Circles – Living Record Festival

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writer: Carmina Masoliver

Grief can be overwhelming and all consuming, something that leaves an indelible mark on those left behind. Inspired by Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis, Carmina Masoliver’s 15-minute piece Circles is a poetic short story about love, memory and absence that focuses on a surviving lover and uses a fluid narrative style to consider the impact of lost love.

The narrator wakes up to a feeling of emptiness and needs to get through the day without her partner. Having managed to shower and dress, the journey to work elicits memories of love; of the physical experience and proximity of another human being, as well as the emotional collapse their absence creates. As the tube stations rush by in blur, the speaker is increasingly absorbed by the past.

Circles sets itself apart with a practical activity for listeners to complete as they hear this affectingly constructed tale. You begin by downloading a picture, a circle of forget-me-nots, that you should colour in as the story unfolds. In the centre, Masoliver asks the listener to draw things you love, that make you feel happy or patterns that bring comfort.

As a mindfulness exercise it is an unusual but welcome addition to the story, giving you something visual to concentrate on as you listen and that by extension creates a greater focus on the audio element. In such a short piece, you will struggle to complete colouring more than a few of the flowers never mind the drawing tasks but, with a request to share the results on Instagram, it is something to come back to in a quieter moment.

Masoliver’s piece is beautifully written, filled with evocative experiences of loneliness, fear and the quiet devastation of loss, capturing the dislocation the speaker feels with the everyday, stating ‘I blend into insignificance’. The external world seems muffled, hazy and remote as exterior signals only occasionally punctuate the narrator’s absorption but never fully break through the protective layer that Masoliver’s words create.

Circles is about the process of grief, using the metaphor of the speaker’s journey around London’s Circle Line to represent the character’s non-linear emotional reactions to death. And while this particular tube line is no longer truly a circle, those familiar with the area will note the character’s progression in the passing station names. Thoughts and remembered sensations recur in almost random patterns, overlaying one another and mixing different kinds of recollection together as the speaker recalls happier times as well as recent events where the possibility of new relationships opened up.

One of the most interesting dimensions to Masoliver’s work is her exploration of the performative nature of modern life, the need to assume an outward appearance of politeness, of going through the motions and pretending to be an adult. These social expectations give shape to the narrator’s grief, creating a level of reality under which she is submerged. Circles is a short piece but an emotive one in which darkness and light, the ‘relics of the past’ and the impossible possibility of love are given form and meaning.

Runs here until 22 February 2021

The Living Record Festival runs here from 17 January to 22 February 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Affectingly constructed

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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