Blue Patch productions staged their work-in-progress piece, The Memory Palace, as part of the third annual Galway Theatre Festival. Using characters and stories from Greek mythology, the playwright Jane Madden strives to explore the realms of our memory, our identity and the uncharted regions of our psyche. When we die we cross into the Underworld and are given a choice; to drink from the river Lethe and forget all our pain or to drink from the river Mnemsoyne and remember everything. Lottie chooses to remember but at what cost?
The black-box setting of Nuns Island theatre aptly mimics the purgatorial scene between memory and between realities. Aoife Connolly, who plays Lottie, the woman who is lost in time and place, is still and frozen, like a seated sphinx. “You are here”, she half acknowledges, half questions Mimi. “I was always here, since before” This exchange places the emphasis on what has already transpired, past actions that are beyond recollection by Lottie.
As she drinks the water of the river Mnemsoyne and memory becomes reticent, there is purpose to the goading of Andy Crowe’s Mimi, in forcing Lottie to remember, regardless of the pain this will bring. The past and thoughts, the working of Lottie’s mind are relayed on the screen projected behind the character, a blurred sequence of images that hint at what transpired. The imagery of the clothes force the realization of a ruined wedding, a distorted union; “My dress, his suit, his tie, that he wore for me”.
Aisling Quinn’s beautiful vocals and the staggered entrance on-stage of Andrea Scott forces a flashback like effect which presents a separate possibility; that the happy ending and wedding of Lottie is not her memory at all, but that of Scott’s character, Faye, who married the love and groom of Lottie. These overlapping lives and concentric stories blur the narrative and question who in fact owns the story.
Bluepatch’s production is extremely interesting and current. It has traces of works that trace the female reawakening to a lost and broken past, as Olwen Fouere hauntingly did is Sodome My Love and it also has parallels with works with other exciting groups such as The Company who explore the identity and memory of the modern form.
It is ironic that as a memory play, what Madden chooses to leave out and chooses to forget provides more of the story than we actually see.