Incognito: general relativity and cognitive psychology made simple

Nabokov’s second play to come to Live, Incognito, is an extremely ambitious play covering lots of issues – but maybe a little too ambitious for its own good.

Flock of birds in the shape of a face

A recent addition to Live’s touring theatre line-up is Nabokov theatre. Back in February, they made their Newcastle début with Blink, which is such a wonderful play you must see it. And I don’t care that the tour’s finished – you just going to have to crack the bit of general relativity that enables you to travel back in time to earlier this year so you can catch it. Speaking of general relativity, this is what their follow-up is about. Incognito, with Joe Murphy directing again, is all about abstract concepts of physics along with the equally light subject of cognitive psychology. And just in case you think this doesn’t stretch your brain, this play covers three stories with 21 characters over a period of sixty years. Oh, and four actors play all the characters. Whatever else you might think, you can’t say Nabokov is unadventurous.

Incognito is a co-production with Live Theatre, whose year, it must be said, has been quite conservative. A lot of their 2014 productions are repeats of 2013’s greatest hits – okay, any theatre would probably do the same when the ticket sales are that good, but 2013’s successes have meant a 2014 dominated by safe bets. So it’s good that Live are involved in something more adventurous, even those this is, artistically speaking, very much a Nabokov production. One early bit of good news is that, as far as I can tell, the science is broadly accurate. That’s good news not only for Live and Nabakov, but also for everyone else in the theatre, otherwise I would be been standing up screaming “NO, YOU IDIOTS! YOU CAN’T DO THAT! DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND ANY PHYSICS AT ALL?” But, pedant-pleasing aside, how does it do?

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Blink: When happy endings aren’t enough

Publicity image from Blink

Phil Porter’s Blink  is one of the best plays to come out of the Edinburgh Fringe and you absolutely must see it if it’s coming your way.

I could end the review right here. Seriously, this play is best watched cold, without knowing a single thing about it. But if you must hear some spoiler-free reasons for why to go, the two flawed characters in it are thoroughly believable down to the last weakness, its 80 minutes is packed with more depth than most plays achieve in twice the length, and even a cold-hearted bastard like me was emotional by the end of it. Right. Stop reading. Buy your ticket now.

If you absolutely must read on, I will keep this as spoiler-lite as can be. Blink is billed as a dysfunctional love story. Normally, as soon as the word “love story” mentioned you should be wary. They are notorious for being crowd-pleasers where audiences will swallow any old tosh just so long as they get together at the end and live happily ever after. Maybe not so much theatre, but film and TV definitely. But this looked different from the start. The key image is of Jonah (Thomas Pickles) and Sophie (Lizzy Watts) sitting at desks outdoors in greenery. Interesting publicity images don’t always guarantee good plays; more often than not it’s a gimmick with no relevance to the story. Not here. Everything you see at the beginning is relevant later on. Won’t spoil it. Except for one detail.

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