Loco Motion: Railway Perception, Relativity, and the Stage
I've nothing more to say. I have the feeling that all my thoughts have been snuffed out of my brain. I'm only an extension of this throttle, as if my brains had been skewered and spitted on this iron lever. But it's more than that; I've become the engine. I'm the one that's racing through space like a bull, ready to impale myself on the blade of my destiny.
(Stanislaw Witkiewicz 1966 : 101-2)
This passage from Polish playwright Stanislaw Witkiewicz's The Crazy Locomotive (1923) stages an encounter between the mind of an engineer and the machinery of a train. Although at this point in the play the engineer can still describe his physical and mental assimilation into the locomotive, his speech negates his ability to communicate: he has ‘nothing more to say’. Throughout, the large chugging machine frequently interrupts the characters with loud whistles, mechanical sounds and steam that obscures the entire set, literally drowning out their audible language and visible bodies. As the train moves, a cinematic backdrop depicts the passing landscape and dominates the perceptual field. The machinery of transportation both upstages its human occupants and incorporates their actions and thoughts into its forward motion.
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
Gillette, K. (2007). Loco motion: Railway perception, relativity and the stage. Performance Research, 12(2), 21-30. doi: 10.1080/13528160701554584