Monday, 18 May 2015

Interview with Shannon Yee about Reassembled, Slightly Askew

Interview: Shannon Yee

Shannon Yee: Reassembled, Slightly Askew
Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast
30 April – 5 May 2015

In the run up to Christmas 2008, Shannon Yee (born 1978) and her partner Gráinne Close both had colds. When Yee began to see strange auras and slur her speech, however, Close rushed her to hospital, where they discovered that Yee was suffering from a sinus infection that had progressed into a life-threatening subdural empyema, a rare brain infection which, if left unnoticed for another hour, might have claimed her life. As it was, Yee spent three months in hospital, where, after a craniotomy to remove the pus and alleviate the pressure, a section of her skull was placed in her abdomen to keep it safe until she was well enough to have it replaced. During her time in hospital, which involved IV antibiotic treatment and a second (and later third) craniotomy when the infection returned, Yee was left paralysed down her left side for approximately three weeks. As a result of the infection, she now lives with an acquired brain injury, which affects her cognitive, emotional, behavioural and physical abilities – albeit not noticeably so from her outward appearance.

From early on, Yee, a playwright, knew that she was going to use her experiences to produce a new work. About a year into recovery, she began the creative collaboration that would lead to her immersive sonic artwork, Reassembled, Slightly Askew, which takes the audience on a whirlwind ride through her experiences of being, as the title suggests, “disassembled, and reassembled, slightly askew”. When I went to Belfast for the preview of this new work, despite having already met and spoken at length with Yee, I didn’t know what to expect. Arriving at the designated side room in the MAC at my appointment time, I was met by a nurse, who had me fill out a form and who then tagged me with a medical bracelet. I was then led into a darkened room – scented with hibiscrub – and shown to my bed, where I was to spend the next 48 minutes, with headphones and an eye mask, being transported to the intensive care unit where Yee woke up, hearing the voices of Close, Yee herself, her neurosurgeon and nurse, and, after her release, some of the sounds that surround us every day, but which we don’t notice, unless, like Yee, we have suffered something that makes us hypersensitive to noise. Experiencing this work really is something beyond words. Even Yee’s consultant neurosurgeon confessed: “I thought this was going to be something ‘arty-farty’. I had no idea it would affect me so profoundly and viscerally.” The work has potential on many different levels: as an art installation, as a theatrical piece and as a teaching tool.

Northern Ireland Tour Dates:

Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast
30 April – 5 May 2015

Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick
6-10 May 2015

The Playhouse, Derry
11-15 May 2015

Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart
18-22 May 2015

Burnavon Arts Cenre, Cookstown
25-29 May 2015

Island Arts Centre, Lisburn
1-6 June 2015

Arts & Disability Forum’s BOUNCE! Festival 
3-6 September 2015

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