Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Borges and I interweaves several narrative strands to explore the power of words and imagination: the story of Jorge Luis Borges himself, two book group members who fall in love as one is losing her sight and a librarian with a passion for Borges.
It was a cruel irony that Jorge Luis Borges, a man so enamoured by words, reading and books should go blind. The book, he told us “is an extension of memory and imagination”. Idle Motion’s show, Borges and I, is a celebration of the power of words, and of how memory and imagination form the world we live in. And what a powerful visual celebration of books and words and their power it is.
Through combining several stories, Idle Motion weave a tale that is a homage to the power of words and books, and the place they inhabit in creating our collective memories and imagination. Just as strands intersect in Borges’ work, so here Idle Motion pull together different intersecting strands. They trace the story of Borges himself and his descent into blindness. There’s a book group and its members: one a librarian with a passion for Borges, another Sophie who is falling in love with Nick and then is losing her sight.
Idle Motion handle these stories with a deftness and lightness of touch that ensure that they all remain clearly delineated, while speaking to their interconnectedness. They move smoothly from one strand to another. Borges haunts the show appearing from time to time, or a disembodied voice speaking his words. His words and ideas are the backbone to the show.
Throughout the show a recurring image of a tiger binds it together. The Borges poem, The Other Tiger, explores the idea of symbols and how what the tiger represents is very much up to the reader; even a real object, he says, has very different meanings to different people depending on their own memories and experiences. There’s a tiger here that’s simply a blanket thrown over cast members with eyes burning bright. As Sophie reels in the frustration of going blind, Nick buys her one of her favourite childhood books, The Tiger Who Came to Tea. When Borges was losing his sight, he returned to his childhood books.
Typically for an Idle Motion show the visual imagery and very much linked lighting design are stunning. Idle Motion are endlessly inventive in reimagining everyday objects. In this show, books are given wings to fly, just as they give our imagination that power. Books are held up to the light and back light produces silhouette images. An optician’s chart is a series of letters and dots on books held up by the cast. Books litter the stage and form the main props appropriately enough. Where the words in books set off our imagination, here it is the images that lead us to explore the idea of books.
Idle Motion work collaboratively, devising the show and presenting strong ensemble acting with individual cameos. There are beautifully observed book group dynamics, the competitive discussion and the facedowns are all there.
The possibilities of language are endless, Idle Motion tell us. The memories of books we have stay with us forever, transcending blindness, linking up with other books and other memories to form unique experiences. Borges likened the universe to a library which he said “is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries.” When the show is over, literally or metaphorically, the words outlive us and go on defining that infinite library.