NIE New International Encounter, Past Half Remembered

Review in Issue 18-4 | Winter 2006

As Past Half Remembered opens, the performers, playing an assortment of wellworn folk instruments, distribute vodka, and regard the audience wide-eyed and slightly bemused. Much of the charm of this piece derives from this relationship between performer and audience, and its easefulness belies the astute nature of the interplay, and the complexity of the multiple layers of narrative, fiction and time. Few performances, however innovative or spectacular, achieve this level of genuine communication, and the combination of the performers’ vivacity and Alex Byrne’s subtle direction achieves a communality which is, in itself, a thrilling experience.

The narrative is simple: the life and love of a Russian woman living through the events of the 20th century. She and her husband experience international and civil war, birth, death, loss – and most traumatically of all, tea with the family. She is one hundred years old, but memory makes her young again, and, through a particularly extraordinary performance, we see her slip between youth and old age, and back again, like a child who falls asleep while playing an imagination game, and wakes to find that life has passed.

While the strong central narrative endures, the imperturbable cast make constant diversions, be they paeans to ornithology, or an instruction session on the creation of an ‘imaginative door’. The players support or, more often, interrupt the story, with music, song, multi-lingual explanations, and improvisations, weaving together an exemplary piece of ensemble work, which also constitutes the centre of a trilogy. The intimate hints at the epic, the fall-about comedy is cut through with darkness, and the fabric of the piece is pinpricked with moments of intense beauty.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Aug 2006

This article in the magazine

Issue 18-4
p. 11