A new play by Nick Payne
Donmar Warehouse to June 18
41 Earlham Street,
London WC2H 9LX
7.30, mats Thurs, Sat 2.30pm
Box Office: 0844 871 7624 (Booking fee of £2.50 per transaction)
Telephone Mon-Sat 9am-10pm, Sun 10am-8pm
In person, Mon-Sat, 10am-curtain up (No booking fee)
Runs: 1hr incl interval
Review by Carole Woddis of performance seen April 29, 2016
Tightly packed punches
Nick Payne packs more into an hour than most playwrights into a lifetime.
That’s probably a bit of an exaggeration. But no question he is a master of brevity in the way Beckett spun a thought and a world into twenty minutes or less. Elegy, a companion piece to Payne’s recent Incognito is a further scientific/psychological study into the workings of the human brain focussing on the bit that can’t be measured – emotion and specifically our capacity for love.
Incognito, like some rubric cube, explored the nature of identity by way of obsession with Einstein’s brain and loss of memory. In the barely an hour long Elegy, Payne again delves into identity but from a different angle encompassing loss of memory but this time from the effect of medical intervention.
We’ve been here before, particularly in plays dealing with depression. Do you, in healing one area take away in another that special component that makes life worth living, ie feeling?
In Elegy, Zoë Wanamaker’s Lorna has some unspecified brain disease. The cure may be to cut it out thus restoring functionality but in so doing, the cost may be to wipe-out memory of the last twenty years or so her life which has included falling in love with Barbara Flynn’s Carrie.
Not only is it rare for a male playwright to write of such a relationship but Payne does so with a delicacy that, as directed by Josie Rourke and played by Wanamaker and particularly Flynn, endows it with tenderness, wit and spontaneity that gives it total conviction. .
Structurally, Payne too, Elegy (for a relationship) has a perfect circularity, working backwards in time from the moment when Carrie first comes to see Lorna after her op when Carrie’s response to her attempts to rekindle the memory of what they once had -`I miss not loving you’ – is basically a blank, to the moment of their joint decision whether to go ahead or not with the procedure.
An exploration of choice, medical science and what makes us human, Nina Sosanya as Carrie’s doctor too captures just the right note Payne injects into her character of studied medical neutrality.
In all senses, terrific.
A new play by Nick Payne
Carrie: Barbara Flynn
Lorna: Zoë Wanamaker
Miriam: Nona Sosanya
Director: Josie Rourke
Designer: Tom Scutt
Lighting Designer: Paule Constable
Sound Designer: Ian Dickinson (for Autograph)
Associate Designer: Rosie Elnile
Casting: Alastair Coomber CDG
World premiere of Elegy at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre, London, April 21, 2016.