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Danger: Memory!

Arthur Miller
Jermyn Street Theatre
(2011)

Danger: Memory! production photo: I Can't Remember Anything

Danger: Memory! consists of two sub 45-minute Arthur Miller plays, either side of an interval, each directed by Ed Viney. Despite contrasting locations, they both adapt perfectly to a compact, evocative set designed by Anna Finch.

As the title suggests, they have in common an interest in the complexities of human memory and the problems that arise when it fails.

I Can't Remember Anything

Dementia seems to be a disease that is becoming increasingly prevalent as we live longer. This small work looks at it through the eyes of a pair of old people who are each afflicted.

The problem with memory failings is that they make coherence difficult, which is less than ideal for theatregoers trying to piece together an unfamiliar world.

The action takes place in the home of David Burke's Leo, an intelligent man contemplating death, while looking back on his life. While generally healthy, his memory is not what it once was.

His friend Leonora played by a particularly impressive Anna Calder-Marshall is in a much worse state. By this stage, though happy, she remembers terrifyingly little of her history either in recent days or further back. Together, they attempt to put life into context and buoy each other up.

This is a very slight play that will have most resonance with those that have seen a loved-one undergoing similar transformation. They will probably be deeply moved and possibly troubled by its depiction on stage.

Clara

The more satisfying companion piece, Clara, is something else. In the week of Peter Falk's death, this detective story with a twist brings to mind his most famous character Columbo.

Roger Sloman plays a down-to-earth Jewish policeman, Detective Lieutenant Fine, charged with trying to solve the mystery of who might have murdered the saintly young woman of the title.

His main potential source of information is her father, Rolf Saxon as Albert, man with a mental block. Very slowly, using every weapon in his psychological armoury, the unconventional cop teases out the name of an ex-murderer whom Albert's innately charitable daughter had dated.

Whether he was the murderer is never revealed in a play that, in true Miller style, is far more interested in the characters and the ways in which we hide traumas from ourselves than operating as a thriller.

Thus, we discover literally incredible congruities between the policeman's history and that of another man called Fine. In addition, a portrait of young Clara is quietly painted during the development of the search for her murderer.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher