Howard, with his tangled mind back in the jungles of New Guinea warfare, seeks out his enemy, bayonet fixed. He’s cunning. Stealthy. He attacks, grabbing at his adversary, as his thirteen-year-old daughter finally wriggles free and runs outside onto Hope Street.
Howard’s war-riddled torment begins to take shape. The Small family exists in the tension between trauma and ordinary life in the house on Hope Street. Terror punctuates scenes of banality. As a piano overlooks a paling fence, Howard lumbers toward his daughter, meat cleaver raised high above his head. As peas are popped from their pods, Rhonda is raped in the garage.
Many years later, when panic builds to breaking point, the adult Rhonda seeks the help of a psychiatrist. Gradually wading through memories brought on by Howard’s insanity, Rhonda slowly begins to see herself and open her tight fists to trust.
When the ‘what is’ defies sanity then the ‘what is not’ becomes sane. When the visible world we live in is unsafe then a different reality must be invented.
Welcome to Rhonda’s created world of ‘what is’. Of DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder).Meet The Master Planner, who created the plan, adapting the system as needed. Lucy, whose role is to function in the outside world but to remain almost invisible, carefully observing the behaviour of others. Mary, who uses geometric shapes in order to contain the father’s insanity. Open a portal into the place in which they all live: a medieval castle set high on a cliff above the sea. Bethany, who lives alone in the turret of the castle guarding the threads of moonlight that help to keep alive The One Who was Born and hears the wind as her dreams rest in the cradle of its lullabies. Join Stones as she walks a track parallel to yet outside the trauma. Watching but never taking anything of the pathology of the original ‘what is’ within her.
Here, Libby enters: a therapist with no personal agenda, just compassion, strong boundaries and skill.
Rhonda writes to her brother, Matthew, revealing a sibling who is mathematically gifted but filled with childhood feelings of cowardice. He tries but can’t prevent the violence inflicted on his sister, though he is often there to pick up the pieces and carry her, often as Emma, safely to her room.
From Matt’s dysfunctional maths lessons and in order to help retain safety, Rhonda creates a system of geometric shapes.
A letter to her sister Kate, shows a more gentle side of life in the house in Hope Street. Rhonda attends the local school until being sent away to boarding school for a year in an attempt to protect her from Howard’s assault. She lives in fear of her dog Prince, the most precious being in her life, being harmed while she’s gone.
Returning home she attends secondary school, her internal system working well to shield her and to maintain the law of silence.
Later in her life, the music that lives within her is unlocked.
The Heap, a major part of her system created as the final recipient of the rape and physical violence and described by another alter as “limp, filthy and disgusting”, gradually becomes more visible.
The Storyteller relates the tale of the small child (Rhonda) who travels through the forest of dreams to capture her imagination. She is thwarted at each turn by Wicked Witch who, despite her own ‘unreality’, doesn’t believe in fantasy. This tale is interrupted by Ezekiel, an alter created to put everything on a stage, to be observed. He describes The Shining, the purity of the newborn child whom they had all been created in order to protect.
Magnitude enters with his words of wisdom: ”The ultimate reality is the Self.”
In a short letter written by Howard to his wife Mavis, he ponders what life would have been like for them if the war hadn’t interrupted and so changed their lives.
We meet Mavis, now in her nineties as Rhonda writes to her. She is detached, and at times cruel with her words.
Nothing is to ever escape about life within the house in Hope Street. Rhonda’s mind is almost turned inside out knowing that even though she is being raped and terrorised by her father, this is never acknowledged and each person pretends that it is not happening. Yet the trauma continues. Howard tries to strangle her. He rapes her with a broom handle when she is four.
The contradictions are hard to understand as her mother encourages her to learn the piano, takes her to see the film of “Tosca”, opening up the world of music.
Once again we have a glimpse into the relationship between Howard and Mavis as she writes to him. We see them as they were before the inhumanity of war destroyed him.
As time progresses Howard’s insanity becomes more intense. His eyes are more often the ‘steely eyes’ of a father no longer present in the real world, and one who is capable of anything. At these times The Judge, in order to remain one step ahead takes over, trying desperately to see the unreality through the father’s eyes.
Emma finds herself tied up under a car. Ruth comes to talk to about her hands bound and a hessian back tied over her head. Libby witnesses the savage cry of battle as the Soldier speaks to her. And Rhonda consciously experiences moments of such intense terror, when no moment exists before or after. When all senses close down, the body is frozen and the mind is beyond all thought.
As each memory finally surfaces we are invited into the therapy room to experience the different ways in which the trauma is processed.
The Storyteller returns with the scattering of Howard’s ashes and creates a story to help the children of the system understand what ‘dead’ means.
Katherine, an alter covered in spikes is on full alert. Rhonda’s bedroom has become a disconnected cube, moving her towards eternal silence, totally separated from the rest of the human race “ with no ladder, no spider’s thread. No way in or out.”
Rhonda, who is sixteen becomes pregnant to her father.
Mary immediately takes over but is paralysed, frozen in a tableau of catatonic shock.
Magnitude returns with florid words of calming wisdom.
As Rhonda writes to say goodbye to her mother, we see that her Self has become visible and present but still at a distance as Magnitude says: “you are not yet ready to meet your Self”.
The Storyteller returns, opening the page on the gang rape while Rhonda observes, safely removed, as if it is happening on a TV screen.
Emma talks to Libby. The terror mounting as her father threatens to decapitate her.
Rhonda begins to understand that each of these ‘people’ are all parts of her and is guided on a journey into the Deep, deep silence where she once again observes her Self.
We are taken into a theatre where the Narrator, Magnitude and Rhonda, with several inner children show us the story of “The Fires, the Embers and the Stone”. Rhonda begins to realise that she and The Heap are one in the same. Mary is welcomed into a different space where ”there is no terror nor the fragmentation of madness”.
Bethany reaches out to someone outside the square reality, the beginning of a break in the imposed wall of silence. The castle comes alive as we walk into a room full of colour and look out to see the forest and fields that stretch outwards with no fences. The Invisible Force has been disarmed.
The muse returns and Rhonda writes a commissioned choral work. A story takes us on a journey, following the Purple Emu with the disconnected head to find and bring back the Self from which Rhonda had been separated for such a long time.
Rhonda is finally separating from her father and, in a short letter to him, does not condone his violent behaviour but understands it.
A cameo—Hope Street Now
A walk down Hope Street brings the joyful sounds of children at play, the touch of the water in the creek, the taste of the milk curdled from the sun in the bitumen playground of the school. But suddenly this all vanishes and all that is left are the rocks, the trees and the buildings. Yesterday has folded backwards into the past and Rhonda can heave a sigh of relief.
It’s their turn at last. Several alters write to Libby, saying thank you for being there, for listening, for believing them.
Even though he has been dead for over forty years, Rhonda’s identification with her father was complete. The Stockholm Syndrome. In order to disconnect and completely separate from him she needed to find a male therapist. It’s a short therapy but one in which Rhonda, as an adult, finally watches her father walk away and takes the hand of a small child who carries a raspberry coloured stone in her hands. She is called Hope and she and Rhonda are one.