Cataract is something you tend to hear about people having as they get older. But cataract has another meaning: a cascade or rush of water. Last week, Radio 4 featured as its Book of the Week Daniel Tammet’s Thinking in Numbers, a collection of essays on numbers and mathematics from the English writer who has been diagnosed with autistic savant syndrome.
In the extract broadcast on 23 August, entitled The Cataract of Time, Tammet examines how our experience of time as we age goes from ‘a trickle to cataract’ even citing a mathematical formula from French philosopher Paul Janet who explains that the experience of time is proportional to our age with a 10 year old having 1 year equaling 1/10 of his existence but to a 50 year old it is 1/50, therefore 5 times faster. Ah, the beauty of maths.
In Donna Rutherford’s acclaimed multi -media production, Kin, she examines the sensitive and emotional issue of the relationship between a middle aged child and their aging parent where the roles of dependency can be reversed through the passage of time, although it can still be easy for an adult to revert to the role of the child when they return to the family home of an elderly parent.
Rutherford moves over the hour long piece to each of the three small domestic tables that are in front of three screens. Each draped tables contains cups and kettles, teapots and toast, milk and Milo, all symbols of comfort, routine and quiet safety. Each table also contains an old- fashioned egg timer whose sands run throughout the performance. In the background fragmented, half- forgotten favourite songs of the cast are sung, with a concertina squeezing out notes that seem to be loaded with sentiment.
The screens in turn show the five actors who appear through a video link to speak with a raw honesty about their aged, ageing or deceased parents, then show them with the parent in a small domestic scene. Donna Rutherford describes herself a conduit as she gives voice to her own perspective on what it is to deal with frailty in someone who had been a figure of strength throughout their lives.
The unique and intimate relationship of parent and child, of lives and time shared, is explored and examined with a moving frankness by all the actors involved. It is quite a trying experience but a deeply affecting one as the unspoken fears of dealing with loss and fragility of loved ones are addressed by this remarkable cast.
KIN appeared on the Fringe as part of this year’s Made in Scotland 2012 programme.