It had been a while since I had been to the National Theatre to see anything and I have to say it felt good to be back there, made me feel cultured and put me back in my best behavior as a theatre student (lately, I've been neglecting theatre, or plays, in favour of dance, especially ballet.... can't help it, it is too beautiful). The play was performed at the new NT temporary venue, The Shed, not particularly beautiful (bright red wood in shape of a shed) but it serves its purpose (except for soundproofing).
Table is a story mainly about family, and the strange bonds that it forges: love, hate, jealousy, sadness, solitude, duty... Each family is different but somehow we end up repeating the same patterns throughout history. No matter how much time passes by, mothers will always love, siblings will always fight and the ties which bind us to our family are never easily broken. In the play we follow the history of one particular family, from the beginning of the 20th century to nowadays. What was fascinating about it is the kind of empathy the story had (at least to me); all of us can relate to family matters: the losses, births, fights, marriages, love, heartbreak... All the emotions portrayed were common ground to all of us which made the connection with the audience both to a personal level but also bringing us together with the universal theme of family. While watching, I found myself thinking of my own family history, all the events which have led to this particular moment in time and how each action we take (combined with fate, if you might call it so, or a series of coincidences) has an effect in the future.
Normally, our family history is passed from one generation to the next in oral form; bedside stories about our ancestors or loving tales from our grandparents about their childhood come to us throughout our lives and are stored in our memories but memory can be treacherous, uncaring; our brains work in mysterious ways, waving through our web of stored moments, deleting and saving almost as if by chance. That is why we keep material record of most memories we treasure, so if we ever forget the slightest detail, we can always go back and remember all over again, because our bodies remember everything, they just need a little help sometimes. The sturdy, wooden table of the story acts like a photographic album, recording every single event of the family tree; generation after generation, memories are stored in its surface in form of scratches, writing or bleach patches. This table survives the years, safeguarding the family's memories even when they seem to have been forgotten and opens a door to the past for the new generations to look into.
Each family has their own personal table (or tables) that carries, almost literally, a piece of history. Snapshot moments captured inside an object or a photograph, which become incredibly valuable after the moment vanishes and we're only left with the memories inside our heads which, with time, become smoky and clouded. I keep a "table" of my own with me almost all the time. My father's watch, which was given to him the day of his first communion. Gold, with some scratches on the face. It is a bit too big for me and sometimes, it stops for no reason but it comes back to life when I shake it a couple of times. But the looks of it are not so important. It is when I think I have forgotten a memory I had of him, a day by the pool or a sleepless night in summer. When his face becomes a little bit blurry, I only have to look down to my wrist to see it all; or rather feel it. Feel him.
Table is on at The Shed (National Theatre) until the 28th of May