My reasons behind wanting to review this show were twofold; firstly, the title appealed to me and secondly (and indeed shamefully) the allure of opening night catering post show got me all excited. What can I say? I love oysters. In fact, I think I had a dozen. I’m positive I saw some raised eyebrows. In addition to this, it’s always good to take someone to the theatre that enjoys a post-show discussion about the various merits of what you’ve just seen and I was lucky enough to have this as well. Heated discussion and oysters- what a pairing!
Theatre Works (one of my favourite venues for theatre in Melbourne) housed the world premiere of Memorandum, closing this Sunday, June 1st. The play was one act and performed by (from her website) ‘performance maker and researcher’, Kate Hunter. Ordinarily, I would applaud and promote a one-woman-show but this one (despite its compelling moments) missed the mark for me. That’s not to say it won’t appeal to others, indeed it did explore themes that have wide appeal and it certainly sparked discussion about the mystery and vulnerability of the mind, so I’m confident Memorandum will find its audience.
What must be said at the outset before anything critical is explored is this show has some incredible lighting design thanks to seasoned and awarded designer, Richard Vabre. The lighting was provocative, unexpected and best of all, set the tone for the whole play. On this, the smoke effects were also eerie and effective and stimulated my senses – Theatre Works loves the haze machine! (I recall it being utilised in the last show I saw there). Furthermore, the multi-media approach of the show was compelling and I thought Hunter utilised the space in a very intriguing way, incorporating levels and depth that complimented the idea of space in the mind, As an audience member, this was exciting to witness and got the imagination ticking as she explored a stream of consciousness in a minefield of over-stimulation.
Having sat with this play and how I felt about it for a week now, I’ve been able to identify what I didn’t like about it with more clarity as I felt a little muddled and overwhelmed while I horded oysters in the foyer. My concern with this one is that, if the lighting, set design, use of space and multi-media approach were the saving graces of the show, what of the story? Can you hang your hat on the effectiveness of the visual effects alone? This was indeed my main criticism. Yes, the whole idea of visiting memory is an interesting concept because it calls into question the probability and/or possibility of that memory being distorted, despite how palpable the feelings memory arouses within all of us can be. It just seemed like the play didn’t really go any further than presenting this idea and although there were definitely some funny, relatable and intriguing moments, particularly of a visually exciting nature, I felt there were gaps in the content.
Having said this, I am aware the narrative did not adopt a linear, generic structure and I usually thrive as a theatre goer on this approach. I just felt that with this particular show, it relied too heavily on its elements and not enough on the strength of the idea.
I can’t, in all good conscience give this play any less than three stars though. As I’ve said, the elements of lighting, staging and multi-media were pretty engaging and the climax of the piece was quite extraordinary and masterfully achieved by Hunter. I think the play could work if some of the memories were explored further as I was quite intrigued by a particular one involving the death and then seeming resurrection of a mother.
For those absurdist theatre fans and any neurological nerds out there, Memorandum might just appeal to you. If this is the case, get in by June 1st and support a one woman act with thrilling lighting design. Just don’t expect any oysters as they were all devoured opening night.