Archive of Educated Hearts – Review – York Takeover Festival
By Ela Portnoy, October 2018
Hot on the trail of a very successful Edinburgh fringe run, Lion House Theatre’s 30 minute piece is a play-cum-art installation, which I watched in a very tiny shed in the middle of a church hall. You walk in as one of four audience members, total, and settle inside cosily together.
The play was a mix of whale music, recordings, and commentary from the sole actor and creator, Casey Jay Andrews. The largest part was a series of interviews with people who had had breast cancer, played from a small tape-recorder. Most of them were mothers, who talked about the way that terminal illness affects the relationship between mothers and daughters.
To complement this, we were played excerpts from a 1920’s book of social etiquette titled Have You an Educated Heart?, which teaches that kindness involves things like passing the salt before you are asked. In many ways, the soothing, earnest tones of these funny recordings were very well interspersed with the serious subject matter of the rest of the play. The combination of the interview recordings and the excerpts created a very meditative experience. The interviews in particular were surprisingly personal and quite touching, but the whale music seemed a bit unnecessary at times.
“A nice piece of theatre”
Whilst it was a very special experience, the acting itself was a bit uncomfortable, as though it was restricted in a smaller space than it was intended. Casey Jay Andrews’ poetic script and enthusiastic interaction seemed overdone and a little distancing. Inside the little shed, there was something that felt disingenuous about her delivery, even though she was often talking about personal things that clearly meant a lot to her.
In fact, I think there were a few aspects of the piece that felt like they were built for a bigger space. At the start and the end, we had ‘house lights’ go up and down. When you are in complete darkness in a large theatre, this creates a sense of magic and anticipation. But when you are in a tiny space with only four other people and suddenly you are all in darkness, it can be quite disconcerting.
But in general, the visual things that were used certainly could not have been done in a larger space. The artist utilised the laying down of family photos on a little table, or writing on a chalk board, and the photos in particular added to the intimacy of the interview recordings. But I felt like a four-person shed is such an unusual and special idea, the company could have played with it so much more – especially with regards to audience interaction and the general experience that they created.
Overall, a nice piece of artistic theatre, enhanced by the recordings and the unusual – albeit cramped – space.
images: Kirkpatrick Photography