Mnėmŏn´ic(n-),a.&n. Of, designed to aid, the memory; Art of, system for improving, the memory
Memories and their meanings are the stuff of this remarkable piece of theatre, directed by Adam Cook, in which the stories of several disparate people are interwoven in ways we only come to appreciate when we contemplate the vastness of time and how to some extent we are all interrelated as the play, conceived by Simon McBurney, unfolds.
Nudity features, as one man, Virgil (Nick Pelomis) gets his gear off (twice) and reveals all to emphasise the nakedness and vulnerability of the human condition when it faces reality without pretension and cover-up. Virgil is searching for Alice, (Lizzy Falkland) who has disappeared to search for the father she never knew; scientists search for answers and surmise about the life and death of a 5,200 year old corpse frozen in time and place atop a mountain, discovered in 1992; while we all search for meaning in our memories and our life.
Everything is elusive in this rather esoteric exploration of these mysteries. In a simple, open set by Brian Thomson featuring fluoro tubes, two benches which serve as everything from mortuary slab to bed, a rock, a couple of (broken) chairs and some stools, the actors move seamlessly from taxi to train to mountain top laboratory to mobile phone conversation to academic presentation. Costumes by Morag Cook are equally simple not to distract from the stories as presented by these experienced actors.
Mysteriously, the audience gets caught up in this somewhat fragmented but fascinating journey, each of us probably recognizing something of our own continuing journey and its memories which perhaps enhance, or perhaps disguise its features. The chair, representing the ice-man is a marvelous device in this connection.
Old stories from the 5,200 year old corpse become connected to stories of now, as archaeologists struggle to discover the ice-man’s origins and life secrets, while the irrelevance of national boundaries and national identities in a world community is laid out before us in the futile discussions of ownership of the corpse.
Nicely placed and apposite music enhances this strange and often cryptic script, which combines with the fine acting, costumes (when worn) and lighting, to enhance the mysteries being pursued (Where is Alice? Who was her father? Who was the ice man?) and posed (what are memories really made of?)
Imagination is challenged, the immensity of the past is faced, along with the instability, changeability and creativity of the act of remembering as we each piece together our lives in retrospect.
Challenge comes as the participants in this play – actors, crew, and audience alike come to terms with sorting the order out of what could otherwise be the chaos of this play, or indeed the turbulence of our lives. It is theatre worth grappling with.
State Theatre Company of South Australia presents
Conceived by Simon McBurney and devised by Complicite
Director Adam Cook
Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Dates: 29 June – 18 July 2009