Hyperreality | Unus Mundus

How I went mad in 7 stages - Genevieve's monologue from Annie Bakers 'John' 

How I went mad in 7 stages - Genevieve's monologue from Annie Bakers 'John' 


Excerpt from Annie Baker's play John at the National Theatre prior to the interval. Genevieve’s character is a blind old American woman portrayed by June Watson.

"Alright, when I went mad, I went mad in 7 stages. One: I dreamt of scorpions every night for a month. Scorpions crawling closer and closer to me across the floor, every night a little closer. Two: I kept hearing a name inside my head… Haloomba-ich… irch, sach, erkovic, erkfiovich, irchthioscavic, erchthikowkavic, ichthi… ersikowksi… I had never heard this name. Three: One morning I woke to the sensation that the scorpions were now inside my head. I felt them moving around, rooting through my brain matter. Occasionally they would bite me but only when I angered them. Four: I noticed that my breasts were slowly shrinking and that a tiny penis was growing between my legs. I knew that God was doing an experiment on me, but I could not for the life of me figure out what that experiment was. I prayed it was all for the best. Five: The scorpions in my head disappeared but they were replaced two weeks later by the knowledge that tiny men were colonializing my brain. Workers, they were drawing up some sort of plan… chatting, drawing lines across my skull. At one point, 200 Benedictine monks entered my right ear, took a tour of my head and exited out the left. Six: I became aware of an unus mundus[1]. I felt a deep and also disturbing connection with the souls of every person and every object that had ever existed. Not just the souls of departed conquistadors[2], but also the soul of a picture frame, a toy trumpet. Sometimes I see souls or sense souls, but I also became able to taste and smells souls. Seven: I realised that this was all the work of my ex-husband! I became aware that he had replaced God in the celestial sphere. There had been some kind of battle between John and God, and John had won. I was now in a godless world, John’s world. I had a vision of God’s soul, a dead soul, the corpse of a soul floating down a muddy river. I went mad and then I was 45, which was older than I thought I’d ever be. Then I was 50, which was older than I thought I’d ever be when I was 45. And then on the night of my 57th birthday I went blind and stood naked in the middle of my bedroom and all of a sudden, I was at the centre of the universe, facing up. No more trying to get into anyone else’s head – ‘Oh what does she think of me?’, ‘What does that man bagging my groceries think of ?’ Nope. It’s just me, alone in the universe, standing in the centre of my own life. I can’t even look in the mirror, it’s just me and my thoughts. It’s sometimes that I have no thoughts at all. Sometimes I just lie in bed in the morning and think about nothing. Imagine that; before you take a break, imagine that. Sitting alone in the centre of your own life with no thoughts at all about what other people are thinking. They can think whatever they like. You can think whatever you like about me. See? It hasn’t even been 5 minutes."

[1] Unus mundus, Latin for "one world", is the concept of an underlying unified reality from which everything emerges and to which everything returns.

[2] Conquistadors is a term used to refer to the soldiers and explorers of the Spanish Empire or the Portuguese Empire in a general sense

Transcription by William H. Britten