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Clulow, C. (2016). Elegy, by Nick Payne, directed by Josie Rourke, The Donmar, London, April 21st–June 18th, 2016. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 6(2):230-231.

(2016). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 6(2):230-231

Elegy, by Nick Payne, directed by Josie Rourke, The Donmar, London, April 21st–June 18th, 2016

Review by:
Reviewed by Christopher Clulow, Ph.D.

What to do when you can no longer live with yourself? What is this “self” that can no longer be lived with? How to forget when memory is diseased? And in the forgetting what remains of relationships and identity?

This new play interrogates these questions from the vantage point of some near future time when neuroscience has advanced sufficiently to induce selective amnesia through interfering with neural connectivity in the brain. It comes in the wake of other dramatic productions that display the fascination and fearfulness that advances in neuroscience can evoke in us when considering our sense of selfhood—think of Tom Stoppard's reflections on consciousness in The Hard Problem (2015), or the Pixar animated film Inside Out (2015) depicting emotions vying with each other in the confined spaces of the brain to control experience and behaviour (reviewed in Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 6(1): 128–131).

Elegy pits physiological survival against what it means to be human in addressing the ethics and effects of opting for a medical procedure that would save life, but override a chunk of autobiographical memory, with the consequence of estranging the patient from a core aspect of her identity. The patient is Lorna (played by Zoe Wannamaker), married some twenty-five years to Carrie (Barbara Flynn) who, because of her spouse's mental deterioration, holds lasting power of attorney and so ultimate responsibility for a decision that, in effect, will have devastating consequences for her own life.

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