Examining the human mind is one of the most fascinating and complex things, and one that benefits from a creative approach. Dissolve, created by theatre company Awkward City and currently on for a short run at the New Diorama Theatre, takes the experience of memory loss and studies it through a new lens – literally.
Inspired by research and case studies of true accounts of memory loss, the ensemble of Dissolve utilises live performance and projected real-time footage of the action onstage to capture the disorienting experience of living with little or no memory, and with identity loss. Cameras, lights and props surround Olivia (Artistic Director Carla Lewis), as her disjointed memories and present experiences are projected on screen. Director Amy Lewis (who is also featured in the performance) uses stunningly impressive visual artistry throughout the show; in one particularly memorable scene, an ensemble member fans Olivia and then sprinkles the top of her head with a watering can, while the live moment captured on camera portrays a woman convincingly caught in a rain storm. This moment, along with many other visual innovations that manipulate live action for the camera, are thrilling to witness.
The performance is intentionally lacking in narrative – after all, in order to effectively convey the personal experience of someone with memory loss, life can hardly move in the linear. But if theatregoers are seeking any sort of coherent storyline they will be sorely disappointed or just confused; Dissolve combines theatre with performance art, with the latter probably serving as a more accurate description. Spoken word is somewhat elusive in the piece, but when it is utilised the writing is full of poignant metaphor that beautifully accompanies the imagery and provides valuable context for the often abstract action. The fusion of performance with artistic live video footage is aesthetically captivating and allows for a uniquely intimate perspective, and Jon Plimmer’s dynamic camera work further enhances the inventive concept.
The show is kept short, running at roughly 40 minutes. This is a wise choice, because in spite of the show’s effectively creative format, running a traditional length without a comprehensible narrative would likely lead to a tiresome viewing experience. In its brief running time, Dissolve achieves its artistic and emotional goals while remaining appropriately concise. But in order to allow Dissolve to reach its full effect, audience members must be willing to toss out preconceived notions about traditional theatre and storytelling. It won’t be for everyone, but this intimate and creative piece is a thoughtful and beautifully imaginative experience unlike any other.
Dissolve is playing at the New Diorama Theatre until 16 March. For more information and tickets, see the New Diorama Theatre.