Review: Incognito by Nick Payne, at the Bush theatre (presented by nabokov)

Alison O'Donnell and Paul Hickey - photo Bill Knight

Alison O’Donnell and Paul Hickey – photo Bill Knight

Young british playwrights are on fire. Not only in the sense they are pretty damn good (even if Dominic Cavendish disagrees), but also because they can’t stop writing. In April, Mike Bartlett opened two new plays within a fortnight, and now Nick Payne’s Incognito performs at the Bush theatre, a couple of months after his Blurred Lines performed at the Shed and Symphony at the Vaults and before The Art of Dying at the Royal Court in July. People ask me why I go to the theatre so much. Try keeping up with these guys.

Skimming through the synopsis of the play, you will pick up words like neuroscience and Albert Einstein’s brain (in a jar no less). Associated images of laboratories and 19th century travelling shows spring to mind (this expression – “it springs to mind” – is pertinent. This is how the brain works, making connections and creating narratives). The reality of the production is far more intriguing.  Nick Payne returns to the themes of Constellations: the burning desire for meaning, human warmth and comfort, all held together by a decaying and fragile piece of human tissue. What happens when we lose a memory, a word, a feeling? Can they be so important if they are so easily lost?

As with Constellations, structure is key: Continue reading

Review: Symphony by nabokov (with words by Nick Payne, Ella Hickson, Tom Wells) – The Vaults, Waterloo

symphony - nabokov Vaults festivalNew plays by Nick Payne, Ella Hickson, Tom Wells are not to be ignored. New plays by Nick Payne, Ella Hickson, Tom Wells performed together are a major event. New plays by Payne, Hickson, Wells performed together in the middle of a gig? I couldn’t possibly stay away. The set up is unusual and yet simple: we first encounter musicians playing a gig but quickly the songs morph into performed stories and the musicians into actors playing characters. After that, there isn’t much distinction between plays and songs, they are all different points in the same universe.

Similarly, the three plays bleed into each other. Jonesy by Tom Wells recreates the chaotic drive of teenage years, where crashing pressure is only outweighed by optimism and indefatigable energy. (I loved how the adult world in the background was tired and fade, like a shake of the head too small for anyone to notice). Continue reading