Review: 2401 Objects – The Junction, Cambridge

For neurologist Doctor Jacopo Annese, memory is described as pages of a book. Each event recorded by the brain on an individual page and then added to the library of your brain. What happens though if your brain misfires and loses those pages.

For Henry Molaison, experimental brain surgery in the 1950s in an attempt to cure his epilepsy leaves his with severe amnesia. His memory wiped and the inability to form new memory.

As we follow Henry before and after surgery we realise what a huge loss he has suffered. Burgeoning love, family relationships and the sheer joy of life wiped forever from his brain. As his family ages around him and eventually die, leaving him alone in a care home, Henry doesn’t even remember how old he is. Each day merging in a repeat of half recalled snatches of past events.

Analogue’s 2401 Objects takes us not only on a journey into Henry’s fractured mind, but also into our own brain, encouraging us to think about the precious nature of our own memory and how they are controlled by a tiny piece of brain tissue.

This could all too easily turn into a dry, scientific lecture but Analogue’s fluid staging focuses on the human impact in an emotionally moving evening.

As with their previous productions, Mile End and Beachy Head, this is a multi-media production, combining projection and movement to create a world that is constantly in motion. A moving screen scoops up characters and scenes and allows a non-stop narrative. Forget cinema 3D gimmickry, this is the real deal. Thor Hayton’s multimedia designs add a sense of depth to the production – a description of the invasive surgery carried out on Henry’s brain echoed in a film of an inflight meal being consumed, each incision being echoed by knife and fork.

There’s strong performances throughout the company, switching from character to character as the set revolves and tracks up and down stage. Paul Hassall, Simon Yadoo and Alexandra Maher joined on stage by their stage manager Helen Mugridge. All perform with split-second precision and commitment, telling Henry’s tale with dignity and pride.

Analogue doesn’t shy away from the ethical questions posed by Henry’s plight but don’t provide any judgements. The audience are left to decide themselves if the scientific knowledge locked in Henry’s brain are worth the suffering he endures and if he is even capable of comprehending what happened to him.

Suitably for a show that looks at memory, this is one production that will linger long in the mind.

Originally written for The Public Reviews

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