Monday 11 August 2014

A Journey Round My Skull – Summerhall

[seen 06/08/14]

There’s a haunting moment in Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis where one of the unnamed speakers says: “Fuck you. Fuck you for making me fall in love with someone who doesn’t exist.” Which, in a curious way, is also how A Journey Round My Skull works, on at least two levels.

Based on Utazás a Koponyám Körül by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy, Journey... turns out to be a remarkably straightforward bit of solo-performance. Olivia Winteringham even does *proper acting* and a pitch-perfect middle-European accent. The deal is, we in the audience are playing the patient, and our neurosurgeon is explaining to us what’s happened before. We have a brain tumour, you see, and it’s pressing down on a bit of our left temporal cortex, affecting all sorts of bits of our memory, causing unpredictable violent mood shifts, and making us experience auditory hallucinations.

The twist is our neurosurgeon is also falling in love with us. And we are falling in love with her. Winteringham’s performance of a slightly nervous, intensely intelligent, slightly-goofy-joke-making, beautiful, slender woman, with a devastating accent, makes this part of the show ridiculously plausible. The problem is once we have the tumour removed, will we be the same person? Will we still be in love with her? Will the person we were still be the person she fell in love with? On this level, it suddenly feels like the piece could be about any number of conditions – depression, alcoholism, whatever – you name it; this anxiety seems common to all such sufferers. On one hand, of course they want the cure, on the other hand, would they really want to lose all the up-sides and the rushes and creativity and stupid excess passion that comes along with the suffering. Numerous interviews and, well, hell, whole lives, bear testament to the fact that the answer is never as simple as you might hope.

Rather depressingly, the conclusion is that, no, with the tumour (or whatever thing you’ve made that a metaphor for) removed, the love affair abruptly ends. And we only meet of neurosurgeon one more time, in the middle of Budapest, near Heroes Square (does every central European city have a Heldenplatz?), and we go off on a ghost train ride together.

[posted as placeholder. Needs final para.]

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