Rona Munro’s play is currently on at the Hampstead Theatre, Downstairs, and is a gem.

The piece is based on a true story – also depicted in the recent, and not widely acclaimed film The Vow – of a man who has post traumatic amnesia. The amnesia is selective, and affects recent memory, which means that he does not recognise his current wife of three years. His memory bank appears to have emptied from the moment he left his initial partner, and her daughter. Thus, all memory of the traumatic break-up and its aftermath have been erased, and he is stuck in a past moment that he perceived as happy. Yet, the debris of the break-up, its effect on his ex-partner and her daughter – become all too apparent to us, even if Donny has no recall. Plus, there is also the emotional trauma for his current wife, and her distress faced with a husband who does not recognise her, or even like her.

There is little in terms of plot, but there is a redemption of sorts in the end…

What the play provoked for me was some considerable musings on memory, identity, and how they interact, conflate, and define us humans.

When you think about it, pretty much everything we do is based on some sort of memory. We are memory-focused and memory-driven. Most, if not all, of how we behave and respond to life tends to be based on a past experience, which inevitably becomes a deposited remembering.

Even babies are born with memory, which stems from their in utero experience.

There is no such thing as a clean memory slate…

Thus, for Donny, the realisation that three years have been ‘erased’ is a hugely distressing and disturbing experience. He has to rely on others to fill in the gaps. And this brings us to the second consideration, that memories are subjective, not fact-based. Thus, others witness and remember shared experiences differently. There is rarely a right or wrong to remembering, but there is a wide continuum in how individuals perceive and remember events. Which adds to the definition of humanness, its diversity, and its greyness…

The play is great, and the cast, just 5 in an intimate theatre setting, do it justice.

Memory-making stuff.

CQ

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