Outside of Europe and the Western world, reincarnation as a belief has existed for thousands of years. In tandem with this notion is the belief that people are reincarnated, time and again within their own family. Vesna Hauschild’s play Aeonin explores one such occurence, drawing on non-naturalism to do so.
The play begins with Imogen (Kat Boart) briefly talking to the audience about her past lives, sometimes as an animal, sometimes as a mother of a famous artist. Time passes and ‘Salvador’ (as Imogen once knew him) has now been reincarnated as Warren (Davey Seagle), an post grad architecture student. His end-of-year show takes up much of his time and energy, much to the chagrin of his partner Mistral (Marta Carvalho). He eventually makes quality time for her and they make love. However, despite attempts at contraception, Mistral falls pregnant, leaving the door open for Imogen to be potentially reborn…
Reincarnation as the cornerstone of a play offers so many opportunities in storytelling. While Hauschild’s Aeonian has great potential, it does leave the viewer with many questions, so that one doesn’t engage with it fully at an emotional level. The opening monologue could be extended so that it’s a play in its own right, with Imogen explaining how her karma affected the nature of her reincarnations. The same focus could have been applied to ‘Salvador’, with a monologue devoted to their relationship – before and after he was famous.
The point of using reincarnation in any tale to show how mistakes/choices from one lifetime have a bearing on the next, and whether the reincarnated person in question looks like they’ll break the cycle and move on from past behaviour. Renowned playwright JB Priestly succeeded in broaching this in his play I Have Been Here Before, its tension stemming from the audience knowing what would happen if the characters didn’t deviate from their ‘preordained’ paths.
Of all the questions Aeonian raises, the most pertinent (for the audience anyway) is why Imogen wants to be reborn at her son’s child. Certainly Sigmund Freud would have a field day with this. With a different inflection, an unseen presence waiting to be made flesh again would work perfectly in the horror genre, such as The Unborn.
In its own fashion, Aeonian is a dreamlike play that flits between many issues of interest. Yet it is its ephemeral, intangible qualities that restricts its focus and limit its immediate accessibility.
© Michael Davis 2017
Aeonian runs at Etcetera Theare until 11th June 2017 (6.30pm)