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Edinburgh Fringe 2018

The Archive of Educated Hearts

Lion House Theatre

Genre: Installation Theatre, Storytelling, Verbatim Theatre

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard - The Archive


Low Down

Scrawled diary entries, answer-phone messages blinking on an old landline, a shoebox of postcards and cassette tapes winding stories across years and continents. The Archive is an intimate storytelling installation containing the remarkable moments that make up a lifetime. The audience are surrounded by relics and keepsakes that allow a glimpse into stories of kindness and courage; fragments of absolute joy and incomprehensible heartbreak. The Archive is crafted from true stories of families facing breast cancer.



A kinder, gentler show I do not believe you will find at the Fringe. I did not know what this show was nor did I know that it was everything I would need in that moment. Tucked away in a tiny shed filled with treasures which mark a life lived fully, is an intimate glimpse into the worlds of four sisters, whose lives are tied together not only by blood but by a shared tragedy made triumph of life, breast cancer which renders their lives unpredictable, the remaining moments all the more precious, yet this is not a story about cancer or even about the sisters, though their stories are the through line, but this is more about a shared experience, an intimate moment of communal grief and an abbreviated mourning process about fully experiencing every moment.

Have You an Educated Heart by Gelett Burgess, a book to inspire self-awareness and empathy, is displayed prominently on a small table in front of us, and a sagely, fatherly voice emerges from the darkness, sharing bits of wisdom about how to share kindness in the world, about the joyful existence of the educated heart. Casey, a gifted writer, with a disarming casualty in contrast to the skill with which she shifts between technician and storyteller, accompanied by a peaceful, pleasing soundscape of music, begins by explaining the challenges of an inaccessible heart, that she herself, as an artist who puts her emotional and artistic energy in her work is perhaps more absent and emotionally distance from the people in her life, something which troubles her greatly. The language of her prose is extraordinary, illuminating and expressive, beautiful and surprisingly lavish in this small space, a literary gift which is nuanced and contained, feeling more like a conversation than a performance.

Squirreled away in the corners of this tiny shack, we small band of five, the maximum audience allowed in our small venue, sit as silent witness as Casey shares an intimate portrait of the accelerated lives of our four heroines, who feel the pressure of having an impact, on leaving a legacy for their children with the knowledge that their time is limited.

Casey Jay Andrews has crafted a truly unique experience, a glimpse into the lives of these women, through photographs, stories, and voice overs which catalogue their personal reflections along the path to living fully and letting go. Shifting between storytelling and voice-overs, as well as excerpts from Have You An Educated Heart, which seem  hand picked for the process of navigating the very real uncertainty of cancer, Casey reflects upon her own fears about her inability to be fully present. Her poignant performance and ability to connect fully with her audience is extraordinary, and never drifts into the realm of overly sentimental, a challenging path to navigate.

There is no option in this small space for privacy, to experience this show separate from the other attendees, no moments for silent reflection, a metaphor perhaps for the challenges of the inaccessible heart, and the smallness of the space, filled to bursting with little trinkets, letters, magnets, postcards, books, and other tchotchke at once seemingly accidental and deliberately chosen, a fascinating distraction representing a well-lived world creating an immersive experience which could warrant another visit in simply cataloguing the room in which we inhabit, the smallness of the table which fills with photos, all seem to represent the minuteness  of our very nature.

The challenge of such an intimate but emotional experience is that there is no escape and one does not know how to respond when the well of emotion hits, but perhaps that is the gift of the Archive of Educated Hearts, a moment of shear catharsis in safe space. As the tiny table fills with photos to the point of overflowing, we are reminded that life is not measured in years, but in experiences, so take a half an hour in the Archive and replenish your heart.