Idle Motion reuses the title of Jorge Luis Borges’s essay Borges and I as a foundation to innovatively explore themes of identity, language and ownership of both. The narrative holds onto three prominent strands tightly: the first is Borges’s biography in all its influential and inspirational mastery. Journeying through the inception of his addiction to literature, his descent into blindness and subsequent creation of masterpiece, and employment as director of the Argentinian National Library, his chronicle underpins Idle Motion’s plot enabling each strand to glide from it naturally.
The second follows Alice (Kate Stanley) as she passionately presents her love of language – Borges’s in particular – and the undeniable importance of books therein, as she interviews to become a librarian possessing all the language held within those walls. The third strand is a book club frequented by six everymen, Alice included, exploring their own perceptions of books and seeing how they take influence from works such as those of Borges. The fourth and final is a love story between two of the book club members, Sophie (Sophie Cullen) and Nick (Joel Gatehouse): how their lives begin to reflect and intermingle with Borges’s, as Sophie loses her sight and realises the importance of what has passed as well as that which remains.
The impressiveness comes from how Borges and I so bewitchingly manages to tie the strands together unnoticeably and captivatingly. The beauty with which they employ so many forms to depict the solitary form of language is bordering on the breathtaking. And not pretentiously breathtaking either – they maintain a very human base to the story that is both comedic and emotive. Borges and I is brimming with movement, fluidly connecting the ensemble characters to the 450 books that comprise the staging. These books inflate the word ‘prop’ to its fullest potential, as they are puppeteered and illuminated, forming cityscapes, running tigers and planes. They are practically used to catalogue the lives of the characters, and impractically to show the frailty of the life we’re walking through. It is executed so smoothly that you don’t even know it’s happening, it’s so immersed into the fundamental telling of the story. Idle Motion has managed to balance its techniques and staging so intricately that there is not a single moment where I thought “hold on a minute, you’re taking it too far, stop showing off” (which is no stranger to my mind’s workings).
The most human story of all, that between Nick and Sophie, is striking. Opening us up to the comedy driven by book club manager Hilary (Grace Chapman) and the slightly laddish and downtrodden book club member Jim (Nicholas Pitt), as well as the impassioned pleas from Alice. The importance of books remains at the root of all the characterisations and genres covered: how books can be the measure of a normal life and have a meaning or a memory throughout. From The Tiger Who Came to Tea in Sophie’s case, to Borges’s epic works, Nick reads the now blind Sophie The Tiger Who Came to Tea and I felt one of those all-body shivers when you know you’re going to go, and embarrassingly enough I shed a tear on the front row.
On the flyer Idle Motion describe Borges and I as a means to reflect on “the way we see the world”; well I can say, hand on heart, that Borges and I put me through a full kaleidoscope of humanity and made me see my little world newly.
Borges and I played at the New Diorama Theatre. For more information, see the New Diorama Theatre website.