If you haven't read any Jorge Luis Borges - well, you should. The Argentine wrote about reading, writing, reading about writing and writing about reading and... well, you're beginning to get the picture. Idle Motion's charming devised work, Borges and I (at the New Diorama Theatre until 23 June and on tour in October) weaves Borges' life and ideas in and out of two love stories: Sophie's and Nick's and readers' and books'.
Under the iron grip of Hillary (Grace Chapman), an Oxford book club meet and, somehow between the panoply of neuroses on show, with Gabby (Ellie Simpson) a cruel and very funny caricature, attempt to discuss their book of the month. Jim (Nicholas Pitt), out his depth in such literary (and female) company, brings along a work colleague, Nick (Julian Spooner) who soon captures the heart of Sophie (Sophie Cullen) with a few of those old Hugh Grant style stutters and smiles from under the eyebrows. As romance blooms, the action switches back and forth to the sixth member of the group, Alice, who is recounting Borges' life in a job interview. After a minor cycling accident, Sophie discovers that her sight is degenerating due to the same genetic disorder that affected Borges and she, like him, must come to terms with it - also making good the Borgesian joke in the play's title.
If this sounds rather serious, it's because blindness and literary genius are serious matters - but Borges and I is so funny, so clever, so innovative in its blending of dance, projections and stagecraft that the humanity bursts through the narratives over and over again. Books - those squarish things that are expensive to transport and display (unlike a Kindle) - become aeroplanes, birds, tigers and, more than that, repositories of lives. Sophie implores Nick to take care with her books, not just in their physical place, but in her mind's eye - the last one left to her - as he places, not so much books on her shelves, but memories in her brain.
It is very infrequently that I leave a theatre wanting more from a production, but, having packed so much into an hour, Idle Motion take their bows and leave us. In that short time, they had made us care about the six misfits in the book club, especially about how Sophie and Nick will deal with their challenge and told us enough about Borges to send us to Labyrinths and its Library of Babel. But the company's short format, like the one favoured by Borges himself, is plenty to provide a unique theatrical experience for book lovers - and lovers - everywhere.