The Accidental Lives of Memories
By Frank Bramwell.
Directed by Arnaud Mugglestone.
The White Bear Theatre, London, UK
7th August - 26th August 2007
The Accidental Lives of Memories is a homage to the art of self-analysis and reflection, centring on the life of Ed, a skinny hippy and outcast, dressed in sagging jeans and a white shirt. We see him walk on to a set which looks like the brainchild of an Apple-Mac designer, awash with transparent plastic boxes and sweet jars, set against an orange wall.
After thirty years devoted to study and writing, Ed is sitting on a bridge, reflecting in Shakespearean like prose, considering his imminent suicide, wondering where it all went wrong. Desolate, he feels a surge of momentum, and gives himself one last chance by invoking eight college friends from 2001. Maybe they can help him out.
Dressed in blue sheets, showing an appreciable amount of leg, and slumbered into a human pile at the back of the stage, Edís young friends come alive. Their otherworldly dress and the eerie lighting convince us we are in Edís mind. The frequent usage of ambient music and the lack of any real continuous narrative serve only to strengthen this impression.
Schools out and Ed whisks himself back to the last day of college. He sees his friends embracing, flirting and jumping for joy, discussing their future with the enthusiasm of a Nike advert. The actorís expressions are incredible, captivating. When Ed appears on the scene and tells his friends what heís moving on to, it has the same effect as hosing down a fire.
Ed reverts from actor to narrator and back again. His friends, who move around the stage in kaleidoscopic patterns, re-enact old moments one minute, and contribute to Edís internal monologue the next. They frequently revert to sitting on their boxes, transferring sweets, one at a time, from their jar to a Tupperware box. This signifies the monotony of middle aged life, and yet to Ed they still seem so content, their eyes so bright, their expressions so full of wonder that you want to dive into them.
We are taken forward to their reunion, some have degrees, some businesses, some are married and one has travelled. Ed decides to revisit these moments, testing his friends, wondering if there was ever any doubt in their minds. One by one, they begin to crack. What starts out as self-doubt develops into an existentialist crisis. Their resolve begins to disappear, and their dreams are revealed as arbitrary and meaningless choices. Perfect relationships are re-remembered as full of cracks. Some wonder whether dreams are the path to misery, others about what is left when dreams disappear.
To conclude, this play is thoroughly enjoyable, thought provoking, slightly sexy and very well choreographed.