Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Science and theatre meet at the Contact

When I decided to book myself a ticket to the first Manchester showing of Reykjavik last night the last thing I expected was to end up dancing, in a Tyvek suit, with strangers, to Sting’s Walking on the Moon.

At the beginning of the show, the audience dons white Tyvek suits and goggles, and embarks upon a meandering journey, from memory to memory of the main character who describes himself as ‘Y’.

Played by Jonathan Young, Y tells you the story of his past relationship with S, who he met in Paris. She was married with two children, but ends the marriage and together they move to S's homeland, Iceland, to begin a new life which is threatened by patterns of the past. The story is illustrated with vivid flash-backs to key events and connected experiences. The audience perspective flits from the fly on the wall to becoming the set. In some memories you observe from the edge of the stage, which is transformed into a runway or a swimming pool; in other memories you are a statue in Rodin’s garden or a dancing at a late night party.

These immersive scenes are conjured with lighting, sound and minimal props that plunge you into the past. I loved the parallels between this use of sensory prompts and how specific sights, sounds and tastes can trigger specific memories.

Patterns are mentioned a lot in the dialogue, emphasized with the set, and in a hand out distributed at the end of the performance, Dr Hugo Spiers (a neuroscientist at UCL) discusses the parallels between these patterns and those of memories. Y reflects on how patterns of cracks in glacial ice form and reform through thawing and refreezing; Spiers writes how patterns of memories are not fixed but can be shifted each time they are recalled, altering what you remember from initial experiences.

Reykjavik is absorbing, playful and meditative. The scientific angle is not obvious, but the play provides for some interesting reflection on what and how we remember, and what is lost.

You can catch Reykjavik at Contact from Tuesday 7 to Saturday 11 June 2011, 7pm & 9pm.
Head to Contact's website to book tickets.
Reykjavik is part of Lost & Found, a festival of interdisciplinary arts and performance in Manchester.

Funded by Wellcome trust, created in collaboration with the neuroscientist Dr Hugo Spiers, and produced by Time Won't Wait.

Emily Wiles - Manchester Science Festival Officer

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