Review: AUTOREVERSE

AUTOREVERSE plays Battersea Arts Centre until February 22nd. Details and tickets here

IN BRIEF Gentle, loving meditation upon memory and family drives this moving piece

We are each a collection of stories. Our stories become the memories that illustrate our lives, and the things that others use to recall us when we leave this world. Falling victim to distortion, selective memory and the ravages of time and disease, our memories are perilously fragile.

Florencia Cordeu’s one-woman show AUTOREVERSE is a gentle meditation upon the values and sorrows of memory, using cassettes recorded by her family.  As delicate and fragile as the cassette tapes that the voices that are recorded upon, she gifts us not only a memoir of her family but also a wider consideration of life’s fragility.

Set in a pre-internet world (“when the world seemed so big”), their recording of cassettes began when Florencia’s parents fled the incoming dictatorship in 1970s Argentina. Exiled in Chile, the only way to communicate was by recording cassette tapes to the family left behind. Florencia saved these tapes and during her show plays sections of them for us on ten cassette machines, spotted around the stage, most with microphones dangling above them to capture their sound.

It’s an interesting idea, but the show really comes to life when the stories begin. The legacy of over a decades’ worth of fragile, time-worn cassette tapes, their flimsiness evident by the potential for snagging, creasing and tearing, but still small faithful time-capsules. Hearing these “voices across the ages” she delights that “the more I play them, the more they become real”. They are fragments of impartial, objective, faithfully recorded memory.

Recalling family members still surviving or long dead, Cordeu also explores her own memories, what she recalls and what she does not. Particularly moving is her focus on her Uncle Isaac; there is almost literally nothing left of him. He disappeared without trace, without closure, one of the 30,000 to do so during the dictatorship’s life, when families burned letters and photos to eliminate any proof of connection between people that might be exploited by those in power. There are just 24 precious seconds of grainy home movie film to mark Isaac’s life. Half of which he has his back to the camera. This brings a poignant new measure to that time, and as Cordeu says, “this absence makes him more present than ever”.

Cordeu is fascinated by sound itself, using it in very specific ways to make us question and listen anew at sounds she creates.

Lovingly directed by Omar Elerian, for me the show’s gentle pace flags just a little towards the end, but does not detract from an absorbing evening.

Most importantly, AUTOREVERSE is a call for us to share our stories with those we care about, to ensure that stories to do not disappear before the end of our lives. Ironically, the very medium used to keep memories alive, the cassettes which were recorded upon, are now overdue their expected lifespan, a reminder that nothing is permanent.

As intriguing to the younger audience members who see this technology as museum-ware, as well as to older generations who remember the technology’s original liberating qualities, AUTOREVERSE is a poignant and loving look at how we recall our lives.

AUTOREVERSE plays Battersea Arts Centre until February 22nd. Details and tickets here


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