Sunday, August 08, 2010

"In Memory" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

On reflection, starting our visit to this year's Edinburgh Fringe with a piece of theatre about the loss of a parent to a brain tumour was perhaps unlikely to provide much of a feelgood factor. And yes, Waldorf predictably left the venue a little 'damper' than she entered and was heard muttering "I need chocolate". But despite the emotional toll the show takes on the audience it has plenty of heart - and enough lighter moments to ensure it won't cast a cloud over the rest of your day.

With this being a show from Gresham's school, I'll reiterate our long standing policy on reviewing youth/student/amateur/community shows: we consider these on exactly the same terms as any professional production - anything else would be patronising to those involved.

The cast of twelve perform scenes showing the impact the illness has on the family - at times utilising multiple cast members to simultaneously represent the father, mother and daughter. When combined with a lack of volume from the cast, it's a method that risks confusing the audience, and given the initial school setting it was was some way through before we appreciated the daughter was not a pupil but, in fact, a teacher. In fairness, I'm now considering the possibility this was an intentional ploy by writer/director Victoria Harvey-Seldon, but at the time it certainly felt more like something we 'hadn't got' than an intended moment of revelation. I would also mention that the performance we saw today was the first of the run, so I would expect the volume issue to be swiftly remedied. (We suspect the noise of the fan may have added an unforeseen element for the cast to contend with.)

And although we had to struggle to hear some lines, our effort was rewarded. Victoria Harvey-Seldon has written some acutely observed moments and her ensemble cast succeed in evoking a true-to-life sense of confusion, frustration and anger at their situation. But there are also some wonderfully stylised set pieces including an inspired corruption of an aircraft safety announcement. And impressively, while packing a formidable emotional punch, it avoids cheap audience manipulation - the power here lies in the small and human details.

Even for those like me who tend to recoil from what could be 'another tearfest' there is, instead, much to appreciate.

"In Memory" runs at C at 11am daily until 13th August.
Image used with permission