Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 1 December 2011

Lecture Notes on a Death Scene

Camden People's Theatre ⋄ 23rd November – 11th December 2011

Analogue’s haunting play for one.

Lois Jeary

A chair sits in a room, lit by a small lamp on a side table, with nothing else around it as far as the eye can see in the all-consuming darkness. You, although not really the you that arrived at the theatre, take a seat in the chair and make yourself comfortable as you were instructed to do. That is, as comfortable as you can be with the feeling of utter exposure that comes from sitting alone in the middle of a pitch black theatre, with no idea what will happen next.

As Analogue’s short play for one person lurches into life it draws you into a world of parallel existence and unlimited possibility, where this sense of exposure is magnified and exploited by forcing you to confront your own face and fate. As your eyes gradually adjust to the gloom, your reflection appears in a mirror that slowly approaches the chair, and serves to reflect the entire play toward you as it happens behind your back. In this experience, darkness is not an absence of something but a force in its own right, and it forces you to confront whatever appears in that mirror – you may not like your own reflection, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the uncertainty of what might emerge from the blackness that surrounds it.

Even in this intimate encounter, Analogue use their distinctive, dynamic style to chilling effect, with screens that glide towards you, multiple mirrors and tiny pools of reflected light ensuring that you can never be certain if what you see is real or a trick of the eye. This distortion of perspective also creates a great feeling of movement, remarkable in a piece where you remain static almost entirely throughout. You are never really alone in this encounter, and yet neither can you be certain how many are there with you. The chance to finally look someone in the eye becomes a welcome moment of human interaction, and through this the piece successfully combines confronting yourself with finding your place as a character in a narrative.

The figure of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, on whose short spy story ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ the play is loosely based, weaves his way throughout the piece as the subject of intellectual pursuits or a ghostly presence who we never quite see. Yet the real purpose of Lecture Notes on a Death Scene seems to be in offering us glimpses of identity in a face or overheard thought, but snatching them away before we can fully locate ourselves within them, so that we become everyone and no-one at once. While this allows for a clever exploration of the nature of reality and power of possibility, the final few moments which should be the most haunting of all, lose something if you fail to fully identity yourself in the mirror. The separation between self, reflection and actor fails to blur fully.

At times, however, the story you have become a part of is so uncomfortable that you actively remind yourself it’s not real in order to stem the flow of adrenaline rushing through your veins. Neither fight nor flight is an option in the theatre, so instead you find yourself shrinking away from what may be lurking behind you or the sinister voice in your ear. It may not be unusual to experience one-on-one theatre that thrills in this manner, but Analogue manage to do it so economically, so stylishly, that it is quite overpowering. It is a marvel that theatre which so attentively ensures the audience feels safe throughout, still has the power to elicit such a primal response.


Lois Jeary

Lois holds an MA in Text and Performance, taught jointly between RADA and Birkbeck. In addition to directing and assistant directing for theatre, she also works as a freelance television news journalist for Reuters and has previously contributed to The Guardian.

Lecture Notes on a Death Scene Show Info

Produced by Analogue

Directed by Liam Jarvis

Cast includes Philip Desmeules


Running Time 30 mins



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