Have you ever longed to see inside someone’s head, understand the intimate mechanics? See things literally from their point of view? Sham’s production of Reykjavik so pushes and pulls one’s preconceived conceptual understanding as to the limits of theatre that the viewer feels as if they have indeed entered into the protagonist’s fragmented memory.
This multi-sensory experience immerses you into a man’s mind. The audience of no more than 25 is instructed to climb into forensic suits upon arrival at the Albany Theatre. This effectively removes the audience members’ individuality to a certain extent; putting the audience into costumes begins what is to become a continuous blur throughout the piece of the traditionally clear boundary between audience and performer. The audience becomes part of the performance.
Reykjavik, written and performed by Jonathan Young, along with supporting cast Sinikka Kyllonen and Steve Loader, leads the audience, willing or not, through the remembered experience of a man’s travels to the city in the wake of a Parisian love affair. This piece raises a number of questions as to the authenticity of memories and events long past. Much as the ice of the city is constantly in shift, so is “Y”’s, as the protagonist is known, own reflective self-perception. Foreign language, land, and love are all alienating factors. The story is told in a patchwork way in and around the audience in a sparse, representational setting. A blank space becomes a place of inventiveness and creativity. An umbrella, sink, earphones, chairs, and even dividers all take on new meaning in this clinically sparse space. The constant movement of objects, audience, locations, emotions, psychological states creates an over arch of projection that ties the tale together.
There was an effective balance between the planned and impromptu creativity that arises from involving an audience to this extent. Yet the audience interaction is never taken to such a level that it would change the actual course of the plot, it feels as if you stand upon the precipice without jumping over and at times you want to push the protagonist “Y” over the edge as he always seems to be holding back. Perhaps from exposing too much of himself to this unpredictable audience? Yet Young’s exceptional performance is all-encompassing. He utilizes all shades of the emotional spectrum and takes the viewer with him.
The final sequence leaves the audience questioning their own memories and generational patterns. By going so deep into his conscious, Young forces the viewer to introspectively ask similar questions of themselves. Viewing/participating in Reykjavik is a rewarding experience. Although flawed, it is a piece that makes you not only question what defines theatre and the boundaries of performing arts, but also leaves you examining your own memory recall.