Remember This at the National - Lyttelton
This play deals with some familiar Stephen Poliakoff themes: the nature of remembrance and the impact of a technology on the world.
Its chief protagonist is Rick, a would-be entrepreneur, who makes the remarkable discovery that cheap videotape is gradually deteriorating and that people's tangible memories are being lost. The play concerns itself with how Rick and the people close to him - his son, Victoria (his fiancée), her sister, Hannah and his business partner - deal with the discovery.
Rick's initial response is, quite naturally, to see how it can be turned to his business advantage, but Jimmy, his son, grabs the opportunity first when he abandons his thesis on Gissing and sets up an exhibition based on his own life as a videotaped child. Margaret, the business partner, turns into a consultant advising on corporate presentation, and the two archivists who confirm Rick's discovery try to develop merchandise based on deteriorating images.
Poliakoff does raise some interesting points with this piece: how far should we rely on tangible media to retain our memories? Should we always rely so heavily on new technology? Are our own imaginations more evocative than tape? How would historians have fared if they had taped records of historical events?
Unfortunately, Poliakoff takes the easy option and relies too much on a series of stock characters - the doctor who hates technology, the charlatans of modern art and, most preposterous of all, the consultant, Hannah, dashing from city to city who has to keep abreast of everything new. With her contact book bulging with every expert under the sun and her propensity for appearing in three cities in one day, this must be the most unrealistic character in a play this year. No real consultant behaves like that and this is just an excuse for a sideswipe at an easy target.
Ron Daniels' direction makes good use of the technology. The play looks unquestionably modern, though, it might have been more effective if it had been a little less gimmicky.
Stanley Townsend makes an effective Rick, full of self-confidence and bluster at the beginning of the play, much chastened at the end. This is a strong performance but it needs to be to paper over the cracks in the play; Annabelle Apsion is equally good as the fiancée who knows more than she lets on. Geraldine Somerville makes a good stab at the wretched Hannah and Colin Hurley and James Duke make an amusing pair of video archivists.
Still, no matter how acceptable the individual components - ideas, set or performances - they never quite blend together well enough to make a satisfying whole.