Brighton Fringe 2018
“Sam wants to know if there is an afterlife and thinks he can prove it. Can he convince Aurora, a terminal patient, to take part in his science experiment? Should her doctor and daughter let her participate? Will it even work?”
In this four-handed, a piece of new writing from Mulling Over Productions, questions of family resolution at the end of life and the science exploring the afterlife are blended together into a one-hour drama.
This is an engaging, interesting, disturbing, provocative piece of theatre. Scientists recently published researched findings – intriguing, potentially ground breaking, yet currently inclusive, that suggest brain activity continues for days after such activity was thought to pronounce the human being as dead. What happens in the brain after we die? Is there a possibility that aspects of our consciousness (and even self-awareness) continue after death? If so, is it only located in the brain? Scientists such as Rupert Sheldrake have been banned from well known platforms such as TED for suggesting such things may be possible.
It may sound preposterous to many, yet this play ably explores that plausible proposition through the story of a dying patient, her doctor, daughter and a zealous PhD student who seeks to translate after-death cognitive function into words and phrases captured on a tablet computer, communicating with a physical brain activity earpiece/sensor – all wrapped up in a very personal story of humans trying to cope with, and make sense of, their family lives – regret, secrets and the search for emotional healing and resolution.
It’s a fairly tightly written and well knitted together dialogue play set around a hospital bed, as a patient comes to terms with having days to live. And it works well as theatre with a committed cast and a story that builds to a disturbing and engaging conclusion.
Truth in naturalistic theatre is important. One way to deal with a low budget is not to try for set and prop authenticity in the first place and to decide upon a minimalist black box performance space. Here there is scope for improvement in the production values. This is a black box space with a convincing hospital curtain. But a bottle of wine is actually a bottle of mineral water, the bedstead looks like an antique, not a real hospital bed. Medical scans are sheets of printed A4 paper and, at one stage, Sam is tapping on a tablet PC that is off. All these things diminish that truth and authenticity. It is such a good play it needs the truthfulness in the script to be reflected in the credibility of the offered set.
The actors carry the script well (despite a few stumbles) and they make the story engaging and interesting throughout. Their focus in 100% in what is an intense piece and that makes for immersive drama. There is further scope to ensure performance style is more consistent – some actors are more naturalistic in delivery and character interpretation than others – ranging from the more dramatic to a more naturalistic style.
As the play is further developed it will become unmissable speculative drama. The Erebus Project explores important material, asking pertinent and potentially disturbing questions along the way. It certainly affected me and I found myself leaning forward into the narrative and performances with interest and care for them all.
I am more than happy to recommend it as something original in aims, content and also well realised as a science fiction story that may well prove to be true in the near future.