‘Remember’ is a thoughtful and well executed drama about grief, loss and recovery. Jumping about in time, Annie Moss’ new play provides an intelligent and thought-provoking perspective on learning to live with grief and guilt. Can there be anything more emotionally complicated than processing the death of a close loved-one, particularly if you had already lost them, to a greater or lesser extent, while they were still alive? This is a not a play filled with rose-tinted memories of perfect relationships, and it is all the more convincing for it.
The play focuses on two key relationships in Thomas’ life. That with his wife and that with his mother. With a cast of 5, it is Thomas alone who crosses over into the two different story-lines.
The most powerful emotional journey for me is that of Thomas’ mother Karen, and Anna Dane Farnworth is magnificent in a very challenging role. The scenes between Karen and her therapist (played with a convincing impassivity and professionalism by Monty Lloyd) are particularly resonant. This is when I could feel myself leaning forward, completely absorbed by the piece. Annie Moss has very vividly brought to life a difficult therapist/patient relationship (not wanting to give too much personal information away, but yes I’ve had therapy and yes, I could be an awkward patient). This clarity made total sense once I realised that Annie Moss is a psychodynamic therapist as well a playwright.
‘Remember’ is not an action-packed play and nor should it be. Being about grief, it is heavy on dialogue and loaded with introspection. On the whole this works, but there are some scenes that feel a little over-written, allowing repetition to creep in, particularly within the wife Elizabeth’s thread. Plus some of the signposting can feel a little heavy handed at times. However, this doesn’t detract from the overall emotional power of the piece. Gillian Broderick plays the damaged Elizabeth with a passionate conviction that helps maintain the energy of her scenes, particularly important as she is often playing against her passive husband.
While in its simplest form ‘Remember’ is about how Karen and Elizabeth attempt to process their grief following his death, it is in the Thomas’ inability to understand or express his own emotions while alive, that the true tragedy of the story lies. I don’t want to give too much a way, but there is a scene between Thomas and his mother that broke my heart. It is a powerful scene and Ashley Gunstock as Thomas clearly relishes the opportunity to shatter Thomas’ mask of robotic impassivity, and unleash the torrent of fear and confusion that are consuming him. It is a moment that leaves you gasping for air in sympathy.
‘Remember’ has some very strong themes that sit behind the story. Elizabeth and Karen take two very different paths towards healing. One clearly works better than the other. Alcoholism, strong women, religion, therapy, happiness, grief, fear and loss all come together in this complex play. While there is scope to polish it further, and tighten up a few of the scenes, this is nonetheless a very ambitious, intelligent and accomplished new piece of writing.
‘Remember’ runs at the Cockpit Theatre until 14th September, so you’ll have to move fast if you want to catch it during the remainder of its short run. It is well worth catching, particularly if you enjoy supporting new works that aren’t afraid to tackle complicated themes.