Alphabetti, developed in association with Live Theatre
Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle
Who are you? If you’re the sum of your memories, what happens if you lose some or all of those memories? Are you still you? And is the now-you responsible for the actions of the then-you?
Then, of course, there’s always the suspicion that the unconscious-you might be protecting the conscious-you from past unpleasantness—guilt, for example. And there’ll always be those who think, “Oh, he’s just pretending.”
That’s the philosophical conundrum presented by Richard Stockwell’s Continuum. (I wonder: might there be a clue to solving it in the title?)
Ben (Matt Jamie) has been brain-damaged in a car crash. It is not yet clear how serious that damage is and, once he awakes from the coma he is in as the play opens, the Doctor (Arabella Arnott) begins the process of assessing it. He is visited every day by his partner Jenny (Rosie Stancliffe).
Director Ali Pritchard plays Continuum in traverse which, even in Alphabetti’s tiny space, gives an added intimacy. The setting is very simple: Ben’s bed and two chairs (occupied throughout by the Doctor and Jenny) facing it, and a small table by the Doctor’s chair for files.
The piece is made up of short conversations between all the possible combinations of the three characters, plus one more (James Barton) when, towards the end, an unexpected (no more: no spoilers!) character arrives.
There’s a lighting state for each character, brought up when that character is active and then faded out, although Ben has two—one for when he is on his own and one for when he is interacting with rather the Doctor or Jenny—so each scene is isolated from the others and the swapping between states acts as an indication of the passage of time.
Against expectation, the most movement comes from Ben, a strong contrast to the much more restrained and infrequent movement of the other two and subtly suggestive. A nice touch from Pritchard, who directs sensitively and unobtrusively.
Fine performances all round, too, from a very strong cast. There are, I understand, hopes of a tour later. I’m pleased, for both the play itself and the production deserve to be seen more widely.
Reviewer: Peter Lathan