Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Reykjavik explores the plight of the wanderer: he who moves from place to place in search of excitement, love, and a place to call home. Jonathan (played by Jonathan Young, also artistic director), referred to as ‘Y’ in the narrative, falls in love with ‘S’, a married Icelandic woman he meets at a party in Paris. He follows her to Iceland where he moves in with her, her parents and her two children. Having to cope with the intimidating presence of ‘S’s ex-husband, the difficult language and the seeming unwillingness of Icelanders to welcome him into their culture, ‘Y’ slowly begins to realise that his vision of Iceland was very different to the reality. The show deals the feeling of being an outsider despite one’s best efforts, the helplessness of not being able to communicate easily and, most of all, the ‘architecture of memory’ and the way in which our forward projections and backward reminiscences distort and manipulate actual events.
The audience of twenty are given forensic suits and goggles to put on. This reinforces the idea of the show being a detailed, forensic-style investigation into memory; what exactly lead ‘Y’ to this point? What went wrong and why? We wait behind a back-lit white sheet and are then ushered through a small opening in the sheets to the performance space: the womb-like confines of ‘Y’s memory. Jonathan is host, narrator and protagonist presenting us with an enthusiastic, somewhat child-like character prone to fantasising. The show jumps from real-time narration, vague childhood memories, vivid and interactive descriptions of places in Reykjavik and ‘Y’s blurred, refracted life in the strange, desolate city.
Young’s performance includes evocative movements, mime and symbolism creating a multi-dimensional narrative despite ‘Y’ being the only visible character. It is an endearing, at times moving performance. The cloudy white overwhelms any colour creating a powerful impression of ‘Y’s thoughts and presenting us with the mysterious impression that he has of Reykjavik. The use of lighting is imaginative and includes hand-held torches and over-head projectors. The music as well is atmospheric whilst not overtaking or carrying the sentiment of the play. Certain surrealist elements add to the dream-like quality of the show.
Above all, Reykjavik manages to convey a startlingly accurate visual impression of thought, memory and fantasy. There are moments of genuine pathos; we are forced to confront the bitter disappointments that life can offer as, sometimes, the bravest and most exciting choices are simply not sustainable.