Schizo Playwrights, Dead Agents Run Amok in London

Britain Still There, Creating Theater

It's probably pure chance that Simon McBurney's Mnemonic (Riverside Studios), about the 5000-year-old ice man found on the Italian-Austrian border, is the most theatrical piece on view. The work—a Theatre de Complicite production that McBurney directs and in which he edgily performs—ingeniously examines memory and connection through three linked stories. Two of them are present-day—a man called Virgil attempts to locate his missing girlfriend while she attempts to locate her missingfather—and one is purely conjectural history: that collection of neolithic bones. When McBurney's skilled company turns a broken chair into a long-dead Iceman walking, the power that drama has to make manifest the souls of the once or currently living is revealed. "It's a story," someone says, "and I suppose we all need stories." Right, and it doesn't matter if they're absolutely true. What's more important—what good theater demonstrates—is that they seem to be emotionally true.

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