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Review: This is Memorial Device at Riverside Studios

Review by Olivia Ruggiero

This Is Memorial Device is a one man show based on the novel by David Kennan and adapted by Graham Eatough. Performed by Paul Higgins, this play looks at a fictional band from Airdrie in the 80’s and what it is to crave the glory days of youth. The show starts out as a wonderful tribute to ‘rock n’ roll’ bands who played small towns in the effort to grab a record deal or sign to a label and ends up becoming a rather confusing look into one man’s obsession with a moment in time. The show has moments of brilliance and moments where it falters – but with a little more tightening up, there is heart here and a story worth telling.

Paul Higgins has the most phenomenal performance energy. He works hard over the course of 80 minutes to really keep the audience engaged. He’s passionate portrayal and fervor for the band are so believable. Higgins holds the audience with his charisma alone. 

The premise that music is what connects us to memory is a beautiful sentiment and one that many would agree with. The development of the lead singer of “Memorial Device,” Lucas, who has a brain injury that leaves him unable to remember short term things gives clarity as to why the band is called “Memorial Device”. He jots his life down in a notebook that becomes the inspiration for song lyrics, and this notebook is what spurs Higgins’ character into digging into his own memories about the band. However, towards the end of the show I do question whether we know enough about Lucas, and his character is tangible enough to evoke an emotional response from the audience – why do we care about him? And what is his true purpose in the story? These are things that aren’t fully realized in this adaption yet. 

Language plays a huge part in the telling of this story and there are beautiful moments of poetry within the script. Gorgeous wordplay that is delicious to the listener aids Higgins in his performance. There are moments where there seems to be one too many metaphors describing firsthand experiences, which in turn pulls us out of the reality that Higgins has worked so hard to create but all in all the writing is fantastic. What really makes the script are the moments of humour that are so brilliantly delivered by Higgins. They are natural and authentic which really help them land and you can sense the audience is genuinely laughing. 

The combination of audio/visual effects and lighting design are well-realized, and you can tell how diligently they have been put together. It’s exciting to see such cohesive design elements in a show. Some of the images displayed across the back of the screen don’t quite make sense – the swarm of dust or particles that flits across the sky seems to be a recurring theme and yet it is never obvious why it is there. Is it a memory? Is it a spirit? 

This Is Memorial Device is a show with great merit and a lot of soul. You can sense the passion from the moment Higgins takes the stage. There’s something in this work, even if it occasionally goes off on tangents. Perhaps with a little fine tuning this piece will really hit home the way it deserves too. 

Image Supplied


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