Writers: Hannah Barker, Lewis Hetherington and Liam Jarvis
Director: Liam Jarvis and Hannah Barker
Reviewer: Tracey Lowe
2401 Objects tells the (true) story of Henry Molaison, who in 1953 underwent pioneering surgery on his brain in an attempt to stop him having seizures. The experiment didn’t go to plan, and gave Henry amnesia. The story is narrated by Dr. Jacopo Annese, a surgeon who worked on Molaison’s brain in 2009. We follow Henry through his difficult life, as he tries to adapt to the world around him.
While there are some scientific sections in this piece, this is primarily a story about people. The play jumps between Henry’s early life to his later life, and the more we discover about his problems at a young age, the more sympathy we feel towards “older Henry”. The best, and most memorable, scenes in this play contain simple dialogue between Henry and his parents.
A variety of characters are performed by three tremendously talented actors. Paul Hassall portrays young Henry with a great sense of vulnerability, and then switches effortlessly to the authoritative Dr Annese. Simon Yadoo conveys a different kind of vulnerability with older Henry, even more fragile, but again is entirely different as Henry’s frustrated father. But the real stand-out performer for me was Alexandra Maher, who performed all three significant female rôles; Henry’s mother, older Henry’s nurse and the object of young Henry’s affections, Lauren. I must admit, it was only towards the end of the piece that I realised that there weren’t in fact two female performers. She was funny and moving as Henry’s mother, enigmatic and alluring as Lauren and tender as the nurse.
The fourth cast member was the effective, but incredibly simple set. At the centre of the stage was a ‘Macrotome’, which is basically a large projection screen which could rotate. The screen was used to create scenery, as well as facilitating set changes. It really was inspiring to see such a great use of technology and not have it detract from the piece. And of course, all the action was overseen by the extraordinary on-stage Stage Manager, Helen Mugridge.
I cannot find any bad things to say about this production. The sensitive story was handled wonderfully, the cast and crew were impeccable and the set was innovative. Analogue Theatre have created a ground-breaking piece, that deserves a wider audience.