Remember This

Wednesday, 27 October, 1999

Stephen Poliakoff has certainly come up with an unusual thought-provoking story that you will find either intriguing or boring. I found it very intriguing!!

The story concerns Rick, a middle-aged entrepreneur with health problems who is about to marry a younger woman. He claims to be the first man to have videotaped private weddings. When looking at some of his old tapes he notices that some have started to decay. He realises that the whole world's recorded past could be lost forever and thus believes that by breaking the news of his discovery it will make him rich and famous. However, he has made previous discoveries only to have others reap the rewards. This time he intends to handle things differently, but will he again be cheated out of his rightful fame?

This strange play moves along in a narrated fashion using words on a screen. It is a little slow to begin with but you soon become absorbed in its clever story which is at times predictable and at other times not!

Stanley Townsend as Rick produces a sound and assured performance. He has a distinctive and hardy voice that gives him a strong stage presence. Serena Evans puts in a fine performance as Rick's cockney associate Margaret, and Geraldine Somerville is notable as Hannah, the sister of Rick's fiancé, Victoria' played by Annabelle Apison. There is a comic double act by Colin Hurley and James Duke, playing Sergei and Chain, two foreign men who look after the biggest archive of videos in the world. The other two cast members Tam Williams as Jimmy, Rick's son, and Seymour Matthews as the doctor, also produce reliable performances.

Stephen Poliakoff's new play has received poor notices from the popular press, and I have to say I disagree with all of them!! JOHN PETER of THE SUNDAY TIMES says, " Remember This? Please! I would give anything to forget this. Stephen Poliakoff's play is one of the worst new works ever staged by the National Theatre." NICHOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD says, " Remember This strikes me as a dull, labouring trawl through the hinterland of Poliakoff's imagination, a journey without much fun on the way." KATE BASSETT for the DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Staggeringly substandard new play … chronically dull piece of theatre." THE GUARDIAN says, " There are lots of incidental pleasures: one just wishes Poliakoff had found a plot to support his thesis that we are in grave danger of losing our collective memory." THE INPEPENDANT says "…..failing to work on any level: philosophical, psychological or dramatic..." DOMINIC CAVENDISH of TIME OUT says, " It's hard to know which members of the cast to feel sorry for most…" At least I found one critic who was not too hard on the play. IAN SHUTTLEWORTH for the FINANTIAL TIMES says, "It is a potentially fine yarn, performed with brio by Ron Daniels's company but, in Poliakoff's script, clunking quite a bit as it goes."

In all, this is a fresh new play that is produced solidly by the National Theatre. It is an acquired taste, so it could leave a very sour taste in some people's mouths. But it didn't in mine!

(Darren Dalglish)

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