Presented by A Front Company
A turntable painted in swirls of blue and white, suggesting ripples in a pond, is the striking focus of our attention. Designed by Rebecca Chaikin, this is the production’s singular set element and it serves its thematic purpose efficiently. From the moment they first lock eyes at a night club, Echo (陳佳琦 Jennifer Tan) and Narcissus (Tom Shoshani) spin round each other endlessly.
This revolving dance comes straight out of the text of ECHO. Kole Durnford’s contemporary retelling of the Greek myth with its dizzying conversations is dense and lyrical. As Echo and Narcissus interact with each other, they also narrate their shared story—to us and each other. The urgency drifts in and out as their dialogue shifts between immediate and retrospective. In a way that feels thematically deliberate, it becomes tricky to understand which character is speaking at any given time. As they jump back and forth between delivering their own lines or recounting each other’s, it all blurs together.
This blurring is a defining aspect of ECHO. Riffing on the myth, reflections and echoes figure prominently here. As they take us through their relationship—from whimsical random walks through the city to discussions of marriage, children and legacy—their conversations examine notions of love and art. They are so intensely fixated on each other that they seem under some cosmic influence.
All the elements of Robert Morrison staging are distinct and purposeful. There is a careful balance of stillness and movement, subtle shifts in the quality of light as the mood changes. Tan and Shoshani are natural and endearing with a persuasive dynamic that never insists upon the emotions of a moment. They fully trust the rhythms of the dialogue and the audience’s investment.
Thematically, it’s very rich; conceptually, it’s ambitious and sure of itself; I appreciate the craft and cleverness, but I was never quite as lost in this as I imagine the creators intended. With a dog named Eros, a plant named Psyche and a pivotal location called The Reflecting Pool; the mythic references are a little too distractingly cheeky. Having experienced two decades more of life than these two characters, their deep discussions of it feel a little callow.
There is a moment when Narcissus imagines out loud about eventually being forty-five and—horror or horrors!—seeing the future as just a gradual slog towards the death. As a human who is that exact age—ouch. So much of their philosophizing comes from this distinctly youthful perspective. It’s a valid lens, of course, but depending on your age and experience, your milage may vary.
Aside from its lofty meditations on the nature of self, love and the artistic impulse, this production’s most resonant aspect is the authenticity of its portrait of youthful infatuation and disillusionment. I don’t think the story’s nostalgia is intentional, but its persuasive atmosphere absolutely triggered my own wistful memories of being an early twenty-something, artsy type launching myself enthusiastically into the world.