Sunday, July 14

This Is Memorial Device – Riverside Studios

Capturing an art induced euphoria and a sense of estrangement, we are shown the meaning in the small, contained world of fictional band, Memorial Device. Graham Eatough brings to life David Keenan’s novel that merges an imagined world and the 80’s music scene in Airdrie.

The set and concept was intriguing and provoking. The mannequins on stage was such a beautiful idea (slightly absurd and eerie nonetheless) – enlivening the way the band and the music made the speaker feel. Deeply poetic, lyrical words were woven in between the candid. The running thread through the script was of feelings; of awe and searching to reconnect to an ecstatic moment, and a feeling of mourning. In ways, it felt like an ode, and a eulogy. Actor Paul Higgins took us on a journey in this strange suspended time, expressing an exuberant passion and melancholy. We essentially witness a fan boy bursting at the seams. He has mulled over his emotions and thoughts about Memorial Device, searching for understanding and clarity about who they were and the profundity of them and their music. In this way, Higgins brings to mind a professor, talking about his favourite subject to an audience of attentive students. 

The video (Martin Clark) and sound design (Gav Thompson) along with Higgins’ various strummings was an evocative collage of textures, overtly reminiscent of the 80s. The multi-sensory experience hinted at all the sensations that this band brought out in people, ranging from the response to their music to the idolisation and study of the band members themselves. Obviously, the band’s fictionality and anonymity through the dolls lends itself to represent the whole genre and feeling at the time. And the little references and snippets of small town, Airdrie really paint the backdrop of hope and existential angst mingled in with moody, bleak tones of the buildings. 

The piece was moving and had a potent sentimentality to it. The extent to which the speaker looked up to Lucas and the band players felt both excessive, but maybe confessedly relatable. With crafted direction by Eatough, the tragedy and uniqueness of Lucas’ character was felt.

Although the play feels somewhat defeatist, there is also the optimism and sense of a destination, a freedom. Higgins’ character says the groundbreaking songs by Memorial Device were about nothing, and in a way, the play isn’t talking about anything really, just different ways of bringing back that feeling and translating it verbally. The takeaway is rather abstract and leaves the audience to tie links between the idolatry, nostalgia and the celebration of the present.

Playing until 11th May,

Reviewer: Riana Howarth

Reviewed: 27th April 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.