Have you ever read a book that changed your life? i-witness, showing at Edge Hill University’s Rose Theatre on Tuesday, 9 December, 2008, takes you on a fascinating journey through history, memories and time to see what happens when four friends discover a book that changes their perception of the world.

i-witness is a new show inspired by the writings of WG Sebald, a German novelist, poet and academic. Tipped as a future winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Sebald’s novels are both literal and metaphorical journeys, written as he travelled across Europe. Tragically, Sebald’s own journey towards literary greatness was cut short by a fatal car crash in 2001.

Ten years after the first publication in English of The Rings of Saturn, the Volcano Theatre Company became obsessed with this powerful and moving book, reading and rereading it, lending it to friends and, eventually, trying to retrace the writer’s footsteps as he travelled around the county of Suffolk. They became fascinated with random objects, felt the need to go on long walks, and began to invest even the smallest things with great significance. i-witness is the result of that obsession.

It is the story of four people who witness the world through the pages of a single book. It has affected them all in different ways and each one sees the world slightly differently after they’ve read it. Throughout the play they delve again and again into the book, and attempt to entertain, persuade, amaze and unsettle the audience with what they find there.

Just as The Rings of Saturn is not simply a book about a man who went for a walk, i-witness is not just a play about Suffolk, or walking, or literature. It is an adventure of memory and association that reaches across the globe and through hundreds of years of history. It is also about connections and traces and finding beauty under the ever-present threat of destruction.

An extraordinary and intense production, i-witness takes the audience on a journey through performance, music, film and dance. And it is not without some subtle humour, featuring, among other surreal and eclectic themes, silkworms, herrings, Belgian imperialists, Dutch masters, bits of paper, bad accordion playing and dilapidated English seaside resorts.

Sebald’s preoccupation with the Second World War and its legacy for the German people is woven into the story, as it is in the book. Sights and experiences on the journey trigger thoughts and memories which haunt the writer but also help him, and the cast, understand their feelings.

i-witness is a challenging, charismatic and funny production that shows the importance of books in a world where our leisure time is dominated by technology. Rather then being a straightforward adaptation of a novel, i-witness focuses four readers’ responses to the book and also examines the wider relationship between people and literature.

Born in Germany in 1944, WG Sebald was once hailed as one of Europe’s greatest living writers and feted as a possible Nobel prizewinner. He studied literature in Germany, Switzerland and then at the University of Manchester where, in 1966, he became an assistant lecturer.

Sebald’s novels are characterised by their unconventional use of plot and narrative and the seemingly random inclusion of themes, objects, people and places – a kind of ordered chaos that also shapes the play.

Volcano is an international touring company of 20 years’ standing that has produced 25 professional shows and toured to 38 countries from Argentina to Azerbaijan. Volcano has a reputation for energetic, unpredictable and arresting work that combines strong visual impact, physicality and intelligent text. The company’s repertoire ranges from experimental new writing and devised work to iconoclastic reworkings or deconstructions of classics.

Performance starts at 7.30pm.

Tickets: £8.50/£6.50 (concessions).

For more information please contact the Box Office:

  • The Rose Theatre, Edge Hill University, St Helens Road, Ormskirk, Lancashire, L39 4QP
  • Tel: 01695 584480