On the Origin of An Event

by Oliver Bennett

He was overloaded and it was making him unwell … he would wake up early, quickly dip into the news as he waited for the kettle to boil, then try to stay up to date on everything throughout the day, immersing himself in international relations on the toilet, taking a deep dive into the history of every major world power on the tube to work, and even the smaller countries in a brief lull between meetings, and he would wade through an article on finance while waiting for the office microwave to ping– credit swaps, interest rates, collateral debt obligations, inflation, deflation, stagflation … he would briefly splash himself with the latest cultural gossip before an evening out, and, when back in his room, bathe in the history of ideas, climate change, graphs, statistics, politics, language, culture, philosophy, culture wars, left, right, alt-left-alt-right, demographic shifts– and yet, and yet, there always came a moment, the next day, or the day after, of panic during a conversation when he was unable to supply an informed opinion, his peers frowning slightly, asking if he was feeling okay, the conversation flowing on, or he found himself flummoxed by a word in an article, he simply didn’t have the necessary data … and then he found he was starting to forget what he already knew, facts and figures, whole ideas and definitions had been leaking out of him, and if, if he was to prevent this he would have to have data streaming in while he slept, so if some seeped out then more would still pour in, reading was no good anyway, he had already begun to feel unsteady on the slippery surfaces of words– he really was feeling very ill– so naturally he turned to podcasts, then he could imbibe data on the move as well as when he slept– politics, history, interviews with leading figures, the biggest thinkers, superforecasters, he could have all of their data inside him, it was all right there after all, not just pulsing through cables, but there all around him, twisting and turning in the ether as never before, in the air around his fingertips, he just had to find a way of getting it all into his body where it could update and upload freely … so he went to bed with lectures, podcasts, music, films, the latest TV shows playing him into sleep, but still it wasn’t enough, the data would escape into the night sky, into the corners of the room, trapped in the dust on the shelves, but if, if somehow he could get to the source of this stream, if it could all go straight in…

…he took some time off work– he really was rather ill after all– and he sat by the wi-fi router, trying to open himself to that barely perceptibly purr, that hum, that whir, that’s where it all was, all the data of the world, his stubborn body just refused to let it in, if he could find a way to open himself, unlock the password that kept it out, it could all flood into him … and it so happened that, after trying all combinations of physical positions, combinations of teas and mantras, one feverish night he felt something click … and it all came in, the sparkling data surged into him, over him, flowing through his legs, in his chest, washing over his face, viralling round his organs, he could almost see it; ideas, numbers, images pouring into his mouth, sweating into his eyes, and he was lost, he was drowning, he couldn’t breathe, turned over and over by the restless data, he knew he couldn’t survive this and he had to survive this, he was overwhelmed, his tiny body was nothing in this sea of data, if, if only he could make it all make sense, simplify it, channel all of it into something, a manageable stream, he would die otherwise…

…he knew what he had to do, he knew he had to be what all the data pointed towards, he had to make an event, a singular, spectacular, undeniable event, so there would be one thing and one thing only, then and only then would it be over… he just about had enough strength to drag his weary body out into the street, and– his pale limbs still glistening with data– he set out into the world, to simplify it, reduce it, he made his way, if he could make it, shaking, if he could make it over the bridge and into the bustling city, if he could make it– he really was not feeling well at all– sweating and shivering, his shoes heavy and slippery, if he could make it, if he could perform the event, but he would never make it, the data churning, buffering within him, the bustling city stayed just out of reach, a blur on the horizon and he knew he would never make it, glitching and twitching … he slipped … he fell…

…but if a stranger’s hand reached out to catch him as he fell, if in that moment he felt something transmit, if something flowed from him into the stranger’s hand, flowed out into the world, all over the world, then there really would be one thing and one thing only and it would all be … over…


Oliver Bennett trained as an actor at RADA. He is the co-founding artistic director of acclaimed company HUNCHtheatre. Their work mixes European and British aesthetics and includes an adaptation of A Hero Of Our Time, which they have performed around the world and has been called ‘a vision of what theatre should be’ (The Spectator), a modern version of Joseph Roth’s The Legend of the Holy Drinker, and a new project based on Turgenev. He is the winner of the 2017 Mercury Playwriting Award and twice the recipient of a Peggy Ramsay Bursary. His play Europe After The Rain opened at the Mercury Theatre, UK in May 2018 to critical acclaim, it has been translated into Russian and performed at the Goethe Institute in Minsk.

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