Belltable Unfringed Festival: Memory Deleted

‘Memory Deleted’ was by Louise Lowe and was specially commissioned fot the festival. In one of the several inspired choices for offsite venues, the play took place over one floor of the Boutique Hotel on Denmark Street-very funky spot. The concept was excellent; what happened in your hotel room in the 10 ‘rentals’ before yours? Does it even bear thinking about? The performance started with giving the audience a chance to just wander through several rooms with guests in them. Of course, that was oddly voyeuristic and that set the tone for the rest. The main action actually took place in a single room but several stories were playing out and crossing over at any one time.

These included a couple who seem to be struggling-with the past and each other; a chambermaid who has run in to escape the inappropriate advances of the manager; a bank robber and killer on the run; two bright young things about to go out on the town…you get the idea. Characters came and went and at two points, action was played out by actors doing a frenetic, choreographed catalogue of their movements from their time in the room (The strange ‘dance’ was better than what I caught in ‘Rolling’ anyway).

The two most compelling stories were that of the chambermaid and the central couple, which is actually two couples. One man but two different women. The menage a trois was confusing at first until the deleted memories of the title becomes apparent. If only it were just a case of erasing what the psyche could do without? I wouldn’t like to give too much away but the twist was inspired and it was delivered with unflinching honesty. It resonates with me more, thinking back over it.

The young girl’s very different encounter happens offstage and is brought to life by her fevered re-telling. It involved being confronted by a middle-aged man in his underwear, who attempts to assault her. He got squirted in the eyes with Flash for his trouble but she accepted his pathetic attempt at making amends with crumpled fivers and some bars of Curly Wurly with as much dignity as she could. Her performance was very vibrant and added a bit of comic relief to proceedings. Some other funny moments came from her older chambermaid colleague who led the audience in at the outset, joshing about Limerick’s rugby heritage, and later had a ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ moment with a guest’s ‘frock’ and thoughts of her husband, Clem.

The ensemble performance was great and that was probably a key element in its Unfringed Award for Best Production. If anything, it tried to get too much in. A story involving a girl watching her and (presumably) her boyfriend on a video in the room didn’t seem to make sense and that was one bit that could’ve been cut without taking anything away. Several people were confused about what to do with themselves in the few minutes at the start where you could see other rooms but I think there was an assumption that you were supposed to ‘do’ something with those rather than just form an idea of what the play might be about.

The staging and direction, which I don’t think would have been logistically easy, were good. The setting was inspired. The script moved fluidly from story to story and was very strong on imagery. It was quite poetic and rhythmic in parts, particularly for the blood-covered criminal and the maid, building toward the shock conclusion with clinical precision.

As I said previously; the fact that you’re in a real hotel room watching a play about a fictional hotel room masquerading as a ‘real’ hotel room was strange in a good way. I imagine it evoked all kinds of memories about hotel stays with audiences, as it did for myself. To sum up, ‘Memory Deleted’ was very original and gripping from check-in to check-out. A definite highlight of the Unfringed.

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