Three archaeologists pore over excavated shreds of paper in a dusty back office. What do they say? Muse, daughter of Memory and siren of Jazz, is about to arrive and bring these jumbled letters to life…
Fragments is a piece of theatre made out of a few dozen shredded and discarded paper scraps from the ancient past: fragments of a play by the famous Greek playwright Euripides.
Presenting glimpses of a lost masterpiece through reconstruction, speculation, shadow puppetry and song, Fragments is both an exploration of the weird world of those who study papyrus, and a meditation on how we construct the truth and piece together the past.
fragments of what?
In the Sackler Library in Oxford is a small back office with walls lined by 1970s wood panelling and dozens of cupboards. These cupboards are filled with hundreds of cardboard boxes. And the boxes contain hundreds of thousands of fragments of papyrus, dating back 2000 years.
They were found by Victorian archaeologists who had discovered a gigantic ancient rubbish dump while digging in the Egyptian desert. There are fragments of shopping lists, of tax receipts, business correspondence, personal letters - and fragments of ancient Greek including from works that have been lost.
There are so many that the majority of the fragments in the collection are untouched, still waiting to be deciphered by one of a tiny handful of experts. It is anticipated that this process could take decades to complete.