Past Half Remembered

Thu 20th – Fri 21st September 2012

reviews

April Elisabeth Pierce

at 09:46 on 21st Sep 2012

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The attractive, welcoming space at The North Wall Arts Centre feels, in many ways, like a modern version of The Globe Theatre in London. But broad, comfortable benches and intimate tiered gallery seating are not the only features of this evening’s experience which allude to bygone days of yore. Rather than employing traditional ushering methods, 'Past Half Remembered' opens with an uproarious musical frenzy. Audience members are ushered into the theatre by a folksy, ballad-belting ensemble including the accordion, the flute, and the guitar. What follows is a zany and heart-warming tale of love, loss, and the twisted avenues of memory.

Created in 2002, and set in the so-called 'Soviet century', this daring piece of new writing from Alex Byrne shifts breezily between near-slapstick humour and intense psychological drama. The life of one woman, Maria (Aude Henrye) is retold retrospectively with the help of an energetic and talented chorus, who swap roles at lightening speed throughout the show. A standout performance from Kieran Edwards, and a cast without a single visible weakness, has helped this internationally-performed play garner multiple awards. One can expect sharp contrasts between the home and the world of war, and at least a few hearty laughs.

With its multilingual script (which often plays up the comic elements of translation, and tends to indulge the francophone) and the frequent use of refrain and repetition, 'Past Half Remembered' blurs boundaries between music and speech, memory and presence. While the long narratives sometimes seem a bit contrived - told rather than shown - the chaotic and impressionistic representations of the past are gripping and utterly unique. Teacups stack and biscuits are crammed into a mouth, crinkled paper evokes the sound of distant rain, and feathers substitute for snow. These elements, far from seeming trivial or absurd, are integral to the settings. Efficient use of staging and props further amplifies the nostalgic mood of stories recounted.

Among the traditional measures of a play’s success, the simplest indicator is an audience’s response. This audience, it is fair to say, loved the performance of 'Past Half Remembered' unconditionally. There were touching moments, stitches of laughter, and nods of resonance. Fast-paced and satisfying, the performance is not one to miss.

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