MEMOIRS OF A BISCUIT TIN: Bethany Sheldon and Kathryn Lowe.
Lakeside Arts Centre: Tkts 0115 846 7777 www.lakesidearts.org.uk
Runs: 1h 0m: no interval.
Review: Alan Geary: 15 July, 2010.
It doesn’t just work – it’s excellent.
Poor old Mrs Benjamin from number 92 has mysteriously disappeared leaving her house neglected and decaying. The Floor (Kathryn Lowe), the Chimney (Jennifer Sumner) and the Wall (Bethany Sheldon) set out to find her. From Derby-based Maison Foo, this might be an unpromising idea for an hour-long play but it doesn’t just work – it’s excellent.
The title? It’s only when Floor opens a biscuit tin that the she and the others begin to learn what has happened to Mrs B.
There are some puzzling bits, which intentionally or not are open to interpretation. But the re-creation of the children’s party of long ago – it was Rosy Benjamin’s birthday – and of the scene on the beach with her young man are especially beautiful.
Characters are well differentiated: the bitchery and rivalry between them at the start works well. So does the bit where they peer through a window frame at the audience then come down off stage in search of the old lady.
Mime and movement are well done.
But it isn’t just down to the actors. Bits and pieces of a very clever set are picked up or moved about to suggest all sorts of things: a grave for instance, even other people, mostly men. Costumes are splendid; and there’s some non-gratuitous back projection and brilliantly put together sound and, mostly piano, music.
There’s humour in the piece, but, more importantly, elements of poignancy and pathos. At key moments it reminds you of Krapp’s Last Tape: there’s the same fragmentary quality, and exploration of time and memory. By the end it’s made clear that your lonely little old lady – we all know her – potty, confused, often ridiculed, has a story to tell, which is probably worth paying attention to before it’s too late. And what’s more of course, every house has a story too if only it could speak.
Maison Foo are taking this production to the Edinburgh Festival in August.
Floor: Kathryn Lowe.
Chimney: Jennifer Sumner.
Wall: Bethany Sheldon.
Directors: Kathryn Lowe/Bethany Sheldon.
Lighting Designer: Mark Richards.
Composer/Sound Designer: Matthew Marks.