The Persistence of Memory
Butterfly Psyche Theatre
The Rondo Theatre
“If Memory came to visit, would you welcome her?”
Not a question many of us expect to have to answer – especially when ‘Memory’ is in fact personified as Mneme, one of the three ‘original’ Greek Muses, before Zeus got in on the act.
Dante DeLucca is an aging classicist who is slowly losing the battle with dementia since the death of his wife, while his daughter Iphegenia (Iphy for short) desperately struggles to cling on to her marriage, her career, and her father’s mind. As the Muse of Memory, Mneme has the job of overseeing Dante’s gradual decline – invisible to Iphy, she becomes steadily clearer to Dante as his grip on reality falters.
Alison Farina’s script is sensitive and intelligent, handling a large number of difficult subjects (dementia, divorce, and the death of a spouse being three of the most prominent!) with a deceptive ease and nicely-judged sense of humour. A skilful script is all very well, however, but without a strong cast this is a play that could very easily have missed its potential. Fortunately, Nancy Medina’s choices are more than able to carry off both the humour and the tragedy of the piece with aplomb.
Meghan Leslie is delightful as Mneme, with a forthright manner and excellent audience rapport. There were a few instances (particularly in her more reflective moments) when we did lose the ends of her lines, but on the whole it was a superb performance – occasionally a touch sinister, often endearing, and always sympathetic.
Duncan Bonner and Jenny Johns (as Dante and Iphy) are equally up to the challenging script, again mixing pathos, tragedy and anger with humour, affection and warmth – with a healthy dose of Homer, naturally. At the start, Duncan Bonner struck a fine balance between vagueness and emotional and academic acuity, while his decline over the course of the play was subtle enough for the final scene to still be extremely shocking.
Jenny Johns in her turn showed great skill, switching ably from concerned daughter to furious and abandoned wife to patient carer as the piece progresses. Testament to her performance is the fact that, when on one occasion she seemed to answer Mneme (apparently the ‘first sign’), my stomach dropped at the thought that she might face her father’s fate.
In brief, an outstanding production – atmospheric, subtle, informed and compassionate, it leaves you with a final image that sticks in the mind, and a brainful of questions (not to mention a faceful of tears).
***** – 5 Stars