Smock Alley Theatre, ABSOLUT Fringe 2011
My thoughts on Autobiographer coming up just as soon as I sit next to you on the piano stool ...
“If there is loss, then there must also be life, no matter how awkwardly shaped. On this we must insist”
- Melanie Wilson
The elements of the theatre space do not usually weave and coordinate in such mission as they do in Melanie Wilson’s Autobiographer – an immersive experience that calls on music, poetry and people to preserve the mind of a woman suffering from dementia.
The audience sit in a curtained circular room. Four performers, assumingly four transcripts of the same woman, each from a different decade, move and speak among us. Wilson’s text is so carefully written and delivered, painting scenes on the interior walls of our imaginations. Deeply touching are her intentions, that is, to create a community that can catch these fleeting memories before they fall to the floor.
While it is easy to lose oneself in the folds of Autobiographer, and as noble as Wilson’s intents are, I felt that in its execution it missed the mark, which is a real shame. As beautiful as the writing is, it often feels too inconsequential. Precious descriptions are sweet to the ear but they are often empty of any manoeuvre. In one moment she defines herself as a pattern on a dress that her mother made, a description reminiscent of how Virginia Woolf leant her characters inanimate objects such as flowers or typewriters to melt into and become immortal in the vicious arena of modern social life. This is a masterful and gorgeous means of illuminating the woman’s relationship with her mother and it is one of the too few details we learn. Furthermore, the pace meanders and arrests such that the hoped for correspondence with the audience can be lost along the way.
Delicate and fading, Autobiographer asks for our help. It’s most moving moments are its final ones but by then our own reasons for caring can have slipped away.
What did everybody else think?