Review: In Memoriam—A Thrilling Study of Grief—Six Characters in Mourning
In Memoriam, an original play by Nicole S. Entin, encapsulated the fears and anxieties we have around death and its inevitability.
On an unexpectedly sunny afternoon on the 20th of March, I went up to the Barron at the Byre Theatre to spend an unsettling hour and a half (give or take) with the matinee crowd.
As the audience filed in, they were greeted with a funerary scene—a giant picture of a woman’s face on an easel, surrounded by chairs and smaller pictures of the same woman at various life events.
As the lights dimmed, the four main characters processed into the room as we did. Immediately, I noticed that the actors brilliantly established their characters nonverbally, interacting with each other with subtle glances and touches on the arm, or dirty looks and brazen ignorances.
Performed as part of the On The Rocks Festival 2022, and funded by the Mermaids Performing Arts Fund, In Memoriam focuses on a central tenet of theatre: a closed space into which a handful of characters are dropped, forced to let personality and emotion stir and clash. Relatively little plot occurs in this piece—at least none that leads to any satisfying catharsis. The mystery presented—whether or not the woman whose funeral we are watching is truly dead—is left ambiguously resolved. The lack of action, however, gave the actors a chance to deeply explore their characters—one which they all took full advantage of.
From brazen author Alice (Georgina Savage), to fussy psychologist Carolyn (Carolina Atlee), to the violently pious David (Freddie Lawson), to sweet Julian (Marcus Judd), to seductive and irreverent Vera (Denisa Dobrovodová), the main cast of characters each established their individuality and yet the same awkwardness a funeral inspires when the other attendees are strangers to you. The real moment of revelation for me was when the dead woman, Grace, who’s blown-up eyes we had all been staring into since walk- ing into the Barron, walked onstage and started handing out sandwiches and other refreshments. The hostess (Alexandra Upton), as she came to reveal herself as, was the same woman who’s mysterious death the others had been discussing.
The audience around me’s resounding murmurs assured me that I was not alone in my observation. Was this simply the result of a small cast, or was there something deeper going on here?
As the play went on, the con- fusion translated itself in the rising hysteria of the characters onstage. Nobody remembered how Grace died, and, one by one, the attendees confessed to her murder in different way and with different motives. This confusion is never truly resolved as, by the end, the characters run out the way they processed in, having had too much of the chaos their personalities interacting with one another created.
All in all, In Memoriam was an interesting exploration of the cultural attitudes that surround death in the Western world to- day, and was performed admirably by its small but mighty cast.