2401 Objects/Snap.Catch.Slam, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
Thursday 25 August 2011
Henry Molaison was a mild-mannered American who became the most famous amnesiac in the world. Having suffered fits in childhood, he underwent experimental brain surgery in 1953. That procedure cured him of his epilepsy but left him unable to form new memories, condemning him to live life in an eternal, infernal present. After he died in 2008, his brain was dissected, live on the internet, into 2,401 slices, in an attempt to learn something more about the man with no memory.
For their latest show, Analogue tell the story of Molaison's unique brain, splicing the life of the man himself with the observations of the surgeon, Dr Jacopo Anese, who performed the dissection to 400,000 viewers online in 2009. The subject is ideally suited to Analogue's experimental, science-inspired approach. Their last show, Beachy Head, combined animation, live-action filming and a forensic exploration of pathology and grief in a moving piece about Britain's most notorious suicide spot.
In 2401 Objects, a flexible gauze acts as the gateway between past and present – one minute the white picket fence of Henry's younger years, the next the beige corridor of the health centre in which he spent the last 20 years of his life – while a cast of three fluidly swap roles. In one jazzy scene we see Henry's memories literally being wiped. In another we watch Anese, en route to the operation, carving up his airline meal in grotesque close-up. It's all very stimulating but it feels over-done and, at 75 minutes, a little hasty. The tragic tale of Henry Molaison doesn't really need all the whizz-bangery – it's already extraordinary.
Also at the Pleasance is Snap.Catch.Slam, by the Analogue writer Emma Jowett. There's no fancy stagecraft here, just three people sitting on three chairs on three runs of carpet. Inspired by real-life events, Jowett has written a trio of compelling pieces in which seemingly ordinary talking heads describe the extraordinary moments that changed their lives forever.
There is a tightly wound teacher who lashes out at a bullying pupil; a pub raconteur who comes across a burning tower block; and a lonely divorcée waiting for her five-year-old daughter to return from her play-date. It is powerful stuff, made all the more so by some committed performances and a sickening soundtrack of thumps, thuds and crackling. I could have done without the additional characters who intrude on the last two monologues but this is an hour of intense of storytelling which builds to a devastating emotional climax.
'2401 Objects': to 28 August; 'Snap.Catch. Slam': to 29 August (0131 556 6550)
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