Science at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Reykjavik
Louise Crane visited the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2010 to review shows funded by our Arts and People Awards. Here she recounts how a journey into one man’s Icelandic past leads to getting stuck on the bumps of memory.
I entered “Reykjavik” in a manner unlike any show I’ve been to before at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Not by shuffling to a seat in the dark, stepping on other people’s toes, but by forging my way through a tunnel of cloth to stand in a bright white space. In this instance, I step symbolically into another person’s life.
For 70 minutes, Jonathan Young takes us through the memories of his Icelandic past, and I am part of this performance.
In each scene, the audience is directed to different locations in the space. We gather round a bed as Young tells us of the characters Y (himself) and S – former lovers. They met in Paris, so we are told to become the statues in Rodin’s garden. Later on, we form the geometrical labyrinth of Sundhöllin changing rooms using chairs and patterns marked out on the floor.
Reykjavik was funded by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award, but the science aspect is not immediately apparent, nor is it explicitly stated in the performance. In a leaflet distributed afterwards, scientific advisor and neuroscientist Hugo Spiers of University College London writes that memories are patterns, like the physical patterns of the show, and the behavioural patterns of the two lovers.
The show does stand alone without the scientific connection, though I am appreciative of these explanations, so that I can ruminate on the meanings of the performance long after the end.
The storytelling is strong and immersive. Young recounts his memories not with conviction, which would ring false, but with occasional uncertainty. There is a sense that he is stuck to the memory of these events that happened a decade ago.
Spiers explains that this is known as a “reminiscence bump”, where most adults will tend to recall events from adolescence and early adulthood when asked to recount a memory, rather than something more contemporary. I feel ‘stuck’ with Y, at one point unsettlingly, as technical tricks play with my senses in a vivid experience of a car crash.
As the story unfolds I want to know more about Y and S, and S’s ex-husband, and Y’s daily routine. Some of these are brought to life by Young but I want to find out more, to complete the story.
This is not a limitation of the production, but just time. Time is an infinity when it comes to memories, but sadly not at the Fringe, where the 70 minutes are over and the tales of Y must give way to the next scheduled performance.
Louise Crane, Project Officer at Wellcome Images
Note, see Louise’s next post from Edinburgh here.