Edinburgh Fringe 2018
An impressive work of devised theatre, The Vanishing casts a spell on its audience, drawing us into a world created through elegant simplicity of movement and sound. With a bare minimum of props and costume, the cast takes us through time and space, shifting between nursing home, memories, and the alternative dreamscapes of fading minds. This is a lovely, earnest, and poignant show from an incredibly talented group of young artists.
During this Fringe, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing two young ensembles choose the forgotten and overlooked stories of the elderly as their subject matter. There’s a fascinating alchemy that occurs when the tales of the aged are told by the young. We are seeing again the youth within the elderly, the young men and women who they were once more. By embodying these overlooked “vanishing” figures cloistered away in a nursing home, this cast reminds us– in song form– that, “before you know it, you’ll be 89.” (If you’re lucky to live so long, of course.)
The show is immensely creative in its storytelling, and the ensemble works as a crisp whole, moving and breaking quickly between flashbacks and “realistic” scenes in the nursing home, freezing into tableaux, fading impossibly into the background as set dressing when others are being featured. One of my favorite directorial choices in this boldly devised piece was to use live soundscaping to create the mundane, eternal drone of television that’s so pervasive in nursing homes– actors, holding a neutral face, speak in a barely audible tone, mimicking the banal platitudes of guests on a home renovation show or the boisterous theme song of a game show. This kind of group effort is implemented in all facets of the show– different actors take turns pulling focus, trading off roles, fading into the background to picking up props or switch to sound effect producers. It’s deeply enjoyable to watch such a tight ensemble shift and move through so many tempos and styles– especially when one of them is a particularly satisfying dance break.
The show feels free-flowing, but as it progresses, the narrative threads pick up and one by one are tied off, with perhaps one or two left hanging. It’s a tight hour that alternates between nostalgic sorrow, joyful celebration, and poignant reflection. For an inventive and beautiful reflection on aging, life and love, I highly recommend this show.