A JOURNEY ROUND MY SKULL
by Olivia Winteringham and Nick Walker.
Norwich Arts Centre 51 St Benedicts St, Norwich NR2 4PG 15 May.
TICKETS: 01603 660352.
then Arena Theatre Wulfruna Street WV1 1SE 22 May.
9pm (double-bill with Lady GoGo Goch at 7.30pm).
TICKETS: 01902 321321.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 May at mac Birmingham.
From operating theatre to arts centre, and admirable exposition of an experience close to the core of human life.
Amazing what can be done under local anaesthetic these days (Kindle Theatre credit a consultant anaesthetist alongside a Neurosurgeon and Professor of Auditory Neuroscience for this show). Like the removal of a brain tumour, when the ability to ask questions and offer explanations seems part of the process.
This happened to Hungarian Frigyes Karinthy late last century, and Kindle’s one-person performance is based on his book describing diagnosis and operation.
Having an (unseen) patient with an unreliable memory overcomes the problem of exposition. For the patient cannot rely on recall of previous consultations, and as he’s reminded we’re brought up to date too.
Less successful is the piece’s Hollywood-like development of a personal relationship between medic Julia Barossa and her patient. Seeing the latter’s behaviour can also be violent and unpredictable, Barossa’s seeing him alone for consultations is itself unwise – especially, in a dress which is a fine length when she’s standing, but, as Eddie Carbone tells his teenage niece in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, you have to sit down sometime.
And, in operating theatre or consulting-room, the relationship developed here could see a doctor out of the door before they’d had time to scrape a scalpel. It’s good to see Barossa is more than a professional devoid of personality (and maybe they do things differently in Hungary). But this relationship detracts from the show’s technical and thematic strengths.
Which are evident in Olivia Winteringham’s admirably sustained and clear exposition of the case-history and proposed surgical solution of removing the tumour which has been causing troubles including auditory hallucinations.
For the operation, audience-members don headphones and experience Iain Armstrong’s clinically detailed binaural soundscape. As Barossa’s voice guides events around a model head, sounds of shaving, scraping and incising seem to be in individual craniums, with equipment and people moving only inches away.
Such technical wizardry of the present age is also integral to an adventurous piece that applies both acting and technical sophistication to examine a part of life that touches on the essential matter of human identity.
The ‘Hollywood’ element aside, this is valuable exploratory drama.
Julia Barossa: Olivia Winteringham.
Director: Graeme Rose.
Designer/Lighting: Ben Pacey.
Sound: Iain Armstrong.