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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Memory
Pleasance Theatre Autumn 2008

Jonathan Lichtenstein's drama for Clwyd Theatr Cymru covers familiar territory, but a freshness in the writing, delicacy and sensitivity in the direction and fine performances by the entire cast make it as alive and moving as the story itself demands.

In 1930s Germany a Jewish couple undergo the minor and major deprivations preceding the Ultimate Solution. In 1990 a survivor is forced to revisit deeply repressed memories of the horrors that followed. And in Israel in 2006 it appears that the lessons of history are not easily learned.

These stories are told within the frame of a group of actors rehearsing their play, so that each member of the Theatr Cymru cast plays both a rehearsing actor and the character that actor portrays. The device is a bit cumbersome, really paying off only at the climax of the 1990 sequence when the rehearsing actress finds her character's pain almost too difficult to act.

The real power of the play comes in the quiet reality that playwright and director Terry Hands give to each of the inner scenes and characters. The escalating encroachment of anti-Semitism in the 1930s is made immediate and personal in the decaying relationship between the Jewish couple and a close Aryan friend.

A half-century later the woman is lured out of her emotional shell by the visit of her grandson, only to find that memories and feelings can't be censored once released. And a basically decent Israeli civil servant faces the vague sense that there is something deeply wrong with the way he is made to treat a Palestinian civilian.

Though this is wholly an ensemble piece, the challenge of playing the pains of a woman at two periods more than fifty years apart moves Vivien Parry to the most powerful performance of the evening, though there are quieter but equally moving moments from Simon Nehan as her husband and Guy Lewis and Ifan Huw Dafydd as the reluctant antagonists in the Israel scenes.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Memory - Pleasance 2008