Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 10 March 2015

Fiction

Battersea Arts Centre ⋄ 3rd - 21st March 2015

All that we see or seem.

Mary Halton

Memory is unreliable.

I don’t know what shoes I wore to Fiction, but I remember the dress – eggshell blue with ruffled tucks that tugged at my knees as I crossed and uncrossed them in the dark. The first few times I went to BAC, several years ago now, I could never remember whether I needed to turn right or left coming out of Clapham Junction. Now I know the route by heart; big road, little road, little road, little road, big road, little road, BAC. I check Google maps. I’ve missed one. Perhaps it flashes by too quickly as I jog up the hill. Always only just on time.

Memory is unreliable.

The screen tells us. We’re seated for a lecture as the room fills up, but our headphones have removed the normal conversational hum that fills a space which hasn’t quite settled down – instead we have low music, the occasional cough or shift of a seat. “The number on your headphones corresponds to the number on your seat.” 4072. I’ve committed that to memory. I won’t need it.

A series of slides, like a memory test. An oddly dated hotel room. A forest. My visual memory (the only decent bit) holds them perfectly. Could describe the items in them, if called upon. Won’t need them.

Then. Deep breath. Lights fade. I look straight up at the last lamp as it dims to nothing, directly above my head, and descend into darkness. Smiling. My favourite place. I would gladly pay the ticket price not to be given a show at all, but just to sit in darkness for the same duration. It’s a luxury; rarer than gold, now. In this city. Complete pitch. How precious.

My companion arrives. A soft French voice that whispers though no one else does and I will never know why. I don’t picture her – she is always behind me. Perhaps she has a long beige coat. I think. Yes. And dark hair. Shoulder length.

We go up to the hotel room. I unintentionally neglect the previous visual cues and instead construct my own room. It has odd empty spaces, unfilled by sound or hint of what might be there; like the unfinished edges of a painting.

So proceeds the dream. We move around the hotel. The tasks are random. The stray people we meet have a logic entirely of their own. Sometimes I wake up in a car, driving with my companion, endlessly through the rain. The music is playing again; awakening a memory barely 20 minutes old. Feeling much older. It will reappear afterwards, again and again, as though it’s now the hold music for my brain until it abruptly stops. A few days later. As though someone has just paused the tape. To listen.

One of the voices is Chris Brett Bailey’s and I grin a Cheshire cat grin of recognition into the darkness. I wonder how all our reactions look. Uncensored. Unwatched.

But I can never quite sink into Fiction. Not all the way. Though the scattered logic is that of a dream, the conscious mind struggles to piece it together at the time of happening, not in the hazy post-REM wake. And I am not the protagonist – I cannot effect change here, only be carried through a narrative that I know is unaltered by my presence. My friend Natalie later points out her confusion at characters describing things to each other that they could both see – she had assumed that perhaps the action of the world was being described to her because her (our) character was blind. I can’t tell whether it’s trying to be deliberately subversive of more common, less clunky methods of audio narration or not…

Because the technology, the production is slick. It’s beyond slick; it’s incredible. At one point we walk into a room and it fucking smells different, and I spend the next 5 minutes wondering whether someone has quietly crept around the space spritzing that, or if it was just the most incredible coincidence. But it seems a highly unlikely moment and setting for an audience member to have had a casual root through their bag to apply more perfume and I feel like I’m in one of those old Febreeze adds. Blindfolded and sniffing around. In this darkness, all of your other senses become razor blades; you can feel yourself contained within every border of your own body.

My companion needs a pen. I need a pen. We are thrust back into light and I realise the journalist next to me has patiently sat in darkness with a notebook and pen waiting in his hand for the entire piece. He immediately begins to write.

Memory is unreliable.

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Mary Halton

Mary is a writer and critic, interested in performance, science and popular culture. By day, she works in radio drama, by night she studies planetary science at Birkbeck, and by dusk and dawn she writes Exeunt's science blog Strangeness + Charm. For Christmas, she would like a timeturner.

Fiction Show Info


Produced by Fuel

Directed by David Rosenberg

Written by Glen Neath and David Rosenberg

Cast includes Christopher Brett Bailey, Colin Carmichael, Karen Cogan, Catherine Dyson, Lloyd Hutchinson, Eugénie Pastor

Link http://bac.org.uk/

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