March by Arts Richmonds finalist Lilla Radeck
Online - 03 April 2020
Critique by Quentin Weiver
Life sometimes breaks in on us, kicks the door down and, like inquisitive paparazzi, threatens to reveal something of us, of our intimate self, to … to whom? … those who affect our lives, to the world… to ourselves?
Lilla Radeck’s March is a prose poem that packs some punch. It is a remarkable piece of work. It is remarkable for its style, its author, and its prescience.
It is prescient in that, although it was written on a dull November’s day last year, it relates to the events, or rather non-events, of 3rd and 4th March. Written in the first person, but clearly referring to the first person narrator, it tells of a girl confined to one room. These were the days when the coronavirus pandemic was concentrated in China, over 80,000 confirmed cases there, whereas the 750 case on the Diamond Princess cruise ship was more that the totals in France, Germany and Spain combined. But two weeks later in the UK, schools were forced to shut and the current “lockdown” measures began.
The protagonist in March is confined, not by the advent of a deadly virus, but by the presence of an equally deadly affliction, depression, but one that, although usually catalysed by events, is self-inflicted. The girl in March is struggling to find the motivation to get out of bed.
Stop! Before you switch off, thinking all I need in these troubled times is a polemic about depression, let me reassure you that here is a piece that ends with burgeoning hope. Therefore I would count this as a piece for our time, when we need to see the light at the end of … whatever the coming months might bring.
March is remarkable in that its author, Lilla Radeck, is a young lady in her mid-teens from Richmond. Her piece is one of two dozen shortlisted for the Arts Richmond’s Young Writers’ Festival 2020, which in mid-March showcased some of the best pieces of literary work by authors of school age in a professional presentation at the Exchange Theatre in Twickenham that proved to be the last theatre event locally before the lockdown.
Radeck’s remarkable style in writing this piece is in its oneiric approach, the realities of waking life intruding into the shelter of sleep, the articulated buzz of the alarm clock, or the inspired intrusion of the “click, zoom” of surreal cameras. The acting company at the Exchange chose to dramatise this as a sinister pair of paparazzi, who manifest themselves in the bedroom of the girl (played by Lauren Anthony) or rather in her mind. This inspired model of directing by Keith Wait gave the whole presentation a film noir feel. The paparazzi lunge and stab with their cameras, as the girl tries to retreat from the harassments of real life into the comfort of her dishevelled bed.
Of course, this presentation picks up Radeck’s portrayal of the scene in her prose poem, where the description of neglected hygiene and hopelessness is, in all its brutal directness, Tracey Emin meets Otto Dix. However, the use of sibilant syllables and fleeting alterations contrast the sense of the girl’s withdrawal from the realities of life.
There is the packaging of the piece in diary-like sections which are hinted at in the two halves entitled March 3rd and March 4th. The second day however brings a nadir in the girl’s self-regard as she imagines “why someone would bother to inconvenience themselves for … garbage”. Moreover, when we later find out that she had been contemplating “the iron-clad comfort of eternal rest”, it brings the reader up with at start.
The suddenly, light breaks through the gloom. “You can’t sit here all day”, a voice tells her. “You need to go out and live your life”. Reading this piece, with its beautifully bared insight, one almost jumps with joy as “the leaden covers are thrown back…”.
What wonderful optimism pierces the darkness! A great parable for these troubled times.
Photography by Terry Richardson and Tamara Sellman
by Lilla Radeck
Pallid sunlight reaches through a half-open window; it freezes, grasping coldly, then falls behind thick curtains.
A dreary, viscous pair of camera lens focus and un-focus, fluttering, mechanical.
A girl breathes.
And then – awakening.
Patterned sheets fly across the breadth of an aging bed, caught in a frantic flurry of effort powered by frustration; a mess of limbs jumps forward, extends-
and falls back down again.
It’s cold, the girl murmurs, a sudden breeze passing by in lieu of any confirmation and she shivers, pulling the comfortingly twisted duvet closer around paper skin.
Her auburn hair snakes along the linen, touching the skewed pillow, the stained cotton, the overhanging layers – it doesn’t leave a single trace.
It’s cold, she repeats.
She sits up – not so much a graceful, swan-like gesture but a dull, automatic jump-start – and falls back down again.
I’m okay, she whispers to no one.
She clumsily reaches for glasses, glasses that haven’t have been cleaned in days, glasses that are scarred with stains of tears and food and the occasional fleck of blood and equips them, a shield against the coming day.
It’s hard to move, she notes and, like every day, the comforting sheets melt into lead.
I want to sleep forever…
Camera lenses flicker to life again and focus on that stain on the ceiling the girl said she’d clean.
She moves the overgrown hair she said she’d cut to the side and half-heartedly grasps the dying alarm clock she said she’d replace.
It’s cold, she notes, and though the window is closed this morning, it doesn’t feel that way.
I won’t be missed, she tells herself, ignoring the soft buzz of her phone in the corner of the room.
They’ll understand – sooner or later.
She knows that eventually someone will come to check on her and pull her out of bed because that someone came yesterday and tomorrow, and all she can do is shrug and say, What’s the point? because she can’t imagine why someone would bother to inconvenience themselves for garbage.
And yet at the same time, through all the what’s the points and why go through the same motions every days, the girl can’t help but feel guilty about lying there, doing nothing and being nothing.
She thinks of what that person would say to her, sighing.
You have things to do.
You can’t sit here all day.
The girl recalls plans she has made for the day, plans that would remind her of something that wasn’t the iron-clad comfort of eternal rest and decides on something.
“Let’s begin our daily routine.” she tells someone, herself, and it feels real because it is and for once she feels real because she is.
You need to go out and live your life.
In one final, desperate attempt, the leaden covers are thrown back…
and she gets out of bed.
The Paparazzi of the Mind