Love, consideration, playfulness, inventiveness, care, and an honesty that is breathtaking in its vulnerability. These qualities radiate from Unfathomable, combining to create an exquisite work of theatre.
It is intriguing from the moment we walk into the venue. Alex Halligey stands arranging and rearranging notes on a suspended perspex surface. She is surrounded by glass jars of various sizes, and the stark functionality of the set, the brightly-lit transparent surface, evokes the laboratory, clinical research, forensics. There is anticipation of the extra-ordinary, that we are about to step into an unfamiliar, possibly allegorical world. And we do.
From the simple notation of facts: names, dates, places, events, a story emerges, but the narrative is one we collectively create for ourselves as we join the dots.
As a picture begins to form, Alex shifts into poetry. Not of text, but of the body, as she dances with the pieces of the story, pieces which become characters. Each imbued with their desires, flaws, gifts, mistakes. She disarms us with the body, then shifts the poetry back to text, delivering the first of a number of devastating blows. The kind that reaches to some unfathomable place deep inside our being and with a simple word placed between the miniscule silence of the one preceding and the one to come, turns us inside out.
Involuntarily, our breath leaves our body, and we weep.
Water as metaphor suffuses this work, which swims through grief, memory, loss, and being human. What it means to love, and to forgive, and to live. It is done with imagination, continually surprising us with simplicity. Without an iota of spectacle, mundane objects and elements – tissues, water, glass jars, breath – are beautifully transformed into symbols, adding layer upon layer, each more unexpected than the last, creating an ancestral biography that transforms individual history into universal experience.
Unfathomable is also playful, it has the quiet solace of love threaded through it, and despite its deeply personal nature, is unsentimental. There is no ego, no narcissism. The recognition of our collective loss, our collective grief, allows no space for self-indulgence, which is entirely different, possibly the opposite of, self-reflection. There is visual richness, but no theatrics; the tears are our own, gently massaged from us as Alex slips unchecked through our defences.
Unfathomable has won a deserved Ovation Award. The last show is on Tuesday 2 July at 12pm. Book here.
Director: Athena Mazarakis
Performance: Alex Halligey
Design: Jenni-lee Crewe.