“There are rules to storytelling”. So says Naomi Denny during an argument with her former lover Kalifa Taylor: two halves of a couple in the process of breaking up. Except that those rules are completely ignored here. Instead, the pair flick through events in their lives together almost at random, going back and forth in time, over the same memory again and again to try to get the moment just right. It’s an intriguing concept, and at times it makes for wonderfully confused viewing. At other points, however, it leads to me just scratching my head trying to piece together their fragmented story.
What is clear is that we are witnessing the death throes of their relationship. We watch as the pair pick through boxes of memories – photos, an old diary, scrapbooks, even voicemail messages: all pinpoints in time that help frame the experiences they had together. Except even then they can’t quite agree on the precise details. Hence, we see moments repeated and repeated as they try hard to define them, to ensure that the right tone is met, that the meaning of their words is clear. But as we know, memories are not always accurate.
There are some novel approaches to the story telling, especially in asking audience members for their help. Inviting them up to get “one good picture as you hold the moon, a pen is thrust into their hand, a one-minute timer started, and the rather flustered person asked to draw the couple. The results are varied, but it’s another demonstration of how we all witness the same moment very differently.
Not so successful are occasions when any semblance of narrative is disposed of as the whole production heads down a rather too arty direction. Whilst I am all for a little art for art’s sake, that concept can be overdone; the less is more approach may have been a mantra worth repeating here. Then again, if you are going for a full-on conceptual piece, maybe there is reason to throw everything in!
Selected Recordings of Us is more of a concept than a play. It works well in trying to demonstrate that even the most trusted memory can be unreliable. Or that a picture may not tell the whole story. It is always a delight to watch a young theatre company, in this case Undone Theatre, really take an idea and run with it – trying to visualise a concept that began life as a thought, found its way onto a page, until finally it is placed into the hands of actors and director to bring it to the stage. And whilst it may not always quite work, whilst it may leave more questions than answers, what it does do is leave you with a sense that those involved have plenty to offer us in the future. We certainly all have a lot to discuss in the bar after the show, as we try to piece it together again. The question is, will our memories of what we just witnessed all be the same?
Written by: Gabriele Uboldi and Georgia Louise Luckhurst
Directed by: Gabriele Uboldi
Produced by: Chloe Ashley
Selected Recordings of Us plays at The Space until 11 September, and will be available online for a further two weeks. Further information and bookings can be found via the below link.