The recovery of memory is the theme of Jonathan Lichtenstein's Memory, which opened in the useful studio space at Mold's Clwyd Theatr. His play at the 2004 Edinburgh Fringe, The Pull of Negative Gravity, deals with the consequences of the war in Iraq for an injured soldier and his family. In it Lichtenstein explores the shattering of dreams and future happiness. In Memory, which links the Holocaust with modern-day Israel, he presents a piecing together of kaleidoscopic shards of distant dreams and happiness, bringingthe past and the present together, albeit somewhat awkwardly.
In East Berlin in 1990 a young English-speaking man turns up in his German grandmother's flat with a piece of the Wall which has just been pulled down. She's less than pleased to see him, and reluctant to tell him about the past. Her life-story is presented in short scenes interspersed with vignettes from another scenario set in Bethlehem. Here, in 2006, another wall, the Israeli security barrier, is going up, provoking different divisions, and more memories.
Adding to the complexity of the narrative, the two tales are presented by a company of actors in the rehearsal room. Tense and sometimes painful revelations are interrupted by often inconsequential intrusions from present-day life, a parking meter, cups of tea and snatches of news. Lichtenstein demands a lot of the tight ensemble company playing the actors playing the characters, one of whom, as Eva the grandmother, has to span 50 or more years. Vivien Parry plays the actress struggling as much with her own passions as with the repressed emotions of the elderly lady, switching to a younger self as her grandson probes for the truth. He may have been expecting benign loss of information but scarcely the distortion of the events which, perhaps to preserve her sanity, his grandmother has stored. Wit, humour and resilience surface in these memories, sensitively handled in Terry Hands's beautiful production.
We're made thoroughly familiar with the work's mesmerising opening aria, a musical thread running through Memory like a trickle of water. Indeed the director-pianist of the company of actors seems more obsessed with playing notes than with giving them.
At Clwyd Theatr Cymru until 25 November then at Chapter, Cardiff, 5-9 DecemberReuse content