Review by Charlotte Leamon
A Box of Memories is a touching, heartfelt musical exploring the hardships in which the patient of dementia and those around them suffer. Daughter-father duo Erin and Duncan McKellar felt the need to share this story, as a loved one of theirs suffered from dementia. Duncan stated post-show that with the hardships there are also moments of great happiness, and through this musical both him and Erin have explored these emotions beautifully through song and narration.
The plot follows Lizzy (Kathie Renner) and her daughter Sonia (Lauren Henderson) as they reach out to Doctor Jeremy (Matthew Noble) following concerns in Lizzy’s memory loss. Throughout the musical we witness development within all three characters, where hard-shelled Jeremy who is stressed about his work starts to care more for his patients and those around them as they face this challenge within life. On the other hand, Sonia begins to become more understanding of her mother and the rock she once was for her family as she shares the same, difficult role for her children. Lastly, we see Lizzy lose the identity she once had and the confusion as well as worry and stress that comes with dementia.
Dementia is a somewhat unspoken topic, however many people have someone they know or love suffering from the diagnosis. To make not just a show, but a musical about this topic is a very daring thing to do, however the combination of tear-jerking moments and happiness from this story places the audience in a situation of warmth and love when watching. Through Erin’s compositions she combines solos, duets and trios between the characters where she cleverly utilises Lin-Manuel Miranda style writing by integrating melodies to create canons as the lines overlay one another harmonically and melodically to create a chaotic whirlwind within the music. Henderson’s vocals are pure and clear, which made her solos touching and heartfelt. The McKellar’s also had musical numbers that were fun and humorous such as ‘I Need a G&T’ sung by Sonia, as well as ‘Vitamin H’ sung by Jeremy which consisted of nurses as back-up dancers in a cabaret-esque musical number. Renner’s soft, delicate voice matched her role very well and Jeremy’s ability to reach the top notes of his vocal range was entertaining and bold. All three vocalists and actors complimented each other very well within their vocals, and each song sat well in their vocal ranges. The live band which was conducted by Erin were a collection of great, professional musicians who were tentative and focussed throughout the musical and provided depth and realness within the music.
The set consisted of stacked boxes where missing objects were placed throughout the musical. The motivic object was quite literally, a box full of Lizzy’s memories which her and Sonia made together as she started to lose her memory. It consisted of photos, scarves, and other items which was lost at the hospital. As Jeremy went to find it, he discovered the store room full of peoples lost items which were the boxes collected throughout the musical. This moment was a lovely metaphor highlighting how people can disregard things that are important to others, and can forget how to truly care for those around them.
Overall, A Box of Memories was a heart warming, and breaking story following those who are affected by dementia. The McKellar’s wove songs and narration together in order to share this journey and topic with the audience.