"People are amazing, aren’t they?" So asks a lone voice in the darkness. It is, of course a rhetorical question: The Archive of Educated Hearts is a tiny gem, far away from the hysterical melee of the Fringe. It examines the unnoticed warriors that we can be, and often are in the everyday banal, grey and unimportant days of our lives.
It’s less than half an hour, but may well be the most transformative hour you’ll have at the Fringe.
All of which makes The Archive Of Uneducated Hearts sounds joyous and uplifting. And it is, but not without cost. It’s the story (and stories) of death, multiplied by two: a death that we know is coming, and the death before that; the moment in our life that can be cleanly divided into before and after; the life that was normal and usual and full of discarded domino pieces and actual, physical photographs that you can hold (rather than scroll past), and the life that is waiting – and willing against – the inevitable end. Of course, we all know that we’re going to die. But being able to know when to mark that event in a calendar – to know, in fact, that to buy a calendar is an act of ruthless optimism - tends to focus the mind. And so our guide - Casey Jay Andrews - tells us the stories of women: indivdual, but connected by news that is unfair and devesating. Those photographs are laid out on a table and we hear stories - both from Andrews and the women themselves, reminding us that even the people who are in the audience with us are hefting unseen icebergs of life and loss.
Andrews is the sole performer (and consider a full house, plus the cast, means that there will only ever be six of you in the Archive), and she has a serene, calming tone, albeit one that (almost) masks a steely composure. Andrews dresses in daffodil yellow (which may be a clue as to some of the more potentially upsetting nature of the text). In a significantly small performance space, where performer and audience knees are almost touching, The Archive Of Educated Hearts certainly has the potential to be imposing: but Andrews is metaphorically if not physically holding your hand.
The performance is less than half an hour, but may well be the most transformative half hour you’ll have at the Fringe. There are moments of quiet sorrow and desperate unfairness here, but in this life – and your life – filled with clutter and unremarkable things, you are reminded that we all have the power to be (that indeed we already are) remarkable, powerful and magical. On a dreary, drizzly day, when so many of us will receive news that multiply death by two, the world seems just a little brighter.