Much more than the retelling of a long-buried scandal, Enormous Yes‘ multi-layered production involves the audience in an experiment of its own – and it’s so clever and likeable, you probably won’t even notice.
The ‘forbidden experiment’ of the title, refers to a whim of the troubled King James IV, who in 1493 sent two young children away in the care of a mute woman to live on the uninhabited isle of Inchkeith. There – so went James’ hypothesis – the children would rediscover the ‘original language’ that connected humanity with God. This however is merely the starting point of this thoughtful show which takes the monarch’s obsessive theory as a jumping-off point for a host of interweaving stories, each exploring our basic human need to connect with another.
Much of the play’s brilliance lies in how it includes the audience in its own subtle performance experiment – an echo of James’ original – using all kinds of non-spoken communication to tell the story. The most effective of these is the presence of dancer Zosia Jo; silent throughout, her ability to communicate without language is particularly powerful, expressing herself with ponderous, unobtrusive choreography and a wonderfully expressive face.
Matt Regan’s music is also almost a character in its own right, while Colin Chaloner’s ominous animated projections are hugely effective in bringing to life the silent, dislocated world of that abandoned Inchkeith family. Encompassing all this, Rob Jones and Michael John O’Neill’s well-balanced and witty script gives an untroubled transition through moments of sadness and romance, comedy and real tragedy.
With so much going on, James’ experiment very quickly spins out of view, which might be the point but nevertheless sometimes feels frustrating. Similarly, with such loosely connected plot-lines, the pacing occasionally feels dirge-slow. However, this is a play that’s definitely worth sticking with. There’s a lot to chew on but Enormous Yes have wrapped it up in such a brilliantly original package that it’s miles away from the university lecture the set design alludes to.