In 1986, Arthur Miller was in his 70s. He still had more plays and screenplays to come, but his most well-known works were already created and he was starting to slow his output. Danger: Memory is one of these late, lesser known works, and spotlights the worries of someone in the twilight of their life. Two unrelated and stylistically different one-act plays are thematically timeless, but the truncated length doesn’t serve Miller’s usually rich stories and characters particularly well.
Leo and Leonora spend most of I Can’t Remember Anything bickering like an old married couple. Though that’s how they come across for much of the play, their relationship is never defined – a persistent bugbear. Leonora’s husband is dead and her grown son is in Sri Lanka, but the reason these two people (who don’t like each other much) spend every evening together is never made clear. Much of their moaning revolves around old memories, forgotten details and an existential view of life which, though relatable, says little. Actors Julian Bird and Deborah Javor have great chemistry and some touching moments of tenderness, but the script is less of a narrative and more of a casual conversation that barely conceals Miller’s politics. Their characters have a decent amount of development, but the story is lacking. Enjoyable in the moment and evoking plenty of laughs, the end result is rather forgettable.
Clara has more tension and action than I Can’t Remember Anything, but the characters have less substance. The 70s cop drama with a stunned Julian Bird as Albert and relentless interrogator Detective Fine by the excellent Anthony Taylor is punchy but still powerful. Albert struggles to recall details of people close to his now dead adult daughter, but memories of her childhood are vivid. Simeon Miller’s intermittent flashbulb lighting design startles the way a sudden recollection does; this piece draws the audience in more than the first. The flashbacks with Clara (Kristy Quade) are moments of calm amongst the rapid-fire questioning, but the content lacks weight. There’s a hint of Miller’s earlier family dramas in these moments, but they don’t go as far as they could.
Good performances and lovely individual moments hold attention for two hours along with the wonderful novelty of seeing this rare text on stage, but as individual pieces the snapshots they provide are somewhat unsatisfying. Miller does grand domestic conflict so well that these single acts with limited plot development and hints of complex characters leave the audience wanting more.
Danger: Memory runs through 15 October.
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