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Resonance FM’s ‘The Sentence’ is a punctuationless adventure and meditation

One sentence, four hours, no punctuation. It might not sound like it, but The Sentence is brilliant radio, reckons Robin Ince.

The Sentence is a shamanic spell as much as a story if you ask those who have been to readings of it about the experience. It has now been recorded and can be found at Resonance FM. The author, Alistair Fruish, works creating art and radio projects in prisons. He wanted to create a book that had none of the possible hindrances for those who may have lacked much of an education in literacy. The whole book is in monosyllables and there is no punctuation, it is just one long sentence, but what a sentence. It is an adventure and a meditation.

In its live form, readers are seated in a line. One is asked to start reading and, every two to three pages, another reader takes over. All participants must concentrate intensively, following the lines while looking out from the nod of director, Daisy Campbell, and find meaning in the comma-devoid and question mark-less landscape.

Listeners at home can’t enjoy some of the live delights. As the reading is four hours without a break, audience members may wish to get a drink or got to the toilet. But a reader will follow them and continue the recital, even as far as the toilet door.

I was a reader once and almost walked into the cubicle. This is a work best heard in a low-lit room and in one fell swoop. Though four hours is a commitment, it is far more potent if you can manage that. It is intriguing how each voice finds meaning without the instruction of a full stop or exclamation mark. Its rhythm can sound like something between Under Milk Wood and A Clockwork Orange. It creates a cacophony of images, a seemingly insane collage, but with meaning behind it. It is a game of language with powerful momentum and many interpretations.

As the reading is four hours without a break, audience members may wish to get a drink or got to the toilet. But a reader will follow them and continue the recital, even as far as the toilet door

I was invited by Alistair to go to Brixton prison to partake in Space is the Place, a collaboration between The National Space Centre and National Prison Radio. This four-part series allowed prisoners to ask scientists about the Cassini mission to Saturn, the Hubble telescope and find out exactly what happens when the sun swells into a red giant and engulfs our planet – don’t worry, you’ve got a good few years yet.

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Hopefully, no one reading this will hear the series as this requires being incarcerated, but the curiosity from the participants was invigorating as was the inspiration that was provided by the astrophysicists whose work led to prisoners with no previous interest in space exploration creating stories and art.

That’s the great thing about telling people about the contents of the universe, there should be something to inspire anyone, whether it is the aurora borealis, a supernova or the spaghettification that may occur if you are clumsy enough to fall into a black hole.

Space is the place and we live right in the middle of it, or at least that’s how it seems. But I’ll wait until I write about Radio Four’s The Life Scientific before I try to dissect human perception of where we are in the universe.

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