What You See When Your Eyes Are Closed/What You Don’t See When Your Eyes Are Open

Aug 6 2023 | By More

★★★★☆     Intriguing

Summerhall (Venue 26): Wed 2 – Sun 27 Aug 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

What You See When Your Eyes Are Closed/What You Don’t See When Your Eyes Are Open at Summerhall is thought-provoking, surprisingly touching and visually intriguing.

The production – from Edinburgh-based theatre maker and designer Mamoru Iriguchi – starts with a confrontation, realised with extraordinary visual creativity, between a giant cyclops and a man with two faces. The cyclops has an eye which functions as a camera, with the resultant images displayed from a projector on the back of his head as he moves around the space.

Mamoru Iriguchi and Gavin Pringle. Pic: Medoune Seck

This level of invention is never going to be sustained, and much of what follows is bound to be disappointing by comparison. However, there is a pleasing coherence to the show – although the themes of perspective and vision are a little lost through repetition, and low-key (but not always necessary) audience participation.

The message about the interactivity of theatre as opposed to screen-based entertainment is nevertheless made with grace and intelligence, even if the performers themselves tend to undercut it. Those performers are Iriguchi himself and Gavin Pringle (also credited as devisor), and the performances are beautifully judged – clever, emotional, and just the right size for the boxy space of the Former Women’s Locker Room at Summerhall.

There are ruminations on performance and audience, memory and reality, celebrity and family, as well as a love story depicted with a matter-of-fact sweetness, although as per the warning on the door, there is ‘brief non-sexual nudity’.


That warning (and the one about ‘scenes of violence’) seem designed to put off as many people as possible. The same could be said of that title – horribly unwieldy, and almost impossible to remember correctly. There is also the Fringe programme and website categorisation as ‘performance art, lgbtq+’. While both of these are certainly true, the ‘performance art’ label will surely alienate some who would enjoy what is more carefully thought out – and more resolutely theatrical – than many pieces of ‘traditional’ theatre.

What you see/don’t see Pic: Medoune Seck

It would be a pity if some were to avoid a production designed to be thoroughly accessible. That audience participation is undemanding and optional, while all the performances are designed to be inclusive and ‘relaxed’, with audio headsets available, dialogue projected on the walls, no overly loud noises and little in the way of low lighting.

The combination of the fantastic and the domestic in the script is echoed by the use of technology, which is at once up-to-date and Heath Robinsonly homespun. The odd moments of recalcitrance, however, tend to enhance rather than diminish the charm.

Charm is certainly here by the bucketload, as well as ingenuity. That ‘relaxed’ ethos extends to the audience being told to come and go if they please; it is difficult to imagine anyone leaving an entertainment so diverting and enchanting.

Running time: One hour (no interval)
Summerhall, Former Women’s Locker Room, 1 Summerhall, EH9 1PL (Venue 26)
Wednesday 2 – Sunday 27 August 2023
Daily (not Mon 7, 14, 21 or Tues 15) at 7.15 pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

Company website: https://www.iriguchi.co.uk/
Twitter: @mamoru_iriguchi
Facebook: @mamoru.iriguchi.7


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