Borges and I

Unity Theatre
4th March 2013

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Idle Motion, associated with the bigger fish of Oxford Playhouse and New Diorama Theatre, have grown in stature since the fledgling days of the Edinburgh Fringe, if this play is anything to go by. Their modus operandi is physical theatre and this innovative sixty minute play bears testimony to the six strong cast's fine-tuned group skills. They take us on a whirlwind tour of the life and passions of Jorge Louis Borges, intermingled with real-time modern day relationships.

Borges, an arch Argentinian literary giant for most of the 20th Century, provides the backdrop through the use of texts from his collected short story volumes, Labyrinths, Dream Tigers and Selected Poems.The cast interweave the activities and thoughts of a reading group, (one of which is out of synch with the rest but is always seeking and another who will eventually go blind, as did Borges himself), with the magical inspiration of the author's imagination.

The play is much more than that though. The tight Unity Two performance space was packed with anticipation, the mainly youngish audience practically tumbling onto the stage themselves as the drama opens as if from a dream, apologetically; the parameters of the universe of books, here in stacks all over the stage, novel projection techniques and constant churn of stage props, unfolding organically before them.

There is huge tragedy in the loss of seeing the world we live in, but Borges, through his writings, keeps alive the inner world with a vibrancy that resonates through the darkness. On stage a couple's love for each other is tested by short-sighted actions that only one partner, literally, can see. The other survives in a remembered world of early childhood recollections burnt into the psyche in glorious colour images that will never fade, as all our senses ultimately will.

It is in this inner world that Borges weaves his magic. He ended up as Head of the National Library of his nation, as a blind man surrounded by books mirroring his life-long quest for knowledge, philosophical discourse and his beloved 'fictiones' - the 'I' that can see this is indeed enlightened. For Idle Theatre to attempt to bring it to life was a spectacle to behold.

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