A Journey Round My Skull review

Summerhall
© Jonathan Blackford
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This unhappy love story is wedged between the stark contrasts of pure feeling and pure science. And it really gets inside your head.

On a psychiatrist's office set, performer Olivia Winteringham stands and talks to the audience. We are her patient, she explains. We suffer from memory loss, she tells us in a slight German accent, and then lays out the events which led us to her room this day. This day is the day that she will cut the brain tumour that is causing us aural hallucinations and rapid mood swings out of our head.

Winteringham's psychologist is deliberate and controlled, smart and witty. She drives this performance with a subtle, engaging energy as she shares the events in her life and the life of her patient over the last few months. We begin to realise that she has fallen deeply in love with the entirely unpredictable, very sick patient. But whether or not she loves with the person whose actions are determined by the tumour, or whether she's in love with the person without it, is only made clear towards the end.

KILN theatre's script, based on a Hungarian novel by Frigyes Karinthy, is beautifully poetic and evokes the streets of Budapest so well you can almost smell them. But it's the crux of the piece which is the most arresting. When it comes to the time for surgery, we are told to put on our headphones so we can hear the music we have chosen to be played while our head is being cut open (we will be conscious during surgery). The headphones play the music, but we can also hear a soundscape of disturbing, confusing noises and thoughts.  It's a visceral and uncomfortable sensation brilliantly manipulated by smart, realistic sound design.

By Daisy Bowie-Sell

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