EFR - Reviews of Practice, Memory, and Song

Practice, Memory, and Song

Mon 6th – Fri 10th August 2012

reviews

Natasha Tabani

at 01:04 on 7th Aug 2012

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'Practice, Memory and Song' has a very interesting premise. It is a kind of meta-theatre, an insight into the mechanics of the writing process, which is based around an already famous playwright who is experiencing writer’s block. His muses – Practice, Memory and Song – are far from helpful, and become just one more of the struggles he has to overcome in order to create his new masterpiece.

Unfortunately, the play felt a lot like a waste of a brilliant concept. It had great promise, and certain aspects worked really well. I loved how Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ was used as a musical framework, and the way in which the muses all wore T-Shirts with icons corresponding to their roles. Although it was not particularly profound, the central idea that a writer must above all have ‘something to say’ was an apt and appealing notion to explore. By far, my favourite part was the short vignettes which parodied the extremes of Brecht and Artaud.

The female character which the playwright created was very adept at changing personality and posture at the writer’s will, and the very idea of having a fictional character manipulated and changing in front of the audience’s eyes was very promising. I thought she would transform from a sketchy husk into a fleshed out persona and that the rest of the play which was being written would materialise around her - but this was not the case.

The muses all acted their parts well, and ‘Song’ was particularly good at playing an easily distracted, airy-fairy creature. I felt that ‘Practice’ and ‘Memory’ were less distinguishable from each other, and although their virtues are closely linked it would have worked better within the context of the play for them to have had distinct personalities.

By far the most disappointing part of the performance was its ending. It was abrupt and unexpected – just as I felt that it was beginning to show potential, the play finished! I was left feeling completely underwhelmed and a little confused. This production was by no means terrible, but it seemed that everything about it fell a little short of its potential. The female character asks of the playwright, “What is it that you want to say?”, and I unfortunately find myself compelled to ask the play’s author the same question.

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Leah Eades

at 11:19 on 7th Aug 2012

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‘Practice, Memory and Song’ was an interesting premise with a lot of potential, that was let down by its short length (although it is listed as lasting 50 minutes, the performance I witnessed was significantly under this, lasting more like 30-35 minutes) and lack of fulfilling conclusion. This did not allow the central idea, which looked set to evolve into something really interesting, to develop satisfactorily. The play centred around a playwright’s struggle to write, under the pressure of repeating his previous commercial success, whilst being hounded, harangued and occasionally helped by his three Muses – the eponymous Practice, Memory and Song of the title. His attempts focus on creating a fully-fledged, convincing female character as his lead, who is also conjured up on stage).

It was an inventive idea that was well-executed, performed on a small stage littered with blank pages and manically-scribbled drafts of manuscript to create a stifling claustrophobic atmosphere familiar to anyone who’s ever been in the midst of essay-writing turmoil. The play took a light-hearted approach in its examination of the creative process, with many funny lines and metafictional jokes about the nature of theatre, and was definitely a canny choice for the Fringe Festival when the entire city of Edinburgh is saturated with theatrical types who’ll appreciate this sort of thing. The five actors were generally strong, with the actress who played the imagined “character” being brought to life on stage really showcasing her versatility in changing constantly, as her character is controlled utterly by the whims of the writer.

The play was developing nicely – we move from the playwriting process to the first rehearsal, where our playwright is also (thanks to the addition of a beret) the hapless director, and his muses return with a vengeance. His character is now a real-life woman before him – the actress – and is already outside of his control, taking on a life and ideas of her own. I was prepared for this concept to develop further, and was eager to watch the progression of the creative process to the show’s opening night, expecting the playwright’s character would become fully-dimensional and a person in her own right…. But here the show suddenly ended, on a bit of a bum-note joke about everyone being a better writer than the poor playwright. It was anticlimactic and disappointing, particularly as the premise of a writer struggling with inspiration, insecurities and the endless voices in their head is a great one, and there was so much they could have done with it had to been allowed to develop further.

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