

They drink. Blackout.


Lights up on the PRIEST, the GREAT-AUNT and the MASSAGE GIRL, each in a separate area of the stage.

PRIEST: In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, amen. Our father who are in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, and we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

GREAT-AUNT: I get up very early every morning. Old people aren't good for anything, you know, we can't even sleep for long. I go to bed, tossing and turning, but no matter how long I think it's been, it's still a long time till dawn. And once you've sat up, there's even less chance of getting back to sleep. While it's still dark, I'll light a stick of incense at the front door. Incense morning and night, kowtow three times a day. Then I sit in the dark, chanting my scriptures. I chant, I chant, I chant.

MASSAGE GIRL: When I lived in the village, I had to get up before dawn every day. Before my eyes were even fully open, I had to make a big pot of black coffee, prepare some food for the men going out to tap rubber, then wash the clothes, clean the house, cook all the meals. It was like this from one year to the next. When did this begin? When I was eight, maybe nine. And it went on until that day when I left—I should say escaped from—the village.

PRIEST: Once a week I stand in church facing the congregation, and all their faces look the same, full of doubt. No, that's not right, they shouldn't come before God with all their doubts. Looking closely, I can see them trying hard to look remorseful—but I also know, so clearly, that they have no idea why they should need to look remorseful.

GREAT-AUNT: Buddha forgive me. As soon as my hands knew how to grip, I held a stick of incense to worship you. I've done this till the age of eighty, incense twice a day, and you should know that I do it with a sincere heart. All these years—maybe not so sincere to start out with, but by now you have won all my heart.

MASSAGE GIRL: I couldn't imagine what life would be like in this big colourful city. And now, I know. What good does knowing do me? I still have to face all these different men every day. Some are as fat as pigs, massaging them is like kneading fatty pork. And some are just skin and bones, like bamboo poles. Some are lean, with a bit of muscle. Those are like my daddy, when he came back from tapping rubber, aching all over, wanting me to rub his back for him.

PRIEST: We are all the same before the Lord. He will treat you all justly. So why are your voices still full of doubt when you make confession before God?

MASSAGE GIRL: I hate living like this. No word of a lie, I hate this life.

PRIEST: Do you only come before God when you are tired of life?

MASSAGE GIRL: I feel as if I were a mouse, only daring to come out at night. People throw away food they can't finish, and it lies waiting for a hungry mouse like me to grub for it in the jumble and dirt of the rubbish dump.

GREAT-AUNT: I hate mice. Disgusting creatures. When I sit chanting my scriptures before dawn, dozens of mice run about beneath my feet. I'm not afraid of them—at my age, what is there to be afraid of? When I was young and strong, I'd chase them with my wooden shoe. There's a mouse, and another, and another—hit them, kill them! Then cover them in straw and burn them all. But I'm too old for that now, too old, I can't even walk steadily. So let them run. When the sun comes up, they all disappear down their holes anyway.

MASSAGE GIRL: People say: Eek, a mouse—kill it! In the village, there were too many mice to catch them all. Who had the energy to kill all those mice? Let them go, they'll all disappear down their holes anyway, when the sun comes up. The mouse that the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve.

PRIEST: The Lord says: Forgive your enemies.

MASSAGE GIRL: I can pity the mice, but who will pity me?

PRIEST: We are all equal before the Lord.

MASSAGE GIRL: They didn't treat me like a human being, in the village. And they were my father, my mother—let alone the strange men that I meet now.

GREAT-AUNT: Leave, leave this place. You young people shouldn't stay in the village—go see the outside world. Come back and tell me stories about the wonders that you see - I like hearing stories. Chanting scriptures every day can get boring sometimes.

PRIEST: You were strangers before coming to church, because you did not know each other. Now that I have told you the story of our Lord, you are all part of the same family. You are the sons and daughters of Christ.

MASSAGE GIRL: They are repulsive, all of them. They're the mice, not me. Coming to the massage parlour after dark, thinking all day about doing dirty things by night.

GREAT-AUNT: Leave this place, all of you. Go find the world of your dreams. And when you've gone, never look back.

PRIEST: The eyes of the Lord see so clearly every little thing that you do.

MASSAGE GIRL: They are repulsive, all of them. They don't treat me like a human being. I have to work from morning to night. And they say these nice-sounding words—it's all for my own good, it's for the sake of my future.

GREAT-AUNT: Leave me alone in the village. Don't worry about me. I'm so old—what future do I have left? The future belongs to you.

PRIEST: God can see not just your present, but your past and your future.

MASSAGE GIRL: Every word they say is a lie. You can bluff me once, you can bluff me twice, but you can't keep bluffing me forever.

GREAT-AUNT: Don't we all die in the end? Not much longer now.

PRIEST: God knows what you do and think every minute of every day. Nothing can be hidden from his eyes.

MASSAGE GIRL: I can't stand this; I really can't stand this any more.

GREAT-AUNT: Don't let me see you coming back. When you've gone, never look back. If I find you back here, see if I don't break both your legs.

PRIEST: The Lord is just. Every one of our lives passes in a flash, and then we return to be by His side.

MASSAGE GIRL: I don't want to stay here, but I can't go back.

GREAT-AUNT: [Buddhist chanting]

PRIEST: No one can escape the final judgement. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, amen. Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

MASSAGE GIRL: I'm a mouse. I run back and forth, but can't escape their eyes. I'm just a poor, pitiable mouse, just a little mouse...



Lights up on the MAN entering. He shuts the door behind him, sits down, and takes off his shoes. He turns on the radio, which is tuned to the news. He takes out some bread and eats it. He washes his hands, rinses his mouth, then sits down to read the newspaper. When he has finished, he puts away the newspaper. The news finishes, and the National Anthem is played. He turns off the radio, takes off his shirt, and settles down to sleep in the chair. He appears to have genuinely fallen asleep. House lights come up. The DIRECTOR walks on stage, shaking the MAN awake.

DIRECTOR:  Hey, hey, what the hell are you doing? You fell asleep!

MAN: What else should I be doing, Maestro? Didn't you tell me to fall asleep at the end?

DIRECTOR: I don't need you sound asleep like that. That's not what I want at all! Haven't you understood a thing I've been telling you?

MAN: I know, I know, you've told us a thousand and one times.

DIRECTOR: Let me say it once more. Your life is dull. You get up and go to work every day, every day is exactly the same. You see the same people, the same faces—you can barely stand it. And it's the same at home. You eat, you watch the news, you read the paper, then you sleep. The same day in, day out. A month, a year, five years, ten years—don't you feel frustrated? Isn't it maddening? If it were me, I wouldn't be able to sleep.

MAN: I know, I've done exactly as you say. [unconvincingly] Oh, my days are so devoid of meaning, how dull and senseless is my life. I am so bored. Oh, oh, I am bored to death. What can I do, being so very bored? Perhaps I should fall asleep!

DIRECTOR: You still want to sleep!

MAN: Okay, okay. I'm awake now.

DIRECTOR: People like you are everywhere, a dime a dozen.

MAN: So?

DIRECTOR: Haven't you ever asked yourself why life is like this? Use your brain, think.

MAN: What's there to think about?

DIRECTOR: Are you satisfied with this life, the same every day?

MAN: That's just what life is like. What's there to be dissatisfied about?

DIRECTOR: That's exactly what I mean, an attitude like that.

MAN: What's wrong with that, Maestro? Didn't you want me to play the part like this, a dull man?

DIRECTOR: That's right, a dull man. But you must keep in mind how he became this way.

MAN: I've thought about that, exactly the way you told me to.

DIRECTOR: No no, you don't understand, you don't understand what I feel. Oh, torment, boredom, dullness, monotony!

MAN: I'm doing the best I can!

DIRECTOR: You're doing my best, not yours.

MAN: What does it matter whose best it is?

DIRECTOR: Forget it. Never mind. Why ask so many questions?

MAN: [silence]

DIRECTOR: Look, you have to understand why your own life is so empty, but also what other people's lives are like. Being concerned for yourself is not enough. You have to care about other people, your surroundings, the things around you. [abruptly] How many months has it been since Iraq invaded Kuwait?

MAN: [silence]

DIRECTOR: There was an explosion at Jurong Shipyard last week. How many people were killed, how many injured?

MAN: [silence]

DIRECTOR: Care about nothing. Know about nothing. [shakes his head] Okay, let's try again. Remember: know why you're bored, why you're depressed. Why? Why?

MAN: Okay, okay!



Lights up. The MAN begins the scene again. This time, his movements seem hesitant.

The MAN enters. He shuts the door behind him, sits down, and takes off his shoes. He turns on the radio, which is tuned to the news. He stands for a while with his back to the audience, then reaches out and removes something from a drawer, and hides it in his waistband. He hesitates, then suddenly turns around and charges at the audience.

The GUEST-OF-HONOUR in the front row is taken by surprise. The BODYGUARD by his side stands up. The MAN is already reaching for the concealed object, which is a handgun. He fires. The GUEST-OF-HONOUR is hit. At the same time., the BODYGUARD dives to protect him, and returns fire. The MAN is hit. He drops the gun.

Two SOLDIERS run in and subdue the MAN. They drag him out. The BODYGUARD helps the injured GUEST-OF-HONOUR to his feet. They leave.

A slide projector begins to show images of the various characters of the play, as well as other people of all kinds, landscapes etc. At the same time, a jumble of sounds is heard: department store announcements, various television programmes, recordings of songs, MRT announcements, TV news reports, etc. After a while, we begin to hear a female voice: "Please refrain from smoking. There will be a one thousand dollar fine." This grows louder and more frequent, until it is all we can hear: "Please refrain from smoking. There will be a one thousand dollar fine." The images flash by faster and faster.

All of a sudden, everything screeches to a halt. The GUEST-OF-HONOUR re-enters with some SOLDIERS following closely behind. He indicates the AUDIENCE, and the SOLDIERS fire into the air. herding the AUDIENCE out of the auditorium, and into the open-air execution ground outside.


The execution ground. Night. As the AUDIENCE looks on, the MAN is brought in and made to kneel facing the wall. The PRIEST recites a prayer. When the time comes, a SOLDIER leads the PRIEST away. An OFFICER raises his gun and shoots the MAN in the back of the head. The MAN falls to the ground, his body twitching. A SOLDIER examines him, then shoots him again. After making sure that the MAN is dead, the SOLDIERS cover the body with a white cloth. Blood continues to flow in all directions from under the white cloth.


translated from the Chinese by Jeremy Tiang