Etiquette will orchestrate your small talk (and make you God)


You sit at a table. Your eyes are shut. A voice speaks calmly into your ear: “Look at your hands. You are about sixty. Across the table from you, a young woman is sitting. Let’s say that if she speaks to you, I’ll reply, and you just say what I say. It’s probably better if you make it seem like they’re your own words.”

Etiquette is a bizarre but clever theatrical experience which takes you through being an actor in a play you know nothing about, to playing puppeteer with the little figures on the table who turn out to be Nora and Torvald of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Using chalk to draw the walls and doors and wedding rings on the table which is their universe, you watch their separation without quite knowing whether you are powerless to stop it or have just orchestrated it.

“Keep walking up the hill, or you’ll get caught in the rain. Put the dropper back in the glass. Open your eyes.” The roles of God and actor merge and we find ourselves in a murder mystery. Bewitched by the voice coming through my headphones, I write on a piece of paper “Sweetheart, don’t go in the bathroom. Your mother will know what to do. Forgive me.” Small plastic figures are “buried” under blu-tack. Drops of blood fall into a glass of water.

And suddenly, the scene ends: once again I, the old man, and Frankie Goodway, the young and beautiful prostitute, sit opposite each other in a café, and make the small talk that Etiquette requires us to.

-Sarah Gashi

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