Robert Tanitch reviews Incognito at Bush Theatre, Shepherd’s Bush, London W12
I enjoyed Nick Payne’s Constellations so much that I saw it twice. The play, wittily and cleverly, showed that at any given moment several outcomes could co-exist simultaneously. Incognito is not nearly so accessible. It’s another intellectual game and this time the subject is neuroscience. What’s your memory like? Do you have trouble remembering things?
Imagine if you could forget all the traumas and pains in your life. Imagine how liberating it would be not to know who you are. Enjoy amnesia while it lasts. The text, complex and fractured, explores the nature of identity. There are three separate stories and Payne switches from one to the other at speed, sometimes without a break.
One story is about an epileptic suffering from severe memory loss. Another is about a pathologist who steals Einstein’s brain and takes it home so he can study it. The third story is about a bisexual clinical neuropsychologist who comes to the conclusion that people are pointless.
There are just four actors: Paul Hickey, Amelia Lowdel, Alison O’Donnell and Sargon Yelda. Directed by Joe Murphy, they steer their way expertly through Payne’s technically challenging 90-minute script, constantly having to change character and accent.
Incognito is a brainy play for brainy people, who are prepared to listen hard. The brain, so the neuropsychologist tells us, “builds a narrative from moment to moment but it’s ultimately an illusion.
There is no me, there is no you and there certainly is no self. The brain is a story-telling machine and it’s really, really good at fooling us.”