The eyes are the windows to the soul: a well-known figure of speech which, in the case of April is Over, couldn’t be more relevant. Let me set the scene for you. A scattering of chairs in a vague semi-circular shape, one lone performer sat on the floor, lit by one lone light bulb. Directed by Richard Cerato, this twenty-minute experience is a Beckettian interior monologue, delivered through the sound system, whilst the performer, Dani Nelson, acts almost entirely with her eyes alone.
“It’s entirely human, entirely recognisable, and yet completely original”
Don’t get me wrong, it sounds pretentious, I know. But believe me when I say it’s not. If you want to see how much I hate pretentious theatre, look no further than yesterday’s review of The Crossing Place. There’s a fine line between experimental theatre and snobbish theatre, and April is Over is most certainly on the preferable side.
The interior monologue that constitutes the soundtrack to the production portrays inner thoughts more accurately than I have seen on stage before. Rather than the clichéd single booming voice, we get a selection of voices on a variety of different lines of thought, overlapping, intercutting, tailing off in an entirely natural way. Some thoughts remain unfinished, some get supressed by other thoughts, some wind on for far longer than is healthy, evolving into paranoia. It’s entirely human, entirely recognisable, and yet completely original. I, for one, had never thought about how I think, but when you hear this immersive soundscape, it sounds like your own head. Theatre doesn’t get much more original than this, the exploration of the mind of a human is a seemingly impossible theatrical challenge, and yet, here it is.
On a performative level, this is subtle beyond belief. In any other production, a mistake would be a flubbed line or missed cue, here, however, a mistake is a slight twitch of the eyeball when it’s meant to be stock-still. For the entirety of the performance there is no dialogue, no facial expression, and almost no movement. Nelson sits, eyes wide, with her eyes flicking back and forth between voices and emotions in perfect synchronisation with the soundtrack. It’s inexplicably intimate, demanding absolute attention and focus to extract and project emotion onto each miniscule movement. I can’t explain or articulate why, I can’t technically analyse why, but somehow, by some magic, it works brilliantly. The whole experience combines to create internal struggle, an existentialist fear of epic proportions demanding attention in a quiet but assertive manner.
April is Over is deeply original but performed with a vigilant subtlety. Simple but considered elements combine in perfect harmony to create an intense, introspective atmosphere, which allows you to completely understand the character, whilst learning about yourself too. Almost hypnotic in its transfixion, April is Over is different to anything else you’ll see this Fringe, and I absolutely love it.
C South, 13th – 19th August 20:00
Image: Dani Nelson