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Review: Mnemonic

A peculiar, confusing story, meticulously put on by cast and crew


There is a lot to say about Mnemonic. After some production teething problems getting the show off of the ground, Sophie Howe has created an adaptation which is firing on all cylinders across the ADC, with excellent movement, sound design, lighting work projection and acting all around.

However, the main problem Mnemonic has is that it seems to have trouble tying all of its plot elements together, creating a show which, whilst marvellously done, is quite confusing at times, with several plot elements playing over each other at once which have trouble properly coming together.

The opening of the play, with Howe coming on stage to explain the impact of memories, is an effective tool to get the audience in the right mindset, as well as establishing the motif of leaves which runs throughout the entire show, to the point where literal leaves were given to each of the audience members before the show opened. What follows afterwards though, much like a leaf itself, can be incredibly beautiful, but tenuously held together.

There are several threads running together throughout Mnemonic: the efforts of Spindler (Sam Thompson) to free the Ice Man from a mountain in Italy to the maintaining of Alice (Rosalind Wippell) and Virgil’s (Sam Benatar) relationship, and the story of a taxi driver (Katherine Halsall) travelling from Greece to Germany to London and beyond. Each of these narratives, whilst interesting in their own right, often seem slightly disjointed when linked together, uniting some thematic motifs, such as the importance of mementoes and tokens and the impact of death and loss, though often not much else, leading to questions of why the three narratives were weaved together in the way they were.

[Image Credits: Andrew Haimovici]

Beyond the plot difficulties though, the way in which this production was delivered was astounding. The use of movement sequences, to highlight things like the nature of human family and connection and the life that scientists thought the Ice Man led highlighted the ethereal nature of human memory.

This was all assisted by a brilliantly impressive technical effort from the lighting design (Sophie Richardson, Angus Cha, Edward De’Ath) with fairy lights hanging over the ADC and an excellent use of projection creating this dreamlike feeling throughout the show. The wider sound design with a team almost too large to name (Rishi Sharma, Rory Clarke, Alex Wrathall, Lily Blundell and James Andrews) also showed off an excellent dreamy score excellently supporting the lighting work. All of this is helped by the excellent use of a thin piece of canvas separating the front of the set from the back, leading to unique movement opportunities as actors cross from front to back.

This was all assisted by a brilliantly impressive technical effort from the lighting design (Sophie Richardson, Angus Cha, Edward De’Ath) with fairy lights hanging over the ADC and an excellent use of projection creating this dreamlike feeling throughout the show. The wider sound design with a team almost too large to name (Rishi Sharma, Rory Clarke, Alex Wrathall, Lily Blundell and James Andrews) also showed off an excellent dreamy score excellently supporting the lighting work. All of this is helped by the excellent use of a thin piece of canvas separating the front of the set from the back, leading to unique movement opportunities as actors cross from front to back.

Thompson’s analysis of the Ice Man and intellectual frustrations are fun to watch and entirely understandable to anyone who’s had to explain their degree back home, and the carefree nature of Halsall provides an excellent contrast to other characters who put so much more weight on the impact of memory. All of this is supported by a quality ensemble, who make movement sequences come to life no matter how strange they might theoretically seem.

The wide variety of movement sequences showing the impact of memory throughout life and death [Image Credits: Andrew Haimovici]

Mnemonic is a weird show, and it definitely plays on its weirdness as a script. Whilst it may not be everyone’s cup of tea as a narrative, the quality of the elements used to put the story together cannot be denied. With an excellent cast and outstanding technical design work, it is arguably worth seeing for that alone, even if the story itself isn’t the easiest to necessarily digest.

3/5

Mnemonic is showing from the 2nd  – 6th of May at 7:45 pm in the ADC Theatre. Book your tickets here.