Prague Fringe 2015
‘I just put her in a box and got on with living.’ Exhausted and penniless, a young woman returns home to finish her thesis on mummification. Expecting to find peace and clarity up in the attic, she accidently unearths musty memories, forcing her to confront her past. And her own buried Mummy. Amy Gwilliam (‘striking, vulnerable, mischievious’) returns to Prague (The Mole and the Worm, 2012) in a lonely black comedy about memory, delusion and procrastination. “A miniature epic…a powerful experience (London City Nights).
This show starts when a woman enters through a trap door in the stage floor reciting excerpts from the Tibetan Book of The Dead. Ms. Gwilliam’s character, Electra, has written a book about death rituals of different cultures and now she is a guest lecturer at the secondary school she went to herself. She specializes in Egyptian mummification and addresses the audience as if we are the assembled 16 year olds. Gently, neither condescending to us nor sailing off into technical jargon she employs visual aides such as imaginary projections, using a real remote control pointed at her real computer and referring to a black curtain as if we can see the illustrations that are not there. Her descriptions of these illustrations inform the audience about how different cultures mourn the death of a loved ones. Later, she sings a rap song composed by a teenage boy who was mourning the death of his grandmother. Electra uses audience participation when she invites two members on to the stage, one to be wrapped like a mummy and the other to do the wrapping.
At first I thought I was seeing a show that was an irreverent spoof on death. As the story unfolds Electra tells of the death of her mother when she was 16 years old, how she is obsessed with death and cannot feel anything, “I didn’t cry then and I can’t cry now, I’m in a perpetual state of feirg, grief spelled backwards.”
Ms. Gwilliam’s inner life runs deep and she uses a very delicate, restrained style of expression. Her voice is pretty when she sings Que Sera, Sera; When I was a little girl I asked my mother… We next hear of many of the questions she never had time to ask her mother: Did you ever read To Kill A Mocking Bird? Did you love my father? Did you like breastfeeding? Are you there? Are you watching over me now? What would you change if you came back? What would be your ideal funeral?
What could have been a sappy, sentimental, tug-at-my-heart, manipulative show was instead a poignant journey of one woman’s coming to terms with the death of her mother. Ms. Gwilliam use of comedy, spoof and restrained style of expression made for a show that I can recommend.