[author-post-rating] (4/5 stars)
I like books. So, apparently, do the Idle Motion team, as they have themed this delicate, ephemeral production around books, blindness and Borges. The great Argentinian writer is present, both as a character and in his fantastical stories, and his life is sadly paralleled by one of the other characters.
The show flits between a highly amusing book group, populated by recognisable and mildly irritating people; a lecture on Borges, his life and his work; and the story of Sophie and Nick beginning a tentative relationship and then learning how to deal with Sophie’s diagnosis with a degenerative sight condition – she, like Borges, will eventually go blind.
While sad in places, Borges and I feels weirdly uplifting, focusing as it does on the imagination and the worlds to which stories can transport us. Just as Borges is presented in the show as not being too distressed by his impending blindness but instead creating an even richer inner world, so we see Sophie (Sophie Cullen) learning that with the support of sweet-natured Nick (Joel Gatehouse) she too can enjoy literature and stories. The rest of their book group consists of catty Hilary (Grace Chapman), petulant Jim (Nicholas Pitt) and Alice (Kate Stanley) who has to give a lecture on Borges as part of a job interview.
It’s beautifully choreographed, and manages to attain a balance between straight theatre, physical theatre and dance – the movement never feels gratuitous. It’s very pleasing to look at, too, with its set made up of books and book cases, and the books themselves being transformed by the cast into bridges, building blocks, birds.
As an exploration of Borges’s life and works, it works well within its lecture format, breaking out into dance sequences and other stories to keep it feeling fresh and lively throughout. As an exploration of blindness or love it doesn’t feel as developed, although the central couple are sweetly rendered and have some of the nicest dance sequences – Nick literally carries Sophie as she learns to cope with her deteriorating eyesight. The use of books, stories and reading as a way to think about sight and imagination is clever and subtle. Borges and I strikes a delicate balance between sentiment and seriousness, all done with a lightness of a touch and a keen eye for the visual.
Borges and I is at Pleasance Courtyard until 25 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.