Idle Motion at New Diorama Theatre.
'Borges and I' starts in a deliberately flat manner – a PowerPoint presentation, part of an Librarian’s job interview – so convincingly dull the night I saw it a member of the audience tried to give the candidate some encouragement! Fortunately the projector breaks down and Idle Motion get to take us on a theatrical journey of enthralling images and arresting performances.
The now ad-libbed interview presentation serves as a framing device for the biography of Jorge Luis Borges, Argentinean writer poet and librarian and the parallel stories of the members of modern-day book group. The Borges story is told without dialogue, but through narration. Alice (Kate Stanley) delivering her presentation on Borges, while the man himself is heard most often in voice over. Kate Stanley’s focus is so utterly compelling that this does not grate. However, when the scene shifts to the book group the mood change is welcome. The group is populated with engaging characters, who initially seem to be performed in broad strokes: Hilary (Grace Chapman) as ‘the bossy one’; Gabby (Ellie Simpson) as ‘the kooky one’; Alice the ‘librarian to be’; Jim (Julian Spooner) the seemingly ‘daft one’; Sophie (Sophie Cullen) the ‘quiet’ one and Nick (Joel Gathouse) the ‘new guy’. Yet as the production unfolds the delicacy and detail in the story of Nick and Sophie’s emerging relationship makes this more compelling than the biography of Borges. Light touches of humour, embarrassment and ultimate pathos show this company can delve deep into truth and character. Even bossy Hilary and daft Jim share a moment that is both deliciously funny and deeply poignant.
The joy, of this production, however is in the beautiful and deceptively simple visuals. Visuals that include emotionally engaging physical theatre and a genuinely inventive use of props, shadow puppetry and projections. The urge to reveal those moments where the audience and I gasped in surprise or inhaled in wonder is strong. Yet that would, I fear, spoil the effect on future audiences.
Suffice it to say that the depiction of a young Borges reading; the painful anxiety of Sophie as she climbs a staircase of books will live long in my memory.