It is not often that the affect of post traumatic shock is to bring your ancestors back to life to describe their own crises.
Yet this is the theme of Je Suis Dead, presented by Fool’s Proof Theatre in collaboration with Gey Pin Ang and, subsequently with Linda Kerr Scot. It was recently a success in San Francisco and is currently touring the UK. The play opens with a big bang, the sound of a huge train crash, created realistically by Barry Han.
It is this event that brings three surviving passengers together as they face a world that will never be the same again. James, a hard headed businessman, loses his confidence; Helen, an introvert, suddenly becomes more outgoing although she has an obsession with fire extinguishers, and Emily sees for the first time, the hard side of life.
Each is confronted by an ancestor who miraculously appears to reveal family secrets and each plays his/her own forebear.
Ben Phillips plays not only James but also William, a British explorer. As James, Ben interacts well with the audience and his William gives some beautiful descriptions of the North Pole.
Britt Jurgesnen is Helen, and also Charlotte, a member of a short-lived movement in art and literature which sought to abandon all forms and throw off all tradition. To understand you have to see Britt’s performance which makes the meaning crystal clear. The actress also reveals the character’s gradual loss of sanity.
Mary Pearson plays American, Emily and her ancestor Mildred, a God-fearing housewife from the deep south whose life is unexpectedly turned upside down. Mary’s two American characters link in together especially well.
The set and lighting, designed by Magali Nuesch and Mary Cummings, are both simple yet effective, with the lighting differing for each character, spotlighting their innate differences.
This play makes you think about the legacy we receive from past relatives and how they can still affect your life.
But you have to think very hard and at times this is a little alienating. This is a fascinating premise which is well acted but some of the audience, including me, come out feeling bemused.