So much of the experience of seeing a show is determined by your own state of being: how you are feeling or how your day has been. I spent yesterday running from task to task, until I was finally the last one through the doors at the Traverse Theatre. Stepping out of a cloud of stress, I found myself say in a dark room, the beautiful cacophony of string instruments reverberating in my ears, being forced to think about how precious life is.
We Are In Time is an ensemble piece by the Scottish Ensemble and Untitled Projects in association with Perth Theatre. This show tells the reality of the process behind heart transplants. It follows the entire process, through its grief, its technicality, its time span, and its result. In this, medical information is conveyed through the intermingling of string instruments, harmonies, narration, and solos. This piece is both emotional and informative in its pursuit to display the realities of heart transplant procedures.
The performance is dominated by an ensemble cast. This cast consists of twelve string musicians, including violinists, violists, cellists, and bassists. The use of the string instruments is masterful. As each musician plays their own part, they come together to fill the room with wonderfully haunting tones. From complex pieces to playing on muted strings (making the sound of a heart beat), these instruments create the environment of the performance.
At points I found myself confused. With no medical knowledge, the layering of strings, harmonies, solos, and the TV footage that slid on tracks across the back wall of the stage was overwhelming. This resulted in parts of the information and sentiment being lost in the distraction. However, the pace of the performance meant that these moments of confusion never lasted long. With the change of song and clear narration, performed by Alison O'Donnell, even those of us who know nothing about medicine could keep up.
The performances of soloists Jodie Landau and Ruby Philogene add emotion into the clinical narration. Providing the prospective of the donor and the recipient, respectively, their operatic voices highlight the sadness and the anticipation, but most the human element of this medical procedure.
Over the span of an hour and a half, the audience is immersed in the hospital environment. The staging and costuming must be commended. Whilst minimalistic, it plays on the clean lines and muted tones that one expects form a hospital environment and medical scrubs. As an audience, in this atmosphere, we experience life and death, mourning and healing. This performance is beautiful, but it also informative and sobering.
Days often get away form us, caught up in the motions of life. At the end of a busy day, this performance made me think about life, the privilege of health, family, and my own heart beat. Lub-dum, lub-dum, lub-dum.
We Are In Time runs at the Traverse Theatre until 4 March 2020.