Holden Street Theatres
Until 16 Feb 2019

Review by Sarah Westgarth

Presented at the 2019 Adelaide Fringe Festival

Having someone share their story with you is a privilege. It is one of the great things about the Adelaide Fringe Festival—getting the chance to see the world from someone else’s perspective. “The Archive of Educated Hearts” is like walking through Casey Jay Andrews’ journal. Taking place in a small room at the Holden Street Theatres, cluttered with various objects from Andrews’ life, the intimate space becomes a window into her experiences. She informally greets the members of the audience, invites us to take a seat, before she herself sits, and begins laying out photographs on a small table in front of her. They are simultaneously projected onto a wall in the back of the room, as a recording of a few different female voices plays. The combination of the environment, and the loving way Andrews handles the photographs makes it clear these women are a crucial part of her life and her story. It also soon becomes clear that it is a story that has been deeply affected by cancer.

There is no linear narrative in what Andrews shares with her audience. At times, she is laying out more photographs as we hear fragments of thoughts and memories from the women in her family. Then she may speak directly to us, letting us in on more of the nuance of what she has been through. She intermittently makes notes on a chalkboard while another recorded voice reads segments from the book “Have You an Educated Heart?” by Gelett Burgess. It is fragmented, disjointed, yet forms a picture nonetheless.

When speaking, Andrews recalls a few key memories and details, but she mostly talks in a more abstract way about the nature of tragedy, and the importance of human connection. For someone who describes herself as inarticulate, “The Archive of Educated Hearts” is anything but. While it is born out of Andrews’ specific experiences, what she has written has a great universality to it. Anyone who has experienced tragedy or heartache will be taken by how well she expresses the complexity of a life marked by hope and fear.

The photographs in front of her continue to build, forming a collage of memories and moments from her collective family history. They are delicately and carefully placed, much like the objects around the room. While she never refers to these items directly, the staging is deliberate. A box labelled ‘Casey’s Art Things (from school) – Do Not Throw Away!’ sits on a shelf. Books and video tapes line the back wall. Near where I was sitting, a strip of stickers I recognised from my own primary school days lay on a mantle. It is not the things that matter, but what they represent is everything.

“The Archive of Educated Hearts” leaves you wanting to hear more of what Andrews has to say, but also understanding she has carefully crafted it into exactly what she wants it to be. Deeply personal, yet warmly welcoming, this is a show truly embodies the privilege it is to be invited into someone’s story.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)