Incognito at the Bush Theatre
Incognito is a new and extraordinarily rich play by Nick Payne. A set of at first unconnected situations explore some of the biggest ideas about what we are – can science uncover our true nature; are we really deluded about our identity? If we can’t remember who we are, are we still that person? Concepts of the self and memory are fruitful material for theatre, as characters without recall repeat and reiterate what the audience has heard before, each time giving a different context, and deepening both the humour and sadness of being stuck in a time loop.
A cast of four play multiple characters at different times and places in interweaving scenes based on the fact that Einstein’s brain was removed for research after he died. A scientist becomes obsessed with testing the brain for clues to unlock the universe; a neuroscientist has become disillusioned that there is anything to the self at all. Everything is related (or should that be relative?) as things Einstein said are quoted by characters to prove or disprove points of view.
On a normal night in the theatre, each of these actors would be mentioned as a standout, but they really all excelled. Rapid changes of character and voice – sometime almost mid-sentence – were totally convincing, keeping the pace switched on throughout, and leaving the audience still unclear as to what accents Paul Hickey, Amelia Lowdell, Alison O’Donnell and Sargon Yelda actually have. Tight direction fills the stage, empty except for two pianos and a pickled brain in a jar. The best thing about the production is the interaction between the actors, as they respond to each other with authenticity and emotional intensity.
This is a great, meaty night with much left for the audience to piece together, like an intelligent and logical puzzle, while naturalism and a talent for dialogue give a great deal of laughter along the way. Overall, a very good night for theatre.
Incognito is at the Bush Theatre until 21st June 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.