by Nick Payne.
The North Wall, South Parade OX2 7JN To 10 May.
Tue-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 01865 319450.
then Bush Theatre 7 Uxbridge Road W12 8LJ 14-May-21 June 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm (except 15 May 7pm) Mat Wed (from 21 May) & Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 020 8743 5050.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 May.
An invigorating mental switchback ride.
Fragmentation is frequent in playwriting today, but rarely as integral to a play’s point as with Nick Payne’s Incognito. Having taken on the cosmos in his play Constellations he shifts from macro to micro, and the sense of individual identity.
For centuries the idea nothing exists outside an individual’s consciousness has been mooted, while in 17th-century Spain Pierre Calderon’s Life Is A Dream opened-up the possibility that what we call dreams might be reality, what’s seen as reality actually dreaming.
The defence against this has been the continuity of waking life – the memos and log-books it writes itself, not in documents, which could be dreamed, but in the mind.
Payne presents such a dazzling, and quick-moving constellation of possibilities as the mood ranges from semi-burlesque (Einstein’s brain carried about in a car-boot for experimentation), to tragic, the pianist Henry unable to remember anything from moment to moment, that it’s hard to say if any of the ideas that arise are meant to be taken as an anchor for it all.
If there is one, it may lie with confabulation; the concept (roughly put) that the brain (also exposed recently in Kindle Theatre’s exploratory A Journey Round My Skull) re-orders memories to convince itself of a single life controlled by the individual.
It’s clearest with Henry, eventually seen in the early stage of distraction which the opening scenes have already shown advanced to forgetting what happened a moment ago. But it stretches to other characters in a series of scenes shifting so swiftly one barely ends before another’s begun.
Designer Oliver Townsend places the action, like the brain, at the centre of things, with audience on two sides, and a complex of metal piping hanging above. Either side of the stage is an upright piano, on which Henry tries playing, the workings of hammers and strings exposed. It makes an apt setting for the pace Joe Murphy’s production maintains, the four actors moving faultlessly between characters with very different states of mind and individual temperaments.
One day it might all come to seem simple. Meantime, it’s an invigorating mental switchback ride
Pat/Margaret: Alison O’Donnell.
Harvey/Victor: Paul Hickey.
Martha/Evelyn: Amelia Lowdell.
Henry/Michael: Sargon Yelda,
Director: Joe Murphy.
Designer/Costume: Oliver Townsend.
Lighting: Tim Delling.
Sound/Music: Isobel Waller-Bridge.
Dialect coach: Helen Ashton.
Fight director: Haruka Kuroda.
Assistant director: Hannah Joss.