Casey Jay Andrews, resplendent in red dungarees in an intimate venue of her own creation, begins by reminding us pointedly that in her show she is not an actor but will “remain as Casey throughout”. But she is a born performer and in her storytelling show The Archive of Educated Hearts – a mix of poetry, theatre and multimedia experience - is far more than a story told in the third person.
The audience cannot help but find themselves delicately and beautifully affected by the content of the play.
After winning a Fringe First Award last year for and receiving rave reviews across the board, Andrews has brought the show back to her installation space in Pleasance Courtyard for another run this summer. I wondered if the show which she must now be so familiar with would begin to feel tired, but Andrews has a sparkling presence and clearly cares so genuinely about her subject material that this show feels fresh and new.
Welcoming a small audience into her roomful of memories, Andrews has interviewed four women in her life who experienced or are experiencing breast cancer. Amidst a gorgeous soundscape complemented by music and a kindly voice reading out a description of th theory of the educated heart, we hear the real voices of these four women, sharing the highs and lows of their treatments, changing relationships with families, and the reality of receiving a terminal prognosis. Andrews intersperses their words with poetic takes of her own memories and opinions on love, grief and The Lion King.
It is a difficult performance to quantify: Andrews is so personal and open and the whole show feels so relaxed that reviewing it is a little like attaching a star rating to a fantastically interesting conversation you once had down the pub. The Archive’s real beauty stems from two things: first of all, Andrews’ ability to make her poetry seem spontaneous and her neat tech and control of the soundboard appear unplanned and smooth. This gives the whole experience a vibrant, in-the-moment feel which. Secondly, there is the unpretentious content of the show. “This isn’t meant to be a tribute or anything,” Andrews points out in an epilogue speech. This is not an “issue play”; it is merely a story,or four stories really. There is no goal to change the audience’s mind about anything: just a message about love.
The end effect, of course, is that precisely because of this the audience cannot help but find themselves delicately and beautifully affected by the content of the play. This subtly moving thirty minutes cannot come too highly recommended for lovers of storytelling. Well deserving of all its accolades, I cannot wait to see what Andrews does next.