FRINGE 2017: Memento Mori Surpasses Expectations

What an experience.

I’ve been to many shows over the years, where walking into the performance space feels like you’re stepping into another world, but not like this. This was more of an experience than a piece of theatre.

Before I continue, I need to disclose my relationship with Trevor Barrette, the writer, director, and one of the actors of the play. We are friends. However, I feel that our friendship will not greatly bias my impression of this piece since I only extended an arm of friendship to him after seeing To Be and Captain Aurora 1. I did so out of love for those productions and the desire to get to know someone whose skill I admire, and who I truly believe to a genius (Memento Mori being another example said brilliance). For what it’s worth, we have had a predominantly working relationship so far.

Walking into a room where you’re going to see a play, but seeing a circle of chairs in lieu of a stage, is a bit of a surprise. Being offered tea and biscuits upon entering is an additional, very pleasant surprise. To sit down in such a space and be given a name tag and a handout is a very interesting, unique way to start a play—its design is inherently immersive, because you are surrounded by people with name tags like yours. Other than the kind soul greeting you at the door, you have no way of knowing who the actors are, or where action of the play is going to come from.

Essentially, this play was composed of a series of monologues, each one depicting a story about why the deceased person was there. Not just there at the meeting, but there in the afterlife. It’s built on the concept that unfinished business and unresolved feelings prevents souls from leaving this plane of existence for another, so this meeting you’ve joined was a chance for the dearly departed to discuss their own deaths, confront the burden of causality and get closer to making peace with their pasts.

Once everyone was seated comfortably the meeting began. It started with stories and thoughts, individuals opening up a little bit at a time. Some of them were open about why they were there, some of them had a harder time accepting it. As each person spoke, they didn’t just share their stories, they relived them. They brought their pasts, their lives, into the room. Their worlds grew out of their words, slowly creeping in and surrounding everyone, infiltrating our thoughts and feelings, little by little, quietly taking over our memories as if we were the ones speaking, as if perhaps we were the ones who had died that way. Until finally, the rogue worlds opened up and swallowed everyone there—every moment, every thought, every sound, each tear, each heartbeat—alive again, the only thing that ever has or ever will exist.

But then they stop speaking and their world fades and your world returns, and you remember who you are, and you remember that you’re dead, and that even though you are surrounded by souls, you are utterly alone.