The Monster under the Bed: Acting and Trauma in the Rabble's Story of O and Frankenstein

By Griffiths, Jane Montgomery | About Performance, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

The Monster under the Bed: Acting and Trauma in the Rabble's Story of O and Frankenstein


Griffiths, Jane Montgomery, About Performance


I am watching a recording of myself doing unspeakable things to another actress. I watch my arm's swing as I whip her with a riding crop. I watch my physical impassivity as I make her urinate in a cup before me. I watch my facial boredom as I force her to fellate me, and my temple's bulging veins as I bugger her on the floor. And all this between two well-behaved women who, out of rehearsals, spend most of their time discussing children's schooling and the impossibility of Melbourne property prices.

The production I am watching is Melbourne-based theatre company The Rabble's Story of O.1 I am playing Sir Stephen; Mary-Helen Sassman is O. And in watching it, I am struck by a sudden, uncanny combination of dislocation and shame: shame at its extremity; shame at its obscenity; shame at the fact that I cannot associate the person who is committing these terrible abuses with the woman who is now sitting at her computer writing this. It is a dislocation so profound that I feel nauseous at its confounding complexity.

My responses in watching this recording for the first time, eighteen months after the production, exemplify one of the most pervasive, yet strangely under-analysed, confusions that actors face: that of dissociative identification. In watching Sir Stephen on DVD, I am not he; he is as far from me as is imaginable. Yet the reality is that for months in the rehearsal room, and for weeks in performance, I mined the darkest places in my imagination, accessing every sado-masochistic thought and experience I had ever encountered, to create him, and, in a strange way for some moments in time, to become him. I allowed myself-I forced myself-to find sexual arousal in the subjection and pain of others. I improvised grotesque scenarios of quotidian tortures and banal humiliations. I found pleasure in the power I had to force my will on others. Yet at the same time, I longed for the use of the safe-word in the rehearsal room, I constantly worried about the mental and physical safety of Sassman, and I felt truly embarrassed that my mild and unadventurous imagination could dream up such unlikely abuses.

Switch to another recording and another show, The Rabble's Frankenstein.2 Now it is my naked and bruised body that is the object of the abuse. I am watching the purple welts on my legs and observing how the red blush of a bruise is developing over the course of the show. I am scrutinising, in a state of desensitised curiosity, the physical impact on my skin as Sassman hurls water balloons at my face, my thighs, the multiple breasts on my torso, as she grabs my hair and pushes me to the floor, as she brusquely pushes my legs apart and impregnates my bare genitals with a prosthetic womb. I simultaneously do and do not recognise us as I watch all this, our identities anamorphosed, twisted, and contorted so that it is not my friend Sassman and I whom I am watching.3 Nor, however, is it our characters. What is actually happening is less about the two dimensional, pixilated electronic images I observe and more about my brain's inability to correlate what I see with my own subjectivity. It is an inability to process the visions of the past made immediate in the present through the thoughtless repetition available to us by digital recording. And at this same moment when I am trying to analyse my failure to process our identities, I am smelling again the scent of Sassman's shampoo as the monster inhales the perfume of her mother's hair; I am involuntarily retching in the back at my throat at the remembered but now again present stench of rotting set and rancid breast milk; I suddenly sense the damp and cold of my naked, sodden skin; and, prosaically and very practically, I feel, as I type these words, the hot, quiet ache in my right elbow, that never quite recovered from the almighty knock I gave it one day in rehearsal.

This paper aims to explore some of the elements of this strangely oscillating identification, using the mutating field of trauma studies as its frame. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Monster under the Bed: Acting and Trauma in the Rabble's Story of O and Frankenstein
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.