This Is Memorial Device

Adapted by Graham Eatough from the book by David Keenan
Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Edinburgh International Book Festival
Edinburgh College of Art

This Is Memorial Device Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic
This Is Memorial Device Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic
This Is Memorial Device Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic
This Is Memorial Device Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic
This Is Memorial Device Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic
This Is Memorial Device Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

The audience enters The Wee Red Bar to music that creates that late '70s / early '80s post-punk vibe before writer Ross Raymond (played by Paul Higgins) thanks us for coming and reminisces that it was in this very room, 38 years ago, where the best rock band no one's ever heard of from Airdrie played: Memorial Device.

Raymond is a journalist who followed the band but also knew them all well, and he recreates their glory days of 1983–85 through stories, cassette tapes of interviews, video memories of some of the other people who knew them and mannikins, which he uses to represent the members of the band—playing the guitar himself over the shoulder of one of them—and which also come into the story as mannikins later on when we are told of a band that sent mannikins on stage instead of appearing themselves.

The driving force behind the band, along with Lucas Black, Remy Farr and Richard Curtis, was Patty Pierce, or 'Big Patty', who had a condition that meant he had no memory, so he had to write everything down in his notebooks. Raymond has the notebooks, which contain everything from shopping lists to song lyrics. He says that he didn't appreciate some of Patty's music at the time, and it has taken him until now to understand it fully.

Graham Eatough's adaptation (he also directs) jumps between different accounts and back and forward in time, but the confusion represents well the music and the mind of its creator, as well as the style of the book on which it is based. There is some great video backing (designer Martin Clark) at the back of the stage between the video interviews (characters on film played by Mary Gapinski, Sanjeev Kohli, Julie Wilson and Gabriel Quigley, plus Patty is played by Martin Quinn on an audio recording).

As Ross Raymond, Paul Higgins is fantastic, with a tour-de-force performance alone on stage for an hour and a half, grabbing the audience immediately he takes the stage and not letting their attention drop until he's walked them out of the venue at the end.

The episodic style and perhaps also the music may not be to everyone's taste, but it fitted into the era that was most influential musically on me and kept me gripped.

Reviewer: David Chadderton