Endlessly re-enacted and constantly retold, can memories be thought of as akin to a play? The stripped-back stage at the start of Malaprop’s superb new production, Everything Not Saved, certainly suggests that the internal mechanics of theatre could help uncover the slippery act of remembrance.
Devised by the company with Dylan Coburn Gray, the narrative is elegantly structured like a prism that distorts three disparate scenes as they pass through. The story is inherently unreliable, its subtle disputes sending the audience mentally scrolling back through the script. (Was someone offered a cup of coffee? What age is she again?) It’s amazing how easy facts turn into half-truths.
This smart memory games keep you guessing, but the most impressive aspect of director Claire O’Reilly’s surreal production is the way it presents profound ideas about verisimilitude. In this setting, Maeve O’Mahony’s riveting Princess Elizabeth can just as easily turn out to be a performer taking part in a documentary anticipating the monarch’s death. People should be celebrated for the varied roles they take, Malaprop seem to be saying, yet O’Mahony’s character has no doubt that a vulnerable moment caught on camera could blemish her career forever.
Here, the act of performance provides the catalyst for a revelation about retrieving history. When the work turns to Peter Corboy’s jobbing actor being asked about his process, we see his lived experience taking on some sneaky embellishments. In this scenario, an artfully manipulated memory bears as much weight as the original event.
These ideas are explored further, specifically in Breffni Holahan’s dutiful portrayal of Grigori Rasputin. The Russian mystic, we learn, was a symbol even to his daughter, a dancer who staged one of the bloody descriptions of her father’s murder night after night. As a horrific myth solidifies into fact, a stunning departure is prompted in Molly O’Cothain’s ethereal stage design, a coup de théâtre that turns the production on its head. Memories aren’t to be trusted, Malaprop know and even accept. But a flash of theatricality this awesome isn’t as easy to forget.
Everything Not Saved is on until 16 September 2017 at Project Arts Centre, Dublin. Click here for more details.