Theatre review: Thrown by Jodi Gray, Underbelly, Cowgate

Thrown creates a refreshing space for late-night contemplation and stillness in a busy festival. Picture: Contributed
Thrown creates a refreshing space for late-night contemplation and stillness in a busy festival. Picture: Contributed
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Put on your headphones and plunge into the hidden creases and distant corners of the brain – a place where fragmented memories and forgotten voices float quietly through the dark and into the bright white light.

Thrown by Jodi Gray, Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61) ****

This is what Jodi Gray and Living Record Productions’ thoughtful, at times unsettling, and extremely distinctive piece of sci-fi theatre asks of its audience and, with the help of an open mind, it’s a highly immersive experience – the kind of show that suits the dark damp of the Underbelly so well.

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A softly spoken woman steps out from the shadows and tells us she is a doctor. Surrounding her are model heads, one of which she speaks to. This is a recording, she explains; they – or maybe we – are being recorded. In this space, both time and individual identities are fluid. As the headphones turn us all into interchangeable heads, Gray’s elusive dialogue merges with Chris Drohan’s evocative soundscape until it’s unclear what is happening when and where.

At the end, we learn that the piece is based on interviews with older women, but it has more in common with the philosophical hypereality of Dennis Potter’s Cold Lazarus than the dry naturalism ­associated with conventional verbatim theatre. Jill Rutland’s charismatic performance draws out themes of ageing, memory and death to create the mood, if not the structure, of a ghost story. “Nothing bad is going to happen”, is repeated towards the end – but it doesn’t entirely convince.

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Striking but disconnected images, including the sky folding in on itself and a child deciding to grow up, are left hanging in the air. It’s not a show that feels a need to fully explain itself – and the doctor and her work remain tantalisingly mysterious – but as an existential experience, it’s a piece that creates a refreshing space for late-night contemplation and stillness in a busy festival.

• Until 19 August, 8:50pm