Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Memory

Jonathan Lichtenstein
Clwyd Theatr Cymru
Pleasance, Islington
(2008)

Production photo

Memory is primarily a moving Holocaust drama inspired by the experience of the writer's grandfather, who was a lucky beneficiary of Kindertransport during the Second World War.

Terry Hands' production for Clwyd Theatr Cymru has the simplest of visual stagings, in a white circle within a black box.

There, three separate stories are woven together in an intense 90 minutes. The central tale is set in Berlin during the eight year period commencing in 1933.

It homes in on the love triangle formed by Vivien Parry's Eva and the two friends and business partners who fall for her. The twist is that one, Aron (Simon Nehan), is Jewish and the other, Felix (Daniel Hawksford), the blondest of handsome Aryans.

The unfolding tragedy of the Jewish couple who marry, have a son and effectively adopt two little boys is given perspective by the play's second strand as 78-year-old Eva, now dying, looks back to that time in the company of her grandson, the author surrogate.

When the Nazis take power in Berlin, the two men are forced to go their separate ways as the forlorn nationalist, Aron and his extended family lose everything, while Felix dons a swastika and rises through the ranks.

As the Berlin Wall comes down, Eva's grandson forces her to face up to a past which contains both heroism and shame in order to reach a cathartic release for her mortal soul. This can make for uncomfortable viewing, as is inevitable with such subject matter.

The third plotline sets Arab against Jew in Jerusalem with a wall as the recurring motif. While this is humorous and at times touching, it does little to add light to the main arguments of the play.

The theatrical elaboration is heightened further as these three threads are framed by the medium of an actors' rehearsal. This injects comedy and an extra level of characterisation but, ultimately, the raw power of Eva's story viewed both at the time and in retrospect might have come across better without either the rehearsal or the Arab-Israeli dimension.

Memory does nothing very original but is worth the trip to North London for its poignant and emotional central theme, brought to life in particular by a memorable performance from Vivien Parry.

Allison Vale reviewed this production in Bath

Reviewer: Philip Fisher