Memories are funny things because often even the most tiring of days turn into precious recollections in posterity. Nat Henderson’s Paper Cranes brings forth the complicated and heart-wrenching story of Aaron (Jack Lahiff), with the audience seeing glimpses of his life and memories disintegrating – almost as though those experiences had never existed in the first place.
The play tells the tale of Aaron, a young, bright university student studying Food Science, and how he accompanies his best friend David (Rohan Rahkit) to a neuroscience study funded by a pharmaceutical company hoping to (like all university students) earn a little cash on the side.
What neither of them realises is the potential of the medicines being administered to them. While David remains unaffected by the drug trials, Aaron, unfortunately, ends up with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. The narrative is non-linear – flashbacks and fond memories interweaving with the distressing encounters with Aaron that his sister Lisa (Beth Carter) and his mother (Katie Fortune) have.
The play takes the audience into the shoes of all the characters, including the researchers administering the trials, with memorable and significant interactions between Dr Jones (Sandra Jareno) and Dr Beadle (Morven Cameron). The story does not merely bring up the important, thought-provoking issues of watching loved ones suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. It also stimulates conversation about the malpractices in the medical research industry and the callousness with which test subjects are often treated in order to achieve profitable results as quickly as possible, to appease the company overlords funding them.
“Funny and personable in his happiest times, the audience could feel the despair and hopelessness that gripped Aaron while he slowly regressed.”
Little things stood out in the performance, a brilliant emotive performance by Lahiff as the protagonist being one of them. Funny and personable in his happiest times, the audience could feel the despair and hopelessness that gripped Aaron while he slowly regressed further into the clutches of the terrible disease.
The lighting, focusing on the table with the paper cranes that Aaron made obsessively, was beautifully done. The paper cranes themselves were cleverly made, with the craftworks going from big and intricate to feeble, small and crushed as the story progressed and Aaron went further into a downward spiral.
It was almost as if the paper cranes were symbolic of his memories throughout the play, and as the memories faded away, the birds lost their skilful wings. Special mention must be made for the music used in the production – it was generated using JukeDeck, an artificial intelligence music composition software. The music suited the mood, with its few simplistic notes. However, it does leave room for the debate on whether there needs to be a certain human touch to music in plays that, in particular, deal with such sensitive issues.
Student plays are often light and enjoyable, limited as they potentially are by their experiences in this world. The thought-provoking nature of Henderson’s writing, however, is truly brilliant and with excellent performances by the cast to support it, the poignant story shines through.
Rating: 9/10 (High score partly attributed to Lahiff’s stunning performance)
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