600.1202: An Opera

List of characters:

P. a consonant and an animal rights activist

F. also a consonant, slightly younger than P, something of a neophobe

H. king of all consonants, a letter any way you turn him

(P and F stand separated from each other in a large space, F USR, P CSL. Each time the consonants speak they take a step. F takes steps downstage, following a pattern of 1 step, 1 step, 2 steps, 3 steps, 5 steps forward and then 5 steps, 1 step backwards. P sidesteps toward centre stage in a zig-zag pattern.

The zig-zag of P’s movement unconsciously describes the last verse of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. In other words, his movement is plotted by score. F’s movements mimic the beginning of the Fibonacci sequence. Or, he is simply losing his mind. All consonants wear Commedia dell’arte masks. The setting is undetermined.)

(lights up)

(F begins his Integer of Steps,
waving his arms around his
face, as if swatting flies)

F. (1°) I see unwrapped circles
everywhere! Go on! Get back in

F. (1°) It’s like...peeling an
F. (2°) Sticky. Disgusting.
Seeping out from every corner! (in
hushed tones)
Things are moving
too quickly
F. (3°) They say that one day,
powerful star-gazers will be able
to detect American tidal waves
from the centre of Germany...

F. (5°) I shudder when I think the earth
takes a whole day to rotate. I shudder
when I think other planets rotate in
seven hours. I shudder again when I
think how long it takes light to reach


P. (Speaking into a cell phone) Yeah, and I
told Thales, “if you want to eat cow, go on
and eat cow, but I don’t want anything to do with it!”


P. Yeah, yeah, bye (rolling his

P. What is so hard to comprehend? (throws cell phone to the ground) MEAT IS MURDER!

P. Last week, we demanded cameras in every milking shed! This week, we demand changes to the legislation! Equality!

P. (Snapping to attention and saluting) All Being equal! All Being equivalent to values of an identical expression!

F. (5°) (Speaking in a monotone, as if possessed) People will either die in fire or ice but we won’t...We will crawl back into the ocean and grow calcified shells...We will learn how to speak with our scales...We will place values on the different kinds of seaweed and only those most skilled will be able to broker trade deals
(singing now, but very distracted)
Little shell
Can you sell
Soda ash & capital?


F. (3°) (clicking his fingers) ...1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 5,
3, 2, 1, 1...orange peel orange peel

(A microphone on a cable is lowered from the ceiling. P takes it in his hand and speaks as if giving an interview on day-time television)
P. (still saluting) THE CENTRE IS


P. One day, I fell in love with edges! — angles
and corners! — axes and vectors! — patterns
and repetitions! — parallels and partitions!

(gesturing behind him)

Look! A diamond is the perfect form! See how
it tessellates?

I     N
A     M     O
I     N
I     N
A     M     O
I     N
I     N
A     M     O
I     N
I     N
A     M     O
I     N
I     N
A     M     O
I     N
I     N
A     M     O
I     N
(The letters ‘D I A M O N D’, are projected on the back wall of the stage)

(The projection rotates on the wall, then slowly fades. P continues his monologue)




P. But I was lost until I found Our Lord H,
the consonant that makes 360 with his
four corners, his body held on every

The letter H four times, every second one rotated 90 degrees

(pointing to his chest with an index finger)

...bonded with the most important lingual
glue. Harmony of math and phonemes!

(applause from an imagined studio audience is heard)
F. (2°) (completely oblivious to P) We will use the seaweed trade to establish hierarchies and parliaments... We will learn how to build fortresses from sand...We will carry out political assassinations with sharpened coral
(singing again)
Hubble Bubble
Telescopic trouble—
(P stops singing and looks up, mask slipping slightly. H is being lowered onto the stage by a mechane, thus fulfilling his role as the deus ex machina. He is draped in a purple cloak with gold trim, brandishing a sceptre)



(he shrugs off his cloak, revealing Lulu Lemon workout gear underneath. Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ begins to play softly, and H performs a grotesque yoga routine, curling his arms backward towards his spine. P looks on in delight, F in horror)

H. (booming jovially) So I’ve become an
article! Breath and oratories! Circles!
Pockets of sound!

Kill nothing that breathes!

Music is the ecstasy of logic!
(lights out)



Toyah Webb is a writer and student at the University of Auckland. They currently live in Titirangi.