Funded by Arts Council England:
I AM WHO AM I
This production was commissioned by The New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich and played four venues early in 2003: The New Wolsey itself premiered the show, and the production then spent a week each at The Gardner Centre in Brighton, Eastbourne College, East Sussex and Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells in Kent.
"You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realise that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all" (Luis Bunuel)
Or is it? The show tells the true story of a man without a memory, the woman who loves him and the inexplicable foibles of memory loss.
The challenge was to produce a piece of theatre inspired by medical facts, case histories, and
which walked the line between narrative and documentary. In theatre we are used to being told a story - in this production I presented the audience with a situation:
What would it be like as a wife to be in a relationship with a husband who remembered, for example, his wife but not the wedding? How is it for someone who turns from intimate partner to carer? What is the world like where there is only the 'now' and no 'then' nor 'later'?
To compose the piece I devised a scene structure, then with the actors Joanna Rosenfeld, Paul Hamilton and Tristan Sharps I recorded their improvisations and edited the results into a script. The show used two rooms as a set and a screen suspended centre stage where a live camera feed on a third hidden set projected 'the wife' in the marital home in her private moments, making the audience a voyeur to her increasing despair and hopelessness.
We had a post-show discussion at each of the venues and in each case had more audience remain for the informal chat- which felt like they carried an element of 'community help' - than for any other show in the same season. The fact of 'memory-loss' is out there, it's not all good film fodder I can assure you!
This production also featured specially commissioned poems on the theme of 'memory' by award-winning poet Ros Barber. One of them - my favourite - is reprinted below:
first of all, the right words.
And then, the day of the week, the names of friends.
He waits for them to fall from the sky, like birds.
The sky is very empty, blue.
His college years unravel like a scarf.
His marriage, taken piece by piece apart,
has detail scattered somewhere behind his right eye.
All that is left is sky.
If he was unfaithful, he forgets that too.
Not just the girl, her name, her face,
but all their love is a vapour trail.
The sky burns it back to blue.
These days are pure. Whatever pours in
pours out in the same measure.
Will not be stored.
Will pass, like weather.
"By turns this is both frightening and funny. You don't really know whether to laugh or cry. And it's gripping because Ray Pearson (the protagonist) could be any one of us at any time. It is that rare thing - a stage documentary tightly wrapped in drama" EADT
"documentary meets David Lynch" The Source Magazine
"In this play, as in real life, there are no miracle cures, only stark reality… a thought provoking work" Virtual Brighton Magazine
"I Am Who Am I is the latest step in trying something new. Using film, live performance and an atmospheric soundtrack this unique play looks at life and loss through the distorted mirror of life without a memory… high calibre theatre with a social responsibility" Go Magazine
"careful observation and sheer skill" The Independent