Sooner or later, the dramatic form was going to move its attention to the corporate wholesale of memories, and the effect that this has on people.
Clown Funeral is an emerging theatre production company from the West Midlands. Starring Samuel Thorogood, Freddie Paul, Patrick Tobin, and Ella Tebay, Things We Chose to Save premiered in Oxford on Friday. The premise of this show is about the future management of recollections. Think data management but for memories. They can be bought and sold. Edited and retained. Seen but never unseen. Molly works for a
corporation that deals with the editing of other people's memories but has thus far decided against sharing/editing her own. Until someone takes that decision away from her.
This plays starts off well using the dichotomies of light and dark, good and bad, man and woman, coworkers versus boss to capture our attention and act as stimuli for memories. The four main actors are also the stagehands and they sweep in to rearrange the boxes on stage in a dramatic fashion which is effective. Other unusual but fitting techniques were the disassociation of people talking to each other whilst facing away from each other and all that the disconnect of modern communication has to offer.
'Who is Sarah?' we wonder in darkness. Why is the guy with the beard always lying to the girl? Are the two girls related?' 'Why is the guy's suit so loose? Does he treat his suits like he treats other people's memories? Soon enough, the techniques become gimmicks and the somewhat clever narrative begins to dissolve. It gets a bit tiresome and repetitive. The dramatic impulse is gone and the story suddenly ends.
This was unfortunately quite a forgettable play that dealt with safeguarding memories. As it was pitch black, I had to rely on memory to write up these notes and nothing really jumped out at me the next day. We touched on Alzheimer's briefly and then that was the end of that. We explored the past through the recall and physical recording of memories but again, it just didn't amount to much. They reminisced, Molly did some persistent digging, there were some eventual confessions, many Pringles were consumed.
The acting was good, the story just wasn't all that strong, sadly. For this theme, very strong writing is necessary: think Proust and more of a nod to the science would have helped cement this in our long-term memory bank.