A contemplation on the nature of memory, pursued through a hauntingly gripping life story.
What do we remember in our life? Why do we choose to remember something a certain way? How long will it take us to forget? When do things change? Where have we been and what does it take for us to remember the details?
Writer Mark Walsh makes his theatre debut with the tale of a nameless woman, or maybe a woman of many names, who discovers the overlapping, contradictory remembered truths of the life she has lived. Waking in an unfamiliar place, the older woman comes across her youthful self, and then her more bitter, experienced self – the classic triptych of maiden, mother and crone. As questions are asked and answered, discoveries in the sand awake further memories, an uneasy chorus between the three of them revealing dimensions of truth that go beyond the simple choice of words to describe the memories – layers of guilt, remorse and regret. Memories of their mother, sister, lovers, daughter… Strong female themes and characters abound throughout.
Tessa Carmody as the young woman has a fresh-faced presence, full of hope and determined to treasure the truth. More worldly-wise, Jo Morris delivers a character who lives as a bundle of contradictions, disconcerting to seekers of simple answers. Morris in blood-soaked costume is constantly confronting as a spectacle, and disturbs with her unquestioning service to the hunger of the small creatures in the water, living a sense of atonement through duty. Claire Munday as the eldest version of herself is so shocked and shaken as to have forgotten most of what she has ever known, and seems to cherish her ignorance, frustrating her youngest self, who wants to see ahead. Interestingly, this discarding of the past does not bring peace.
A minor irritation arises with the reminiscing about the Blackpool Illuminations in Australian accents, with only Munday possessing a lightly British tone. More consistency would sit neatly, but I also suspect that this is yet another deliberate ploy by playwright Walsh to jar the notion of reliable selfhood over time.
Set and costume designer Patrick Howe works wonders with the small space in the Blue Room studio, covering the performance area in plastic sheeting and filling it with foam. This design works well to conceal various aides de memoire, actors and discarded props. Chris Donnelly’s lighting delineates the space, creating spatial divisions and a sense of location within the amorphous set. Will Slade designs a gentle soundtrack, with its lulling, whispering susurration of waves against a shore line, echoing the tales of the sea, the beach, the island, the memories that cannot be set aside.
Director Westall lets the script unfold, each twist being awarded its full measure without allowing the pace to drag. The result is a hypnotising, enthralling thriller, gently engrossing and engaging the audience with its secrets within secrets, with the wonder of the difficulty in knowing yourself.
Simply produced, strong acting from each performer brings the intense script to life, adding to the diverse program from The Blue Room Theatre this season.
The Lost Boys and The Blue Room Theatre present
by Mark Walsh
Director Mikala Westall
Venue: The Blue Room Theatre | Perth Cultural Centre, Northbridge
Dates: 18 August – 5 September 2015