Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Lecture Notes on a Death Scene, Camden People’s Theatre

Review: Lecture Notes on a Death Scene, Camden People’s Theatre

The death scene up for consideration in this reflective spine-tingler from Analogue is your own.

At least, it is one of your own, for the lecture doing the considering concerns Jorge Luis Borges’s short story The Garden of Forking Paths, an illustration of parallel lives and universes. So, as well as victim, you’re also lecturer and killer, witness and writer. The result is like a refracted reflection; a fly’s eye view of your selves.

Essentially, Borges holds that we multiply at each choice we face, with an infinite number of different selves diverging. The life we live is one forked path amongst an infinite number.

In this instructional (not fully interactive) piece for one, Analogue make you feel the presence of those ghostly selves on your shoulder. Each time you act, you’re aware of the choice and, as such, the divergent selves peeling away from you. It’s a canny use of the solo audience format, which is inevitably – perhaps inherently – reflexive.

Dressed in a blue hoodie, you glimpse these other selves in the mirror that faces you. They sit with their backs to you, their faces obscured, holding the same photograph you hold. They sneak out the door just before you catch sight of them. They feel as if they’re standing just behind you, but you daren’t turn around to check.

Admittedly, it’s a slight piece; one that elegantly catches a familiar philosophical idea, but never quite shakes it about. The same goes for its sensations, for it induces a shudder without actually unsettling; it’s too easily thrown off once you’ve left.

The multiple narratives, which fades in and out of the fog of philosophy and sets you driving into the woods at night, could use a little more care. However, this is an inventively staged and smartly structured experience, which makes a hall of mirrors of a darkened room and surrounds you with warped reflections.

Photograph: Analogue

One Comment

  1. Constellations is, essentially, using a love story to illustrate a philosophical concept. Roland and Marianne aren’t themselves important. They can’t be, because nothing they do ultimately matters. In another universe, things will turn out differently, thus rendering narrative momentum irrelevant. What it does – much like Georges Perec’s A Void, in which the author steers clear of the letter e – is show the playwright’s own controlling hand. Their ‘choices’ are all really his and, at any given moment, he can take them down any path he so wishes. Roland and Marianne – all characters – have no more free will than a puppet on a string.

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