“Memory is monstrous, wilful, unreliable, and often untrue,” says the teaser for Memorandum. It certainly makes a compelling premise, but one that is ultimately unfulfilled in this solo performance by Kate Hunter.
The lighting by Richard Vabre, sound, and use of the performance space is mesmerising, opening with a light and smoke display that evokes water, perhaps? Small waves lapping at a shore? Or the soft, rhythmic flickering of a fire? I could have watched it for longer, with the sensory sounds (breathing, water, birds and bats) all at once familiar, evoking distant memories of my own.
Hunter is strong performance-wise, speaking in unison with her own recorded voice, and then diverging in tiny differing details to a story. She wonders loudly, if this is all in fact true. Did it all really happen? Again, the memories she evokes through her stories seem disturbingly familiar, in particular the ones from her childhood, as though the process of time reduces our individual childhood memories into a monochrome, relatable, cultural experience. Beyond that thought though, I got very little out of the whole piece.
While Hunter is funny and whimsical, the performance leaves the audiences’ attention stretched after about 20 minutes (I’m pretty sure my neighbour was dozing for the second half). Even though Memorandum seeks to expose “the weirdness of memory using digital projections on walls and scrims, live storytelling, old slide projectors, close audience encounters, torchlight and the live body”, the performance feels like a repetitive monologue with some clever lighting and a smoke machine.
There’s no real crescendo or much differentiation in pace, and in fact at the finale, the audience took a few minutes to realise that it had ended.
The repetition of memories and stories (which seemed to go on for some time) seems like an indulgence for a one women show. I found myself impatient and bored with having heard it before.
The stories themselves are entertaining and funny, but weak in terms of themes they explored – lists of names of kids from school, swimming trips, floaties (bubbles she calls them) and an incident that involved a traffic jam and a bludgeoned cow.
It seems a missed opportunity to explore much deeper themes around memories and memory loss – those around traumatic events perhaps, or even the way we tend to romanticise the memories of people after death. It’s also hard to see how the performance examined “how truth and fiction intertwine”, when the stories we heard were just one person’s version, even if it changed ever so slightly at times.
I would be interested in seeing the show I was promised – “gothic”, “bare” and “peculiar” – but this was not it.