Anna McNay

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.

To read this interview, please go to:

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