The Archive of Educated Hearts
Casey Jay Andrews
Lion House Theatre
Cancer will touch the lives of everyone. This simple and often devastating truth is far from a stranger to the creators of performance art. As such, it's unsurprising that it manages to find form in many of the stagecrafts and plays that turn up at the Fringe, but often with a heavy hand, or a melodramatic turn that seeks to tug a heart string or two and leave the audience satisfied with a pat weepy story.
This cannot be said of The Archive of Educated Hearts. It's a novel take on the form and somehow manages to be both a tribute and a celebration while touching on this most affecting of topics. Casey Jay Andrews weaves a gentle and open introspection on the stories of four women in her life who have suffered from breast cancer. But rather than wallow in the sadness and misery that rolls in the wake of the disease, she leads the audience on a journey of empathy, understanding, and strength.
Instead of straight storytelling, those present are treated to snippets of interview and messages recorded from the women. Andrews lays out photographs of the women and their families and, in doing so, brings the audience into a circle of memory and through it explores a sense of the mutual appreciation of loved ones and the feeling of love.
Andrews's particular style of lyrical prose is present throughout, amidst more frank recollections of the women in question; yet her contemplative and reassuring tone ensures that the mood never becomes maudlin. This is not a sad story. This is a hopeful and sincere beating of a drum to cherish those we love and not to let the vicissitudes of fate draw us into despair.
An absolute gem of a performance, one that will certainly wring tears amidst gentle smiles and leave those who have ventured in better for having experienced it.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan