Will Dickie’s solo show, Memories of Suburbia, packs a powerful emotional punch which is unexpected from a performance that lasting a mere 35 minutes. Attention to detail is key though in this layered and visceral production; the opening builds incredibly slowly with brilliantly executed movements from Dickie – at times he appears almost not to be moving at all as he gently slinks upstage into the shadows, any slower and it would be invisible to the naked eye. Okay, so that’s a slight exaggeration, but Dickie’s precision and control are impressive and his movements gradually create a feeling of sinking backwards, and we too are dragged back with him into a pool of nostalgia. It’s an emotional and striking beginning which sets the tone for the whole performance and remains with us throughout.
The choice to use fairly short, unobtrusive and not overbearing sections of voiceovers ensure that they have a subtle impact and serve to enhance Dickie’s performance, at times providing a contrast to his movements, and at others offering clarification and explanation.
In a particularly memorable section, china cups and plates are laid out almost ceremoniously like a child’s very meticulously orchestrated tea party. It’s a slow and delicate placing; each item has a carefully chosen position in the circle so that by the end, the image almost resembles the card game Clocks. Coupled with Dickie’s deliberate and precise tread and a change into clothing that is symbolic of his grandmother’s , the tension boils up and, along with the calm voice over, the scene is like a ticking time bomb – we are waiting for this careful display to erupt at any moment. Sure enough, broken plates enter the mix and the stability of the scene comes into question as a sense of loss, damage and uncertainty is evoked through the unusual display, yet is carefully balanced with the delicacy and nostalgia of the items themselves.
It is the last few minutes of this short piece are especially poignant. Even performed alone they would form a dramatic and emotional segment, however in the context of the piece, and particularly when working with the tone set in the opening few minutes, they produce a hard-hitting conclusion. All too familiar images of childhood play out on a bulky TV screen – flashes of games in the garden and children squealing when sat inside a car as it goes through the car wash are coupled with strong operatic sounds whilst Dickie balances flat on his back, planked over a tiny stool. It’s a moment of sheer tension and familiarity which is unavoidably gripping – you can’t help but feel transfixed as the TV screen inches closer towards the audience and the room hums and buzzes towards its emotional climax.
Beautifully framed in equally resonant opening and closing sequences, Memories of Suburbia is a truly dynamic piece.
Memories of Suburbia played at the Battersea Arts Centre.