‘Memento Mori’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by September 25, 2015

‘Memento Mori’ is an original work, written by WA student and actor, Rupert Williamson – NOT a stage adaptation of the Guy Pearce film. This debut script is a fresh, cleverly written play with a novel storyline. The title comes from the Roman warning in war, ‘Remember you will die’, in other words, watch you back. In this play the title has two meanings, beware of others, and that you will eventually die.

Presented by the talented and adventurous University Dramatic Society, this two-hour play can be seen at the Dolphin Theatre, in the grounds of the University of WA, Nedlands each evening at 7.30 until 26th September.

 

The rear wall of the stage has a four-metre high, scaffolding frame holding 12 powerful floodlights (lighting design by Thomas Drake-Brockman, operator Anais Asotoff). The stage has areas of various office and medical laboratory equipment. To one side is a home sitting room setting.

The delicate, original background music and powerful sound effects are the work of Ben Thomas and Scott Jennings. The costumes (Sally Clune, Rebecca Warrand) capture the personalities perfectly. Very smooth and quiet set changes (stage managed by Dan Dyer-Smith), this helped retain the play’s fast pace.

 

     The back wall bursts into blinding light. An ethereal spirit, Ninsun, who was known as ‘Lady Wild Cow’ (Allegra Di Francesco) drifts across the stage and stares at the couple seated on the settee. The woman on the lounge is a hospital doctor, Claire (Nina Heymanson) and the man is her partner, Leo (Rupert Williamson) an intense, nerdy, medical researcher.

     Next we see Leo in a café, talking to his aging, genius mentor, Andrew (Xavier Sweeney). As the waitress (Clare McMath) takes their order, it becomes sadly obvious that Andrew is starting to lose the plot. Thanks to Andrew’s work and that of another hero from 4,000 years earlier, Gilgamesh, Leo is convinced that he will find a way of arresting the aging process.

     Whenever a problem arises, Ninsun, who was Gilgamesh’s mother, appears to watch over Leo.

     In the laboratory, Leo’s main colleague is a hardworking, family man, Damian (Ritwik Ballal). As the two are working their research assistant, Zoë (Kate Hotchkin) breaks the news that the project’s major sponsor has died, and that their only other source of income – from the Institute – is now being reconsidered by the stern and inflexible, Jade (Sally Clune).

     Leo is not happy about the fact that another researcher, Thomas (Giacomo Groppoli), a Casanova who seems to spend most of his time chatting to women seems to have all the funding he needs. Despite warnings from his doctor (Jess Baldock) Leo is determined to conquer this pharmaceutical problem at any cost.

     When Leo does not go to the old folks’ home to visit Claire’s father (Tim Lorian), she is not impressed.

     With work and domestic life tottering, what will happen to Leo’s research?

 

Because of the dry and serious medical theme, there were complex references to drugs and anatomy; however, just let them flow over you, as it not necessary to understand the science to enjoy this play.

Many of the cast were new to the stage, but under the strong guidance of the director, Ben Thomas and dramaturg, Jackson Used they worked as a strong team with excellent chemistry. The very different characters have been very well considered, the dialogue is natural, further adding to a fascinating piece.

This play had high drama, subtle humour, tenderness and love, all ensuring a most interesting night at the theatre. A quality production.

Forget the Friday and Saturday Footie – it can be recorded – catch this first class team instead.