Amidst a vast black space, their faces illuminated by the light of an overhead projector, three archaeologists pore over scraps of paper from ancient Greece. The Muse, daughter of Memory and siren of Jazz, arrives to bring their jumbled lines to life.
Fragments is a show made out of a handful of lost and found scraps of fractured text. Presenting tantalising glimpses of a lost ancient masterpiece with drama, humour, shadow puppetry, and dazzling song, Fragments is an entrancing meditation on how we perceive the world, construct the truth, and remember the past.
Fragments of what?
In a forgotten back-room of the Sackler Library in Oxford is a small office with walls lined by 1970s wood panelling. Its many cupboards are filled with cardboard boxes. These contain hundreds of thousands of fragments of papyrus dating back 2000 years. The majority are untouched, still waiting to be deciphered by one of a tiny handful of experts. They were found by Victorian archaeologists who discovered a gigantic rubbish dump from antiquity while digging in the Egyptian desert. These scraps of paper contain everything from shopping lists, to tax receipts, personal correspondence, and lost ancient Greek literature.
Fragments takes a handful of remnants of a lost masterpiece by the great playwright Euripides, called Cresphontes. All that survives of the play are several dozen fragments, which range from a few pages-worth of a scene, to some scattered lines and broken phrases, and an account of the myth upon which it was based - a gripping family drama based on partial truths and misunderstandings.
In our divided, disjointed world, Fragments explores how the construction of the truth from incomplete information is an ancient tale that keeps being replayed.