Reviewer: Honour Bayes
To unpick anyone’s brain would be a complicated matter, but to unpick Albert Einstein’s seems like an impossible task. It is one that USA based Inkfish have undertaken admirably in their new piece The Brain. A cacophony of projections, live and recorded film, puppetry and toy trains, it is a marvellously surreal look at Einstein’s memories, loves, discoveries and regrets that may lose its way occasionally but always pulls itself back with a bang.
Although we are treated to beautiful and amusing vignettes of his personal and family life, this piece centres primarily around Einstein’s letters to President Theodore Roosevelt which formed the basis of the Manhattan Project. Consequently a permanent regret seems to hover over the show and a sadness which you feel probably haunted not only Einstein but all the great scientific minds that were part of this earth shattering process. As a counterpoint to this and laced between the letters are softly spoken sections of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955 advocating the end to all war, which in the face of atomic weaponry, is the only way humanity will be able to survive. This interspersion means that although this is a slightly forlorn show at points, it is inherently a hopeful experience.
Along with delicate puppetry, this multi-media piece incorporates recorded music shadow play, live video feed, original film footage and projected text, creating a vivid patchwork of words and images that is somewhat of a sensory feast. At points it does feel too full of ideas and it loses some of its focus but what it lacks in some individual sequences it makes up for with the successful creation of a very tangible overarching sense of the conscious and unconscious that it would have lost with tighter editing.
We are guided on this journey into Einstein’s brainy wonderland by 5 intrepid and sweetly geeky white coated men who take on a role similar to that of Alice’s own white coated guide. They calmly jot down notes and findings as points are raised and conclusions are temporarily reached and it is a relief to be in such safe hands in the midst of the dreamlike experience they are presenting. Masterful puppeteers they orchestrate everything with a Zen like calm and all carry the air of being old fashioned ‘gents’ which rings very true to the mid 20th Century period that they are playing within.
Some parts of The Brain may suffer from its indirect ethereal and compartmentalised style but for the most part it is a delightful, soft and gentle experience. Inkfish have managed to create an imaginative world that embraces the somewhat daunting task of getting inside the brain of one of the world’s greatest scientists with great panache, style, charm and a large dollop of twinkly humour that seems brilliantly reminiscent of the great man himself.
The Brain was part of The 2009 Suspense Festival