The History of the World (Based on Banalities) is anything but banal

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The History of the World (Based on Banalities) | Kopergietery and Richard Jordan Productions in association with Theatre Royal Plymouth, Summerhall and Big in Belgium | The Cultch’s York Theatre | April 25 – May 5, 2018

This play starts with an apple. As most things do, explains Titus De Voogdt in his brilliant opening monologue. From the importance of the apple to the history of origami or the Spanish fly, De Voogdt weaves interesting facts, magic tricks, a flaming book, and rock music into his heart breaking story about losing his mother. 

His dumpy apartment set is a mess of interesting objects thrown together, much like the content of the play, but somehow it works. De Voogdt is a captivating performer and expert storyteller who leaps around the stage, constantly moving from place to place just like his narrative. He sits on the counter, his feet in an open drawer, as he calmly makes a cup of tea and eats his peeled apple. Later, he scales the tall pantry to sit with a red balloon in hand and tells us of the day his mother met his long lost father in a hot air balloon.

Apart from the interesting props and tricks that De Voodgt incorporates into the narrative, he talks about the concepts that consumed his physicist mother, such as the Higgs boson particle, and the difficulty they had relating to each other. He says she had no clue how to be a mother; that they “were like trains on two different tracks.” Despite this, his love for her is evident as he takes tender care of her once she is consumed by Alzheimer’s.

Geoffrey Burton’s electric guitar interludes added intensity while allowing for breaks in the action when the audience was able to reflect on De Voodgt’s latest tales, fitting it all together.

A seemingly unrelated collection of anecdotes and personal narrative comes together in coagulating memories as De Voogdt reminds us that history is not really about time, but about the events — normal events by normal people. The banalities of our lives are more important and impactful than we give them credit for.  

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