The figure lifted up its head, which was wrapped tightly in a hood, and she saw that inside the hood, it was completely empty, or at least there was no face, only a darkness where light can’t reach.
The figure of the ‘thing without a face’ looms prominently over Rebekah King’s audio play, In a Cave, A Voice. In a Neolithic world of spirits, magic, and mythical monsters, this being is the one tangible thing facing the tough but vulnerable people living within this harsh landscape. This image of the hooded creature is a way the characters try to make sense of a phenomenon they don’t entirely understand. They can spend all night trying to fully comprehend the totality of what’s beyond life, but they (and us too) will never really fully grasp it until it happens. “However wise we are we die,” explains the ‘sister’ of the cave girl (Claire Chung), “but only we understand as much.”
A similar kind of dread also overcomes the characters of Mark Fenton’s This is a Love Song. Faced with the imminent fact of the end of the world, they begin to question what things in their lives really matter to them: the missed opportunities, the painful mistakes, the possibilities cruelly snatched away from them all as the minutes tick down. “If death is the end and there’s no time left to live, what do we actually do?” asks Sally (Gina Hunt), a question that haunts everyone in this world, just as the thing without a face haunts the cave people in their world.
The cast really convey this despair and insecurity across well (under the strong direction of Fenton and Megan Farquhar) – although I imagine that the current existential threat from a global pandemic probably helps them get into the mindset of their characters. Over Zoom they wonder aloud what it will feel like when the end does finally come. Jamie (Emily Storme) doesn’t feel like it will mean anything when she dies – “I think it’ll just happen.” Sally sees it more optimistically: “I like to think that in that last little second it all makes sense. Your brain figures it out […] after endless seconds of chaos there’s that one moment of calm. Then nothing.”
When the thing without a face eventually comes for the cave girl, she gracefully succumbs to her fate. There’s no climatic end or struggle – she just puts down her spear, takes off her coat and grasps her walking staff as she obediently follows the cloaked figure into the white sparse expanse of winter. Left alone once again in the shadowy firelight of a cave deep in time, all we can really do is learn to become comfortable with the dark, so when our time comes to extinguish the embers, we will be ready to face it with dignity and grace.
For Sally and Jamie however, death comes to them as a thrilling, all-consuming release. The colour-blind Sally finally sees all the blazing hues of the world again, as it explodes and disintegrates around her. The refreshing euphoria as she kisses Jamie is palpable in the beautiful prose that accompanies that final moment before the endless blackout.