Arts and Culture

Review: By Heart

Posted on: Wed 6 Mar 2019

by Lisa Harper Campbell

Portuguese actor and theatre-maker Tiago Rodrigues is the charismatic, master of cerebral ceremonies at this performance during which he teaches 10 audience members a piece of poetry they can then recite by heart.

This exercise runs parallel to Rodrigues’ heartfelt retelling of his relationship with his grandmother who, upon discovering she would become completely blind, asked him to choose a book for her to memorise.

The audience filed in as Rodrigues, alone and skimming through a book was perched on a stool, five empty chairs either side of him. He then made the invitation for audience members to occupy these 10 empty chairs. We were told that the show would not begin until these places were taken.

I couldn’t help myself and jumped up, taking the second to last chair stage right. I’m so glad I did. To see Rodrigues’ work up close was a privilege and to actively participate in the process, that of learning the poem (no spoilers here – see the show to find out which one), was humbling as it was just one part in a collective experience shared by Rodrigues, the volunteers and the entire audience.

With ease and humour, Rodrigues describes in vivid detail his obsessions with the ideas of George Steiner acting as vehicles for true stories of beauty, resistance and hope.

This show is structured in a way that left the audience transfixed and more than willing to travel with Rodrigues to the worlds created by weaving together words from Shakespeare, Steiner, Bradbury, Pasternak and others.

The performance is born out of Rodrigues’ workshops during which he teaches 10 people a poem by heart. His friendly and open demeanour allowed for moments of ‘structured spontaneity’ and true connection. The audience couldn’t help but be drawn in to Rodrigues’ storytelling.

A tender and passionate call to arms to keep poetry alive in our minds and in our hearts, By Heart is a delight and a true gift to theatre audiences. Don’t miss out.

By Heart will continue its Adelaide Festival season at the Odeon Theatre until March 10.

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