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La Monnaie / De Munt LA MONNAIE / DE MUNT

Cassandra

Synopsis

Marie Mergeay
Reading time
5 min.

A story of burning cities and melting ice, of a prophetic priestess and a foreseeing scientist, of a curse and the hope of one day undoing it: read the synopsis of Cassandra here.

PROLOGUE – Somewhere out there

Human voices ring out from the void, like echoes from different times. They are directed at Cassandra and testify to her frenzy, her predictions and the curse put upon her. They see Troy burn, as foretold by Cassandra. It is then. It is now.

SCENE ONE – Troy burns, Cassandra watches

Cassandra has to watch while Troy burns. She cries out in despair. Perhaps this concerns not only the past, but also our future? “What has been, what is and what is to come.”

SCENE TWO – “Call me Cassandra”

Today. At a climate change conference, PhD student Sandra Seymour delivers a lecture in the form of stand-up comedy. She hopes this approach will move her listeners to action, something scientists have not managed to do with dry facts and figures. The audience applauds her, but afterwards, off-stage, an activist lashes out at her: who in their right mind would come up with the idea of joking about global warming? The activist in question is Blake, a student in Classics. Despite a false start, there is obvious chemistry between these two young people.

SCENE THREE – You spat in my mouth

The god Apollo endowed Cassandra with the gift of foretelling the future, but because she would not give herself to him, he spat in her mouth, so that nobody would ever believe her predictions again. Now Apollo makes fresh advances, but Cassandra resists him and refers to the various women he has seduced. He challenges her: does she really think she is the only person who can “see”? Does she really think she is unique? The future is there for the taking; anyone who really wants to, can see it. Cassandra experiences nothing but pain and sorrow.

SCENE FOUR – The bees (1)

A hundred bees swarm.

SCENE FIVE – Ototoi popoi da

A year has passed since Sandra and Blake first met and fell in love. They are now living together and both are working on their theses at home. Using algorithms, Sandra maps the melting ice caps on Antarctica and the consequent environmental changes. Blake is writing about Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, quoting words uttered by Cassandra in that play: “Ototoi popoi da” – seemingly incoherent words, which symbolise the indescribable horrors the prophetess sees before her. Despite their different areas of research, Sandra and Blake find plenty of common ground. As with Cassandra, Sandra’s views on the climate crisis go unheard: it is a “prophetic song, uninvited and unwelcome”. Their conversation is interrupted by the telephone: Sandra’s mother invites Sandra and Blake to her birthday party.

SCENE SIX – Family dinner

Victoria and Alexander are celebrating Victoria’s 55th birthday with their daughters Sandra and Naomi, and with Blake. The atmosphere is buoyant, banter flows and different ways of predicting the future are discussed. But Sandra is not at all pleased that her scientific work is being compared to crystal-gazing. The conversation turns to her parents’ visit to her in Antarctica and the alarming state of that continent. Alexander waves aside Sandra’s doom-mongering about the ice caps and points to the opportunities such as mining, which he believes will come with the melting of the polar ice… Sandra and Blake are shocked by what they hear and make ready to leave the party. But then the birthday cake is brought in. Once Victoria has blown out the candles, Naomi can finally share the news of her pregnancy.

SCENE SEVEN – In the library of the dead

Figures from the past wander around the library. King Priam is intent on rereading what history has written about him and the Fall of Troy. He also continues to blame Cassandra for the city’s destruction, while still failing to recognize that she was actually trying to warn him of the catastrophe. Hecuba speaks up for their daughter and gradually Priam realises that Cassandra’s words were the very antithesis of a curse. When Cassandra is left alone in the library, she has a vision. Of her death? Or someone else’s?

SCENE EIGHT – The call of motherhood

Sandra and Blake are at home. The atmosphere between them is affectionate but at times also uneasy: Blake is about to leave for Antarctica on a risky, eco-interventionist mission and he has told Sandra that he wants to have a child with her. She has mixed feelings about this: is it wise to bring children into this world? Blake is of the view that they are fighting hard for a better world – that of their children. Deep down, Sandra has to admit she does hear the call of motherhood, but she fears the “shipwreck” of this world.

SCENE NINE – The bees (2)

Fifteen bees buzz around.

SCENE TEN – Cradle song

Naomi sings a lullaby to her unborn baby: a girl she is going to call Alexandra.

SCENE ELEVEN – A ship on its way to Antarctica

Sandra has finished her thesis. She performs her comedy show one last time, but the tone is much more serious now and not everyone in the audience appreciates this. Insults are hurled at Sandra and some members of the audience leave the room. Sandra announces that she is done with the stage and academia and plans to become an activist like Blake, who is on his way to Antarctica. What she doesn’t know is that her parents and sister are also in the audience. While the show is still in progress, Sandra’s father receives the terrible news that the activists’ ship has gone down and there is no trace of Blake. On learning the news after the show, Sandra collapses. At the same moment, Naomi’s waters break; her child is coming. Sandra finds herself alone. Then Cassandra appears.

SCENE TWELVE – Nobody will ever take my voice away from me

It gradually begins to dawn on Sandra that she is in Cassandra’s presence and that their fates are intertwined. It is as if the grief-stricken Cassandra is trying to comfort Sandra – she recognizes only too well what the young woman is going through. Before she disappears, Cassandra presses home the message that no god can spit in Sandra’s mouth. No one can ever prevent her from being “heard”.

SCENE THIRTEEN – The bees (3)

Five bees buzz around, unaware of what is happening.