It’s not easy to vandalise the entire history of time in one hour, but Malaprop Theatre have just about achieved it. If it had to be expressed in a single word, Everything Not Saved is a play about memory – or it would be, if it wasn’t such a cacophonous and variegated delight. Scenes between lovers, interviewers, and a trio of charming Rasputin-wannabes interrogate authenticity and what it means for individuals, cultural histories, and empires, if the narrative history of the human race is deemed unreliable.
Dylan Coburn Gray’s script explores the problematic process of recollection. It asks who is responsible for curating memories, and questions the merits of doing so. Gray’s writing is elegantly subversive and never feels like a lecture. The cerebral playfulness of the narrative is almost Machiavellian – things which must be true are rendered impossible in the next line, and irregularities between shared memories – some of which are imperceptible (or meaningless) to outsiders – become deeply personal to those on stage. In many instances, accuracy of memory and moral integrity are not just co-dependent, they are synonymous.
Claire O’Reilly’s direction is inimitable. In this play, the framework keeps changing – scenes become scenes within scenes, and histories are misunderstood and edited for no reason other than the human race is too clumsy to reach a chronological consensus. The production champions the idea of a ‘perfect’ historical record as a kind of puritanical pursuit. However, a perfect history would fail our own desires to be independent, to love, play and argue with each other. In this, O’Reilly’s regular broadsides ensure that time isn’t the universal constant, it’s the whirligig of revisionism.
Actors Breffni Holahan, Maeve O’Mahony, and John Doran wrestle effectively with issues of space, time and recollection. The pacing of the dialogue is often unpredictable and rapid, which the three actors handle with ease. Molly O’Cathain’s set compliments this with a versatile wooden armature as well as superb audio-visual graphic design. Scene transitions are also a pleasure to watch, and the set is rearranged with a kind of flirtatious relish.
Amidst the playful dissection of memory there is anger, too. The past can be cruel and traumatising. In particular, a reference to a tubular ligation (a medical procedure which sterilises the patient), leaves a tangible impression. Abuse exists here, but so does joy.
Everything Not Saved is a carousel of human interactions, which may or may not be true. There are auditions, there are slices of cucumber in posh drinks, and there are corpses. Malaprop Theatre have created a masterclass in remembrance, which you will not forget – even though the show insists that you will, at best, misremember.
Everything Not Saved is playing at Summerhall (Old Lab) until 26 August. For more information and tickets, see here.