Incognito*** (Bush Theatre)

Posted: June 16, 2014 in Theatre

incognitoThroughout Nick Payne’s play, we can see what purports to be Einstein’s brain in a large jar of formaldehyde, so that it is almost as if the audience is being taunted by being told that this is what we would need in order to understand what is going on. “Incomprehensible” could have been a more appropriate title for this theatrical equivalent to the Rubik’s cube. In fact, we are told that Einstein’s brain, when dissected and examined under a microscope, looked like any other and that is as far as Payne goes in considering anatomical questions. His play is about the brain in a metaphysical sense, its functions and malfunctions. Several connected stories, spanning different decades and different continents, are intertwined in a complex structure, with four actors taking all the roles, switching rapidly from one to another, sometimes whilst on stage, with only changes in accents to help us to identify them. The play’s text is on sale at the Bush and it needs to be read before seeing the play performed, or maybe before seeing it performed for a second time. Not having read it, I often needed to glance at surtitles for the hearing impaired to get help with character identification. All that said, the feelings of bewilderment and disorientation which the play generates could well add to enjoyment of it by heightening dramatic tension. Maybe we are just meant to savour the individual components and not attempt to piece them together to make a cohesive whole. The actors, Paul Hickey, Amelia Lowdell, Alison O’Donnell and Sargon Yelda are all superb and Joe Murphy’s production moves at a lightning pace to give a constant bombardment on the senses. An entertaining and accomplished 90 minutes, so who cares if the brain hurts a little at the end of it?

Performance date: 13 June 2014

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