Thursday, May 10, 2007
The ads make it sound like a highfalutin rumination on the indefiniteness of memory, and the plot description isn't exactly promising - we're going to watch actors rehearsing a play in which a woman remembers the early days of Nazi Germany? But Memory, the opening production of this year's Brits Off Broadway festival, is actually profoundly powerful and completely riveting; it's easily one of the best, most gripping plays I've seen so far this year. The conceit of having the play framed by its own rehearsal is not a convenient gimmick - the deconstruction shrewdly disarms the audience and makes us more emotionally vulnerable to the material, because we are never sure when the rug will be pulled out from under us. The play within the play tells a second story, in which an Israeli contractor has to force a Palestinian man out of his home to make way for the Bethlehem Wall. Of the many different echoes that reverberate from this play's juxtaposed stories, perhaps the most affecting is that we may remember the events of history, but forget its lessons. The production, transferred from Clywd Theatr Cymru in Wales, is knife-edge sharp and the performances (particularly Vivien Parry) are fierce and intense. Highly recommended.