How to Disappear Completely, Underbelly, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Aurora Nova and The Elbow Theatre
James Long (director),Itai Erdal, James Long, Emelia Symington Fedy, Anita Rochon (writers)
Itai Erdal
Running time

It’s what we will all do, of course. Once the eulogies have been spoken, our bizarre choice of farewell music has been played and the crematorium curtains close behind the coffin, we may remain fleetingly in the memories of those who cared for us, and any remaining progeny, but we will fade as they properly resume their lives.

Itai Erdal lost his mother to cancer over ten years ago. He’s a theatre lighting designer to trade, and these two facts conjoin to produce a remarkable hour that combine a meditation on last things with another on the nature of light.

‘God is the sun’ are the reputed last words of the painter Turner, and Erdal shares his fascination for this element of our existence, playing with it throughout the show to demonstrate its potential and limits.

Now resident in Canada, Erdal returned to his native Israel when he heard that his mother had been diagnosed with what turned out to be very aggressive cancer. Erdal filmed his mother’s progressive decline, despite the alarm and discomfort of his sister, and short bursts of film featuring both of them punctuate the performance, with Erdal sometimes disconcertingly translating their Modern Hebrew as they speak.

Here and there the production feels as rough-cut as the footage, but Erdal’s abilities as a storyteller and his considerable personal charm carries us forward with a light touch.

There is, of course, a pun in the preceding sentence, for Erdal uses his profession as a subtle metaphor. Once we would have fed the worms or the fishes, atomised slowly into the soil or the sea. Nowadays, technology takes over and our mourners receive an urnful of ashes to dispose of at their convenience.

Thanks to other technology, we can be disconcertingly present (virtually, at least) at our own funerals, and Erdal’s film clips are a reminder we no longer have the grace to fade away.

Erdal’s professional love of par cans, follow spots and shin busters (he’ll tell you what these are) is almost palpable, and their use is integral to the performance and its point. Its two most moving and powerful moments are the recitation of Kaddish, that wise Judaic ritual of repeating the prayer for the dead daily for a year, both an act of remembrance and a means of adjusting to absence, and his own final act of disappearance, a further reminder, in case we still needed one, of what we will all come to do.

Underbelly Big Belly Theatre, 1-24 August, 7.30pm. £9-£11.50