Memory Theatre is an artistic idea developing in response to CLARISSA! A set of questions and statements that might explore parallel journeys in search of different lives. Memory Theatre is an ambition, possibly our artistic imperative, but not a fully-formed philosophy. Nor is it yet a manifesto.
Memory Theatre is neither reminiscence nor nostalgia. It is neither documentary nor history. Memory Theatre must be an impressionistic form. A snatch of song or a scent of childhood: there to encourage personal remembrance, and create a partial, ephemeral setting in support of a theatrical narrative.
Is there a way to create and share touchstone fragments that spark a greater and richer whole? We all have that private cinema of the mind to screen our stories; the ambition of Memory Theatre is to capture that essence and frame those splintered visuals as an individualised subtext. Can Memory Theatre express thoughts that both carry a narrative and give our memories room to breathe?
It might be finding glimpses of remembered life, jogged memories that may be shared in hidden or forgotten ways. The image of sunlight on a field of poppies is not a memory of war – although it may, in some, trigger those thoughts. And those thoughts may be coloured by personal history or public propaganda. Memories that live outside of our formal theatre narrative but occupy the world in which our characters exist. Each glimpsed memory means different things to different people. It is an invitation to watch a play and see something more.
Memory Theatre may be the content of the background against which a less specific story is told. It is a passing and elliptical context. Nor is it design – although that matters greatly – it is content, in whatever form (sound, light, shape or movement) that may prompt private stories.
Memory Theatre seeks to couch moments in glimpses of remembered life. And capture each moment afresh, however redefined or reframed. The longer the life the more memories are stored so perhaps this is about the creation of textured theatre for the Baby Boomers and older generations.
In some ways Memory Theatre must be about creating new, non-traditional work for audiences of greater years. It is not about reinterpreting classic fare. It is not about patronising. The theatrical narrative, as it is new, must be relevant to young lives too. Ultimately it is about trying to touch the real life and past times of every audience member.
Memory Theatre may be issue-led or people-driven. It is about the backwash of detail, not clutter on a stage. Finding an image in mutual experience that may enhance and, perhaps, affect an emotional response to a given narrative. It gives power and space to the peripheral. It may be seen as an emotional sharing between theatrical truth and suspended disbelief.
Clarissa! is the story of a celebrated woman. We are inside her memories. The dancing cinematic shadows of Christian Britten’s visualisation blend with the hints and impressions of Terry Victor’s text and blur with Tamsin Griffiths’ energetic choreography of a physical life fully lived to create a theatre of memory.
Maybe this is a manifesto. Perhaps it is reaching for the moon. Memory Theatre is certainly an ambitious school-of-thought-in-progress and CLARISSA! is holding our hands, leading us back to Guernica.