Toujours et Près de Moi is a holographic puppet opera by multi-disciplinary arts company, Erratica. At the heart of the piece stands the 150-year old technique of Pepper’s ghost – a process whereby images are projected onto the downstage floor and reflected by a large two-way mirror, carefully angled between the actors and the audience, on which the ethereal visions exist. Exploring the breakdown of a lost love, the performance questions human emotion and how subconscious abstracts – emotions, frustrations and fantasies – subsist alongside us in a physical and rational world.
A powerful piece which explores the depths of human emotion
Behind the mirror stand a man and a woman clearly burdened by a complicated history and a fractured nostalgia, and a table supporting two boxes. From within one of the boxes comes an unexpected knock, and when the pair decide to open it out fall the projected visions of their younger selves; and a beautifully melancholy glimpse into what went wrong.
The piece is set to a haunting score which intertwines Renaissance madrigals by Gesualdo with more contemporary harmonies by the likes of James Weeks and Christopher Fox. In this instance, composition serves to say what a purposeful lack of dialogue does not, and elicits a more intimate response from the audience.
Interestingly, the actors are entirely unable to see the Pepper’s ghost imagery, and spend the performance reacting to empty spaces, taking their cues from the music in a well-choreographed and intricate routine. As creator Patrick Eakin Young comments in the programme, the very nature of the projection means that both absence and presence play an equal role in forming the narrative – in a similar way to memories which have happened in the past but exist in the present as nothing more than a synaptic trace. What the audience sees is a visual representation of a memory; although by its very definition the imagery is an illusion - something that isn’t there. So where does the boundary lie? Are all memories illusions? And is there a difference between illusion and truth?
A powerful piece which explores the depths of human emotion, Toujours et Près de Moi takes an old trick and makes it accessible to a contemporary audience. Charming in its delivery and understated in its presentation, it takes a fundamentally human emotional concept and places it in a new, carefully-reflected light.