The writing of Jonathan Safran Foer wrestles to be released from the page. Unravelling itself in drawings, symbols and mutated forms, it seems bitterly discontented with the limited medium it must settle for, begging for a further life outside the restraints of prose. It is this further life that it is given by Dream Epic’s intelligent new production, taking the dramatic cues inherent in four of Foer’s short stories to unfold into a series of distinct but delicately linked playlets.
A room crammed with furniture is paced by figures apparently oblivious to one another’s presence, lives gently connecting and disconnecting with little perceptible friction. Each of these figures take their turn to perform the monologues adapted by David Kantounas from Foer’s prose as the surrounding clutter gradually disperses, a visual emptying of the psychological mess from their lives until, in the concluding performance lecture, the space is left bare and poignantly unspoken emotions become a variation on algebra.
From an elderly woman to a mourning man to a solitary magician, what links Foer’s characters is their paralysing loneliness and preoccupation with the world’s multiple possibilities. As thematically and structurally different as each scene appears – a reflection of Foer’s constant playing with form – it slowly becomes evident that these particular stories have been carefully selected by Kantounas and director Adam Lenson. In the final segment, for instance, which takes the form of a witty multimedia presentation that is engagingly performed by Lenson himself, silence is opened out into a series of emotional meanings, suddenly shedding light on the pauses that have punctuated the preceding scenes.
In releasing such shafts of illumination, the piece that Kantounas and Lenson have knitted together from these vivid scraps of narrative implicitly comments on the nature of storytelling. Presented together in such a way, the four scenes nudge us into tracing intangible threads, shrewdly revealing how we construct our own narratives in the same way as the characters on stage mould their life stories. By doing so, we are also led to recognise the very human impulses that these figures share: a fear of being alone, a struggle to truthfully communicate with others and an incurable fascination with avenues not explored.
**** – 4/5 stars
Everything Else Happened played at the Assembly Roxy until 27 August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.