Review: I Have Lost Myself
An intriguing 45 minutes of theatre.
Outside of the realm of comedy sketch shows, there is a real dearth of devised drama on the Cambridge theatre scene. After watching I Have Lost Myself, you’ll be hoping this collaboratively devised physical theatre piece starts a trend for more.
I Have Lost Myself is loosely based on the story of Auguste Deter, the first person to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Framed around a series of fragmented memories from a man’s life, this is all performed as physical theatre routines by a skilled ensemble of actors. The group have created a strong set of routines, which alternate between vitality and a bittersweet nostalgia and it is clear that all four members of the ensemble are skilled physical actors. They work well in tandem and there is a strong sense of synchronisation between them.
The premise, whilst not exactly ground-breaking in its originality, did leave room for some creative routines, but had a slight tendency to lapse into standard tropes of this style of physical theatre. A routine with an umbrella was both original and amusing, an early ‘busy people rushing down streets’ sequence felt a little tired and added little to the piece.
Under Jonathan Ben-Shaul’s direction, using very little dialogue was a bold choice. Instead, this piece focuses on movement to convey meaning. While this certainly added to the flow of the piece and was extremely effective in its creation of mood, there were times where not enough attention was paid to how the cast’s physicality progressed the plot. This left the audience occasionally unclear as to what exactly was going on. However, even when this was the case, it was still entirely possible to enjoy the understated and generally very well executed routines.
Mauritz Spenke anchors the piece with his interludes as Augustus, which returned to a more conventionally naturalistic mode. Whilst these were helpful in grounding the plot, it was a shame that in a piece so focused on interiority and a single man’s mind, Spenke largely failed to capture the sense of torture and of being trapped in one’s own body that must come with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Whilst these interludes could certainly have done with more development, the piece is carried by the impressive work of the ensemble, who really came into their stride later on; with a very short running time, it was just a shame they weren’t allowed to more time to do so.
Although I Have Lost Myself has at times neglected plot in favour of eye-catching movement, the aesthetic effect is strong, and any fans of physical theatre would be well advised to get down to the Corpus Playroom to appreciate a commendable example.