Archives for posts with tag: Amnesia

I have seen such great theatre in London of late, tonight absolutely included.

I rarely go to large venues these days, instead loving the intimacy that smaller theatres offer and so often deliver.

This is probably my third or fourth time at The Print Room, and as a space to visit I love it more each time. Within the building I have been entertained in different ‘rooms’ on different occasions. Tonight, we were treated to a glass of wine in a little candlelit ante room (with piano), before moving up (narrow) stairs to the performance.

The play was performed within a relatively narrow rectangular space. There are three performers, Catherine, Joshua and Simon, all of whom are present for the 90 minute or so duration of the piece. The actors were uniformly really impressive.

Simon is a psychiatrist – of the ‘old’ school, a ‘pedantic piece of shit’ as named by Joshua – who is simultaneously seeing/treating both Catherine and Joshua.

Catherine has amnesia. Simon, who has become ‘bored by suffering’, is nonetheless interested in Catherine and her psychiatric state. His goal is to ‘remove the plaster’, thereby liberating her memory. The amygdala of the play’s title is the part of the brain that has come to be viewed as the centre of emotional memory.

The story that predated Catherine’s amnesia gradually unfolds. Catherine is a middle class lawyer who lives in Hampstead with her French lawyer husband, who seems to spend more time in Paris than in London, and their two young children. Joshua’s life rests at the other end of the spectrum, as a musician (saxophone) who takes the bus rather than black cabs, and who lives a life devoid of books. Yet, a series of (seemingly) chance encounters brings Catherine and Joshua together.

As Simon works on removing Catherine’s ‘plaster’, the traumatic and tragic story behind her memory loss is revealed. Many themes and threads pervade this short work of art, all of which weave together to create a story of humanness with all its inherent and inevitable flaws, frailties and vulnerabilities.

All three characters, most especially Simon and Catherine, are alone, lonely and vulnerable. Inside, but most especially outside the courtroom, truth is questioned and sought. Amygdala is a story of need and of desire, and of the reality and consequences of love, and the living of it, that is both beautiful and tragic.


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 filmĀ 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.