A basement squat, a mysterious and unnerving relationship, clanging
noises that make you jump: by rights, Memory Cells should be an
electrifying piece of theatre. It nearly is. Louis Welsh’s play is set
in a sparse, dank room habited only by Cora (Emily Taaffe), who cannot
leave, and Barry (John Stahl), who comes and goes according to his
whim. The darkness of the situation is teased out bit by bit, with
Taaffe’s glassy-eyed stares of despair being excellently matched by
Stahl’s manipulative control.
It makes uncomfortable viewing. Holding Cora hostage through what he
claims is an act of love, Barry says, ‘there are more colours in this
room than the rest of the world.’ It’s reminiscent of John Donne’s
‘The Sun Rising’: ‘this bed thy centre is, these walls thy sphere,’
only, the sense of endearment is twisted into a chilling obsession.
Unfortunately, the tension of the piece isn’t rewarded by the ending,
which occurs twenty minutes earlier than the advertised running time.
Memory Cells is a promising play performed compellingly, but
ultimately the audience’s curiosity is left un-sated.