His body had become a kaleidoscope, with each step performing to him varying permutations of figures and truths. (Walter Benjamin in Ibiza, during his exile years when working on Gracian)

The new performance script of ‘The Manual Oracle’
Using the idea of a kaleidoscope as a structuring principle for the script, ‘The Manual Oracle’ consists of a series of brief scenic tableaux that refract the different shades of paranoia, self-consciousness, suspicion and skepticism in dialogues, group scenes, internal as well as external dialogues. The piece is conceived for a cast of 6 actors who rotate through different characters from scene to scene, moving from positions of power to disempowerment, from utmost self-control to psychosis. The weaker is the stronger and the stronger is the weaker. Scenes relate to the topics of immigration, racism, xenophobia, psychosis, obsessive jealousy, misogynist paranoia, competition, social etiquette, dissimulation and strategic behaviour in the world of finance and politics, surveillance, the role of media in spreading paranoia, and the survivalist movements.

The different scenarios are punctuated by a selection of Gracian’s aphorisms, defining the common ideological conditions that underline each scene. They are to be performed in the authoritarian voice of a preacher. Whilst most of the situations illuminate contemporary contexts, the overall piece also points backwards in history, problematising common legacies in Western culture that emerged around the time when ‘The Manual Oracle’ was written.

Sound and vision are treated on an equal footing with text in this script, equalized through the overriding concept of the scenario, which encapsulates the socio-psychological configurations of a multi-perceptual world.

Whilst the dramaturgy for this play has been developed by Phoebe von Held, its writing process is collective and collaborative, using elaborate research, feedback and production networks to devise new text and performance concepts. The first 55-minute version of the script, completed in Sept 2011, included 7 scenes:

‘Castles I’ by Natasha Soobramanien; ‘Borderline’ by Phoebe von Held and Yair Wallach; ‘The Stronger’ by August Strindberg, edited by Phoebe von Held; ‘Castles II’ by Natasha Soobramanien; ‘Aside’ by Phoebe von Held, based on a chapter from ‘The Big Short’ by Michael Lewis; ‘Fridge Talk’ by Phoebe von Held; ‘X-Ray Man’ by Phoebe von Held, inspired by Jakob Mohr’s sketch of an influencing machine.

New scenes that are currently being developed are: ‘Coaching Thatcher’, with input from Natasha Soobramanien and Phoebe von Held; ‘Floaters’ by Luke Williams; ‘Exception’ by Phoebe von Held; ‘Schreber I &II’; by Phoebe von Held; ‘Fridge Talk: Rehearse’.

For further details on the scenarios click here.