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  • Sophie Wheeler

Review: Memento Mori

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

As the audience takes their seats for Noor Kabbani’s Memento Mori, ‘Little Dark Age’ by MGMT loops moodily round. It sets the tone perfectly for the autumnal, dark academia-esque nature of Edinburgh in October, and the themes of transience and mortality that are to follow. With our five student protagonists investigating the hidden forces behind what drives their everyday lives; their desires and their fears, this play is reminiscent of The Secret History in the best way.

Memento Mori follows a group of students brought together by a class project exploring cultural sites around Edinburgh. The only issue? They couldn’t be more different. Tensions flare between brazen Robin and highly-strung Dylan, while Andie, Bobby and Charlie don’t exactly gel either. However, with the guiding message of ‘memento mori’ (‘remember that you must die’) the group eventually reap the rewards of putting their differences aside, supporting each other with personal problems, and forming genuine friendships.

The location of Bedlam theatre, with the set design by Holly Spragg, compliment the themes beautifully. Bedlam’s gothic church design, combined with the stripped back set, is incredibly immersive; the audience does not feel the seat/stage divide, which gives the performance dimension and breadth. Though fairly bare save for a few chairs, the physical stage is manipulated well— turning the chairs around to act out peering over the castle walls was a particular favourite of mine. Even more so, the choice to have the characters step off the physical stage and walk amongst the audience is an incredibly effective blocking technique and makes the performance even more realistic. These mature and well-rehearsed design choices stood out as something above what we would usually expect in a short-run student play!

What I think is so impressive about this performance, from the stage design mentioned above, and also the writing and acting, is the accuracy and relatability to student life. Of the five students, each is distinctly dressed, with their own personalities and mannerisms, and yet none of them would look out of place at the university. The script is effortlessly engaging, with the actors performing it so naturally that it feels more like a series of conversations you might overhear on campus. Robin (Scarlet-Rose McCaffrey), for instance, is an incredibly strong character, a quintessential ‘Pollock’ girl whose comedic timing is spot on. At times, potentially to generate the feeling of excited student chatter, the actors speak over one another, and dialogue is lost, but these instances were few and far between, and any slip-ups are recovered well.

Overall, the play’s motto, ‘memento mori’ is tied up nicely by the fruition of all five students’ goals, and what we learn— how happenstance can make us reach out, take a step back and look at the bigger picture— is an inspiring message which has stuck with me long after I watched this play.

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