Pepper’s Ghost is a 19th-century illusionary trick created by the strategic positioning of mirrors so that an image appears seemingly inexplicably where it shouldn’t.
Toujours et Pres de Moi by Patrick Eakin Young is a piece of almost dialogue-free theatre centred on this historic theatrical technique. In this specific case, the ‘ghosts’ are sent into the performance space by first being projected onto the floor. A woman (Sarah Thom) and a man (Francois Testory) stand at a table topped with wooden boxes. A few loud knocks signal the start of a succession of tiny people emerging and retreating into these boxes. And… that’s about it.
The couple watches as the holographic Borrowers act out a story of love, rejection, aloneness and human connection, some of which appears to function as a microcosm of the couple’s own relationship.
Underscored by a succession of operatic songs, the work is enjoyably meditative and visually arresting. The images are like half-forgotten memories or never-realised dreams. But once you’ve got over the initial cleverness of Pepper’s Ghost, the repetition of the piece is a little too much. Perhaps, in an age of VR technology, we’re too spoilt for illusions to really marvel at Victorian artistry.